Alpha Software Blog



Best Data Collection Software For Manufacturing [2024]: A 101 Guide

 

In the manufacturing industry, collecting data enables manufacturers to answer relevant questions, evaluate outcomes and make predictions about future results.

For example, if the production tracking data shows that a machine is slowing down at a certain time each day, you can investigate and fix the issue. Or, if the data shows that a certain process often results in defective goods, you can look for ways to improve that process.

 

Data can be collected manually or automatically:

  • Manual data collection involves people taking measurements or making observations.
  • Automatic data collection relies on sensors that record various parameters like temperature, speed, and pressure.

 

All of this data can be stored and analyzed later.

In this post, I'll cover everything you need to know about data collection software in the manufacturing industry, its benefits, and how you can incorporate it into your operations.

 

Best Data Collection Software For Manufacturing

Alpha Software is the best for those who don’t have a lot of coding experience but want to build advanced and scalable manufacturing apps.

Power Apps is the best choice if you're already a Microsoft user and prioritize customization.

Appian is the best option if you want to quickly build powerful and robust enterprise-level applications.

 

Best Overall

Runner-Up

Best For Enterprises


Sked Social

Power Apps

Appian

Best For Low-Code & No-Code App Development

Best For Quick App Building In The Microsoft Environment

Best Option For Fast Enterprise Automation App Development 

Visit Tool Site

Visit Tool Site

Visit Tool Site

 

Looking for a thorough comparison of our top choices? Read our detailed comparison of Appian vs Power Apps vs Alpha Software to find how they stack up.

 

Why Is Data Collection Essential For Manufacturing Companies

As I briefly mentioned, data collection in manufacturing is all about gathering information that can help you understand your production processes better, make continuous improvements, and predict future performance.

Let’s take a deep dive and go over the main reasons why data collection plays a vital role in the manufacturing sector:

✅ Improved Decision-Making ✅

Data collection in manufacturing lets you make informed data-driven decisions based on factual operation insights.

For instance, if your data shows an increase in product defects from a specific machine, you know exactly where to start investigating the issue. Without it, issues like that go unnoticed, meaning faulty products reach your customers.

✅ More Efficiency & Productivity ✅

Data collection highlights inefficiencies in your processes.

By monitoring machine run times, you might find that some equipment is underutilized — an opportunity to increase productivity. Additionally, real-time data collection can identify bottlenecks as they happen, allowing for swift resolution and minimizing downtime.

Efficiency and productivity directly affect your bottom line. So the more efficient your processes and the more productive your workforce, the higher your output and the lower your costs.

✅ Quality Control and Assurance ✅

Regular data collection from manufacturing processes helps identify deviations in product quality.

To give you an idea, if production data shows that the dimensions of a certain product are consistently falling outside of acceptable limits, you can intervene to correct the problem before more defective products are produced.

This is a game changer because quality is a key differentiator in the marketplace. Consistently delivering high-quality products increases customer satisfaction and loyalty, while product defects can damage your reputation and result in costly recalls or rework.

✅ Cost Savings ✅

When it comes to saving money, manufacturing data can help you identify unnecessary expenses like a machine, using up too much energy, or a process that’s using more materials than needed. With this knowledge, you can swoop in and make cost-effective adjustments.

✅ Regulatory Compliance ✅

Data points you in the right direction and helps ensure you're meeting all relevant regulations and standards. Data can track whether waste is being disposed of correctly, or if safety standards are being adhered to. Not using it is like navigating the regulatory landscape with a blindfold on.

Regulatory compliance isn't just a legal obligation, it's also a matter of maintaining trust with customers and the wider public.

Non-compliance can result in hefty fines and serious damage to a company’s reputation. So by collecting and maintaining accurate data, you can ensure that you meet your compliance obligations and can readily demonstrate this compliance when required.

 

Check out our case studies, where we go into detail on how Alpha Software helped build data collection systems and further support manufacturing processes for companies like Goodman, Bruker, and MSS Lasers.  

 

Key Features To Look For In Data Collection Software For Manufacturing

Here are some of the main features to look for in data collection software for manufacturing:

 

1. Real-Time Data Collection

Real-time data collection means the software collects data continuously and makes it instantly available. This feature allows you to monitor your processes as they happen. For example, if there's a sudden slowdown on a production line, real-time visibility will alert you immediately, enabling swift resolution.

In simple terms, real-time data collection allows for quick decision-making and problem-solving. In a fast-paced manufacturing environment, delays are costly, and real-time production data helps you keep operations running smoothly.

In addition, real-time data can result in increased revenue for companies: 80% of businesses experience revenue growth through its usage.

Klaus Meuller, the Chief Operating Officer for Asia, elaborates on the ways real-time data has transformed and enhanced productivity on his production shop floor. 

"Our production changed in the way that we are able now to have real-time data so that we make better and faster decisions, to see our processes, to utilize our equipment much better in terms of our products when we look into 3d printing or simulation, we increase the speed of development and optimization of products themselves. For sure, supply chain management is benefiting from real-time data and connectivity from suppliers to our factories or from ourselves to our customers.”

 

2. Data Accuracy and Integrity

Data accuracy and integrity refer to the correctness and consistency of the collected data.

The software should have mechanisms to ensure that data is error-free and not altered once collected. If a machine reports an unusually high temperature, you want to be sure the shop floor data collection is accurate and not just a sensor error or data corruption.

Decisions based on incorrect data lead to poor outcomes. According to research, inadequate data collection leads to the following consequences:

  • Inability to accurately address research questions.
  • Inability to replicate and validate the study.
  • Distorted findings that waste valuable resources.
  • Misleading other researchers to pursue unproductive lines of investigation.
  • Compromised decision-making for public policy.
  • Potential harm to human participants and animal subjects.

 

3. Integration Capabilities

Integration capabilities mean that the software can communicate and work with your other systems, like ERP or MES systems.

This feature enables your analysis of data across different platforms. Think of your data production as parcels to be delivered. Your data collection software, like our trusty courier, picks up the packages and zooms them straight over to your ERP system. Here, the parcels are unwrapped and used for the day's big task — inventory management.

It's a fast, efficient delivery service, and there's no tip required!

 

4. Scalability and Flexibility

Scalability refers to the software's ability to grow with your business. On the other hand, flexibility means the software can adapt to different scenarios or changes in your processes. 

Both play a major role in your software’s future relevance. As your manufacturing operations undergo transformations and progress, it's critical for your software to be a willing dance partner — able to keep up with your pace.

This not only keeps your operations in sync but also safeguards you from having to make frequent, pricey reinvestments.

 

5. Security and Data Protection

This includes tactics to guard against unauthorized entry and keeping backups to prevent data loss. App security features that fall into this category include stringent password requirements, data encryption, or periodic data backups to a secure location.

With the risk of being obvious: The lack of data security can lead to serious consequences — any breaches, data theft, or losses can lead to major financial and operational setbacks. Moreover, a breach involving customer or employee data not only poses legal risks but also threatens to damage your company's reputation.

 

6. Ease of Use and Customization

Your team should be able to use the app effectively without extensive training to increase efficiency and utilize its full benefits. Meanwhile, customization refers to the ability to tailor the software to your specific needs (like creating custom reports or alerts).

 

Buying Guide & How To Choose The Right Data Collection Software

Ease of Use

How easy the tool is to use and how quick it is to learn. This is especially important if you’re looking for a tool for your team because the faster everyone learns to use it, the faster your productivity will increase.

Software Features

Take a close look at the features of the software you're considering and see if it fits well with your existing setup. Are you getting all the capabilities you need? Say you're already running a particular ERP system, it’s wise to double-check that the new data collection software can work effectively with it.

Integrations

How well can the tool integrate into your existing tech stack or workflow? Does it play well with your current hardware and software?

Affordability & ROI

It's crucial to examine the return on investment (ROI). Though the initial price tag of a software solution might give you a bit of sticker shock, if it holds the promise of substantially boosting your efficiency or curbing waste, it could very well recoup its costs in the long run. 

To illustrate, software that streamlines data collection could cut labor costs and minimize errors, delivering a beneficial ROI.

Note: low scores aren’t always bad.

Again, each tool has a specialty. For example, if a tool is made for large enterprises, it’s going to be inherently more complex to use. So at the end of the day, it all comes down to determining the combination of features you want out of your booking tool. 

 

Now let’s dive into the top data collection software for manufacturing!

 

1. Alpha Software — Best for ease of use and quick cross-platform app creation

Ease of Use

Features

Integrations

Affordability

⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐

 

For decades Alpha Software has been providing solutions for building business applications with the aim of making it easier for business developers to create web and mobile apps that work on any device, even when offline.

Alpha Software stands out as the only low-code software that distinctly offers both "No-Code" and "Low-Code" platforms for app development:

  • Alpha Transform, breaks the barriers of traditional programming with its no-code app development. Aside from building apps, you can also tweak pre-existing templates to simplify data entry and data collection using your smartphone.
  • Alpha Anywhere, on the other hand, requires a bit of coding knowledge and lets you create and launch secure apps for web and mobile that work with different data sources, apps, and workflows.

In addition, Alpha Software presents a holistic approach to data collection software, offering both front-end and back-end development. This duality ensures a seamless user experience on the surface, while an efficient data management system hums along behind the scenes. The result is a comprehensive, end-to-end solution that fulfills your manufacturing data collection needs.

Looking for a strategic manufacturing partner, tailored to your unique needs? Explore Alpha Software today and discover how it can transform your manufacturing operations, schedule a demo here.

Alpha Software Pros & Cons

Alpha Software Pros

Alpha Software Cons

✅ Offers a free plan

❌ Not the cheapest

✅ Rapidly create and launch apps

❌ Some coding knowledge is necessary

✅ Flexible customization features

 

✅ Powerful reporting features

 

 

Security Framework: Your data is protected like a fortress

In the manufacturing sector, Alpha Software’s Alpha Anywhere tool is a reliable solution for secure data capture. It integrates an advanced security system to track user activity and protect your sensitive data:

  • User and Group Tracking — Keeps track of users and groups, ensuring only authorized users have access.
  • Page-Level Security — Checks every page and file request, ensuring only authorized access.
  • Field-Level Access Controls — Set permissions on specific fields.
  • Login/Logout Component — User registration, password administration, and login controls.
  • Data Encryption — HMAC for file upload/download verification and SSL for secure data transmission.

 

Moreover, Alpha Software’s partnership with Apperian brings an extra layer of security to your mobile apps, offering features such as corporate authentication and data encryption. All this without the need for extra coding or SDKs.

 

Alpha Software Licensing Breakdown:

  1. Two-in-One Advantage: The developer license lets you create both Windows desktop applications and web-based applications. You get two powerful tools in one!
  2. For Personal Use: If you want to create a desktop application for your own use, no extra licensing is needed. You can even install the software on two of your computers, like your desktop and laptop.
  3. Deploying Desktop Applications: Planning to share your desktop application with others over a network or distribute it more widely? You'll need the Runtime License. The best part is it allows unlimited distribution, meaning you can share your application with as many users as you want without any extra costs.
  4. Deploying Web Applications: If you're looking to launch a web app on the internet or an intranet, you'll need the Application Server license. This license is server-based, allowing an unlimited number of users to access your application.
  5. Deploying Hybrid Applications: If you're creating a "hybrid" application (using both desktop and web interfaces), you'll need both the Application Server and the Runtime licenses. This gives you the flexibility to let users access your app from both desktop and web interfaces.

 

Customization: Wide range of features without limitations

With Alpha Anywhere, you can build web and mobile apps, including business and SaaS apps, for both iOS and Android right from the start.

 

Alternatively, if you have specific data collection needs, Alpha Transform comes to the rescue. For example, if you're in the business of surveying customers or performing inspections in the field, Alpha Transform is the perfect fit. It lets you easily design apps that streamline these processes, ensuring efficient data collection and accurate reporting.

 

Alpha Software Pricing

Alpha Software allows you to do several things completely free:

  1. Have a dedicated customer success manager
  2. Connect to third-party sources
  3. Create as many apps as you want and do full-stack development

But when it comes to deploying an app for usage, you’ll have to pay for cloud hosting services. That starts at $99 per month and depends on the number of app deployments and compute units.

 

Free

Professional

Department

Business

$0/month

$99/month

$399/month

$750/month

Develop An Unlimited Number of Apps

100 Compute Units/mo

5 App Deployments

5 GB In/Out Data Transfer

500 Compute Units/mo

10 App Deployments

25 GB In/Out Data Transfer

1000 Compute Units/mo

20 App Deployments

50 GB In/Out Data Transfer

 

Use Alpha Software If:

  • You want to build scalable and advanced apps.
  • You want to quickly prototype and get your app ideas off the ground.
  • You want a secure and well-maintained app platform.

2. Honeycode —  Best for helping spreadsheet workflow automation

Ease of Use

Features

Integrations

Affordability

⭐⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

In 2020, Amazon launched Honeycode, a tool designed to help companies build custom web applications or handle spreadsheets and other documents without hiring developers with a high price tag. 

Due to its simplicity, Honeycode has a short learning curve. Although you may need a developer to create more complex apps, you can use it to create simple apps that are fast and easy to deploy. Honeycode also offers features like: 

  • Automation of workflows that gives users the ability to create forms, build approval processes, process data calculations, and adjust just about any workflow. 
  • Personalizing access for each team member that allows you to choose what data each person sees. For instance, in a task-tracking app, each team member can view only the tasks assigned to them, ensuring privacy and focus on individual work.
  • Get notified anywhere, anytime that enables users to access the app from a web browser or via Honeycode's dedicated Android and iOS apps. 

Honeycode is ideal for spreadsheet users who want to take their project management skills to the next level with low-code apps.

 

Honeycode Pros & Cons

Honeycode Pros

Honeycode Cons

✅ Optimized for mobile devices

❌ Limited app appearance customization

✅ Reasonable pricing

❌ Subpar spreadsheet controls and user interface

✅ User-friendly

Designed specifically for database-oriented apps

✅ Quick learning curve

 

✅ Robust collaboration support

 

 

Honeycode Pricing

Honeycode charges per row and per user. Their free tier plan offers all the essentials to support small projects and teams, like unlimited workbooks and 2500 rows per workbook.

 

 

Use Honeycode If:

  • All you need is a little external integration.
  • Appearance of the app is not as important as functionality.
  • You want to create a simple database-driven app.

 

3. Power Apps — Best for Microsoft users 

Ease of Use

Features

Integrations

Affordability

⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐

 

Power Apps was launched in 2015, by Microsoft to help developers create mobile apps faster, with less code and minimal training.

Power Apps come with a variety of features. It lets you create business applications on any device in minutes. It also comes with 250+ connectors, ready-made templates, pre-built components, and AI-assisted natural language development.

Power Apps Pros & Cons

Power Apps Pros

Power Apps Cons

✅ Over 250 built-in connectors

❌ Steep learning curve

✅ Numerous pre-made templates

❌ Best suited for Microsoft users

✅ Simple app customization capabilities

Underwhelming reporting features

✅ Supports mobile-friendly design

Hefty price tag

 

Power Apps Pricing

Power Apps has three price plans, the first plan is based on the number of users and apps each user runs monthly. The second plan charges per user monthly, but allows you to run unlimited apps without extra cost. 

Their third plan, the pay-as-go plan (requires an Azure subscription), allows you to get started building and sharing apps without any license commitment or upfront purchasing. This plan is best for businesses that want the flexibility to pay only when users run apps during a monthly period.

 

 

Use Power Apps If:

  • You prioritize customization.
  • You want to build as many apps as you wish.
  • You want to build minimalist apps so you can deploy them quickly and easily.

 

4. Appian — Best for users who want to build business applications that automate and optimize processes

 

Ease of Use

Features

Integrations

Affordability

⭐⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐

 

Appian was founded in 1999, to empower talented people by giving them the freedom and opportunity to do their best work.

With Appian, you can build and deploy apps well before your competitor has even thought of a concept. You can also use pre-built templates and drag-and-drop elements to speed up the application development process.

 

Appian Pros & Cons

Appian Pros

Appian Cons

✅ Offers a free plan

❌ Limited integrations

✅ Robust app analytics features

❌ Underwhelming reporting features

✅ Easy to make quick workflow changes

UI customization is not available

 

Inefficient for processing large volumes of data

 

Appian Pricing

Every Appian pricing plan includes easy access to the Appian cloud, full automation, and process mining tools. Here's a comparison of the primary differences between plans:

 

Use Appian If: 

  • You want to build powerful and robust enterprise-level business applications.
  • You want to quickly create an application and get it out the door in just weeks.
  • You want to create custom applications that automate complex business processes and workflows.

 

5. Zoho Creator — Best for those who want a low-code development platform with a minimalist design and a strong selection of prebuilt apps and fields

 

Ease of Use

Features

Integrations

Affordability

⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐⭐

⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐

 

Zoho Creator was launched in March 2006, the all-in-one low-code application development software was designed to make it easy for businesses to digitize their operations.

You can use the platform to manage your data and workflows, derive insights from your database, and link up seamlessly with existing software. With its various features, you can create custom forms, configure workflows, build informative pages, and get your app up and running in minutes.

 

Zoho Creator Pros & Cons

Zoho Creator Pros

Zoho Creator Cons

✅ Easy to learn

❌ Tricky with 3rd party integrations

✅ Pre-built templates are easy to use

❌ Limited layout customization 

✅ Easy metrics reporting and analytics

Expensive for lots of users

✅ User-friendly interface 

Poor documentation

 

Zoho Creator Pricing

Zoho Creator offers a free trial lasting 15 days. The standard plan costs $12 per user per month, the professional plan costs $30 per user per month and the enterprise plan costs $37 per user per month. Here’s a comparison of these cost-effective plans: 

 

Use Zoho Creator If: 

  • You want to create mobile applications that are both attractive and functional.
  • You want to start developing applications, but you don't have a lot of experience with coding.
  • You want a multi-usage application that can be used for both app development and business intelligence.

 

Conclusion

Data collection software is a linchpin in modern manufacturing, enabling efficiency, quality, and insightful decision-making.

Before diving into the sea of software options, it's important to identify what you need from data collection software. What are your business goals? Are you looking to improve efficiency, reduce waste, or enhance product quality?

 

Test and Demo the Software

Take advantage of any opportunities to test or demo the software before making a decision.

Many software companies offer free trials or demo versions. This gives you a chance to see if the app meets your needs and is easy to use before you commit to purchasing.

 

But if you ask us…

Choose Appian if you want to prototype and build enterprise automation apps quickly.

Go with Power Apps if your workflow is integrated into the Microsoft environment.

And take Alpha Software in all other cases.

 

Prev Post Image
Fear Losing Devs?How Low-Code Development Improves Job Satisfaction
Next Post Image
New Webinar: How to Integrate ChatGPT with Alpha Anywhere

About Author

Amy Groden-Morrison
Amy Groden-Morrison

Amy Groden-Morrison has served more than 15 years in marketing communications leadership roles at companies such as TIBCO Software, RSA Security and Ziff-Davis. Most recently she was responsible for developing marketing programs that helped achieve 30%+ annual growth rate for analytics products at a $1Bil, NASDAQ-listed business integration Software Company. Her past accomplishments include establishing the first co-branded technology program with CNN, launching an events company on the NYSE, rebranding a NASDAQ-listed company amid a crisis, and positioning and marketing a Boston-area startup for successful acquisition. Amy currently serves as a Healthbox Accelerator Program Mentor, Marketing Committee Lead for the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge Launch Smart Clinics, and on the organizing team for Boston TechJam. She holds an MBA from Northeastern University.

Related Posts
Red Sea Crisis, Panama Drought Compound Supply Chain Woes
Red Sea Crisis, Panama Drought Compound Supply Chain Woes
Digital Solutions: the Rigor of Modern Safety Inspections
Digital Solutions: the Rigor of Modern Safety Inspections
Inspection Instructions: A step Towards Resuming Flights
Inspection Instructions: A step Towards Resuming Flights

The Alpha platform is the only unified mobile and web app development and deployment environment with distinct “no-code” and “low-code” components. Using the Alpha TransForm no-code product, business users and developers can take full advantage of all the capabilities of the smartphone to turn any form into a mobile app in minutes, and power users can add advanced app functionality with Alpha TransForm's built-in programming language. IT developers can use the Alpha Anywhere low-code environment to develop complex web or mobile business apps from scratch, integrate data with existing systems of record and workflows (including data collected via Alpha TransForm), and add additional security or authentication requirements to protect corporate data.

Comment