In a recent post, we discussed some important considerations for companies to address early on in the process of implementing a mobile technology program. These considerations include program objectives, the devices themselves, the environment they will be used in, the benefits to manufacturers, and the implications for suppliers.
If there is an additional factor that must be addressed for mobile technology to fulfill its full potential on behalf of manufacturers, it is the planning that goes beyond the device rollout. An organization that brings in mobile technology but allows everything else to remain the same will see very little change. They will simply move the same processes and information to different locations in the building. If, however, processes and procedures, systems integrations, and purchasing scope are re-evaluated, the impact of mobile technology can be transformational.
Processes and Procedures
In the early days of rolling out a mobile technology program, the focus may have been on the devices themselves and the access to data that they enable. An effective mobility program should equally balance information access and information input, allowing manufacturers to increase the body of data they have to analyze and report on. But even the centralization of data is not the end goal – data must be allowed to alter process flows for the better, ideally accelerating time to market by reorganizing and tracking production. This is where we are reminded that mobile technology does not just mean smartphones and tablets. It includes mobile sensors that feed critical, decision-enabling information back to leadership. If production cycles can be shortened, then delivery timeframes can be pulled in – without sacrificing the mass customization capabilities that clients expect.
The whole point of moving data and dashboards out of offices and to the production floor is to benefit from placing decisions in close proximity to the operation. If the company draws a line behind mobile applications rather than using them as a bridge to other enterprise systems, they discount the full potential of their investment. Mobile technology provides access to production and supply chain information in real time, enabling better alignment of quality, demand, and inventory systems. The more systems – and therefore information – that can be both accessible and integrated at the point of production, the better spot decision making can be.
In so many instances, the initial use case for emerging technology is product-related spend. And while inventory management, quality assurance, and delivery timelines are absolutely valid applications for mobile technology, services spend should not be excluded. Field service requests represent a significant portion of spend, but they also require a lot of time on the part of production managers. If maintenance and service requests can be placed by the person looking at the issue on the production floor in a way that allows their observations and requirements to be sent directly to the service provider, it is more likely that the right technician will show up with the materials and equipment required to fix the problem at hand – quickly.
Mobile technology could be seized upon as the answer to many modern manufacturing challenges, but it should instead be seen as a means to an end – not as an end in and of itself. What visibility, traceability, and actions are enabled through increased mobility? How are employee satisfaction and efficiency increased? Are there advantages for suppliers and customers (or prospective customers) that can be added to the company’s value proposition? Implementation is only the beginning. Once mobile technology is in place, connectivity and agility can be regularly reviewed for additional, complementary capabilities.