Before you can effectively roll out any sort of software in your factory, you'll probably need to figure out what sort of devices to run it on.
Job shop, machine shop, cabinetry factories... they're all becoming increasingly digital.
There's great software for job tracking, machine monitoring, QC, and more.
But if you're going to implement any of that, chances are you need to figure out how to get the people out on the production floor connected to the internet.
It's a big decision, with potentially expensive implications depending on which route you go.
Here, we've put together a guide with some of the most popular options for getting your team up and running:
Your employees' existing cell phones.
This is your easiest option, and a great starting point for most small businesses.
- Most, if not all, of your employees probably already have a smart phone, so you don't have to spend money buying new devices.
- You don't have to worry about managing the devices since your business doesn't own them (an under appreciated cost).
- Since they're cell phones, you have less worries setting up a network. You still probably want wifi so you aren't draining your employees' data plans, but if your building's network goes down, you know you have cell reception as a backup.
- Using a smart phone, you get access to all sorts of interesting and useful apps.
- Some of your employees may not have smart phones, meaning you're back to providing them with a device.
- Depending on the laws where you're operating, you may have to reimburse employees for the use of their phone. Make sure you check with someone knowledgable in your state's laws.
Let's say you are going to commit to buying hardware. How about tablets?
- Physically versatile; your employees can take them wherever they need them.
- Most tablets are pretty durable, since they're meant to travel around. They tend to hold up well in a factory environment, especially if you spend a couple of extra bucks on a decent case and screen protector.
- Generally super simple to set up. The only cable to think about is a power cord, and the user setup on each device is normally pretty simple.
- Like with smart phones, you still have access to app stores and their easy to use software.
- You're going to need a good wifi network, which can be a challenge is some larger buildings.
- Managing the devices can be a headache. You'll need a person/process devoted to making sure the devices stay in good shape, don't get lost, and keep working.
- iPad: the lest expensive version checks in at $400. It's not a bargain, but you get a device you know will be well built.
- Android Tablet: the options run a wide range, in both cost and reliability. One benefit: if you already have business email through Google, your work email will double as your login credentials. This makes setup a breeze.
- Amazon Fire Tablet: you can find dirt cheap options for $50, and because they're Amazon, they actually work pretty well. The downside is that they're not really meant for business use, and setting up secure user accounts is difficult.
Sometimes you need to go with the most powerful option, but beware the extra costs.
- Definitely the most powerful. If you're going to have your team runs power hungry apps like CAD/CAM programs right on the factory floor, this is your best option.
- If you have the money to run the network cables, the computers can be hardwired into your internet, meaning you never have to worry about wifi going down.
- If you need a huge screen to view part drawings, this is your best bet.
- As will tablets, there are a wide range of options. Still though, buying a full computer is often pretty expensive.
- Inevitably they seem to obsolete themselves. Both Macs and PCs are getting better at this, but they still don't automatically keep themselves up to date the way a phone or tablet does.
- Managing computers and a wired network can be an entire standalone job. Troubleshooting normal issues can be as well. The overhead to manage to large computer array can get out of hand quickly.
You certainly have plenty of options for getting your team online. At Tumult, we suggest starting with smart phones. It's basically free, everyone is familiar with using theirs, and we built our website to run great on them. From there, tablets are always a good step up when you need more power or control over your devices.