In 2015, 81% of CEOs told PwC that mobile technologies are strategically important to their enterprise. 86% of the same respondent group said that there’s clear vision for how digital technology – including mobile – contributes to having a competitive advantage which is a key success factor.
Those insights may be critical, and even transformational, but they are a far cry from providing a clear roadmap for manufacturing organizations looking to roll out mobile technology. In order to prevent the opportunity of mobile technology from getting lost in assumptions and hype, we’ve outlined some points for initial consideration and discussion that should improve your company’s evaluation of mobile technology.
What is mobile technology?
Mobile technology brings together handheld devices intended for use away from a traditional office setting with cloud-based software and/or apps that optimize what can be accomplished with the device’s combination of display and information input options. Although smartphones and tablets are probably the first devices that come to mind for most readers, mobile can also include the use of mobile sensors, smartwatches or any portable device that can connect to a network to display and process information. While it is possible to operate a mobile technology program using a BYOD or ‘bring your own device’ framework, where employees’ own devices that are used for corporate purposes, most enterprises opt to provide industrialized versions of consumer smartphones and tablets for the sake of data security.
Where is mobile technology used?
As with the kinds of devices used in a mobile program, the environment in which they add value could easily be limited by assumptions. The value of mobile technology extends far beyond this stereotypical scenario: a factory supervisor wearing a starched white shirt, hardhat, and safety goggles while monitoring a sterile-looking room of modern machinery and maneuvering through real time data on a tablet. Mobile technology is first and foremost not tethered to a wall or desk. Beyond that, it may mean being able to work on the production floor, in transit, at an alternate facility, or from home. It could also be planned, permanent mobility, such as one person in a central location managing the needs of multiple production facilities around the globe. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the company implementing mobile technology.
What value does mobile technology offer to manufacturers?
Some industries are mobile technology naturals, for instance, service industries where a professional only needs a cell or Internet connection to achieve full productivity. But manufacturing is tethered to one or more physical work locations. Can manufacturing truly become mobile? Yes, it can. Mobile technology is best suited for situations where easy access to real-time data allows for informed decision-making. Whether it is receiving changes to demand or delivery schedules, the current status of critical inventory levels, or full visibility into fulfillment accuracy and quality, having information literally in hand improves both responsiveness and the effectiveness of the final outcome.
Are a manufacturing company’s suppliers affected by the roll out of mobile technology?
The answer to this is: absolutely, and in more ways than one. Managing the information supply chain in addition to the physical supply chain requires investment and commitment from all involved parties, but it benefits them all as well. Manufacturers whose procurement teams use mobile technology to track inventory, POs, and payment may have higher expectations for visibility and responsiveness from their suppliers. Mobile technology allows suppliers to meet and even exceed those expectations. By tracking their own inventory and individual item costs on the go, sales professionals can provide quick responses to customer questions and requests for proposals.
In order to have a measurable impact on a manufacturer’s production efficiency, mobile technology has to mean more than devices that can be carried around. Mobility is as much of a mindset as a set of devices and applications.