Bridgr Insights
mobility in manufacturing

Mobile​ ​Devices​ ​in​ ​Factories:​ ​An​ ​Important​ ​Competitive​ ​Advantage

Mobile applications are already actively used to support commercial activity in manufacturing, and several companies are developing a mobile strategic plan. According to a report published by Forbes, factories saw sales increase by 13% during the first 6 months following the implementation of mobile applications to support operations. This article reports on the advantages of using mobility in manufacturing.

Mobile devices are extremely convenient tools that allow us to access a sea of information and stay connected at all times. Their use is so pleasant in our private lives, it makes sense that it is also the case in our professional life. Nowadays, the use of these small portable tools is practically a necessity to remain competitive in the business world and more precisely in the industrial field. The key here is the constant access to critical information everywhere, in real time, even when employees are no longer in the workplace.

Mobility is considered one of the main agents of the Industrial Revolution. According to PwC’s 18th annual survey where 1322 CEOs were questioned, the top three technological priorities of manufacturing executives are mobility (73%), cybersecurity (72%), and data collection and analysis (70%). Access to a large amount of real-time information via mobile devices leads to improved production processes.

The Stone Age Is Over

The lightweight of mobile devices makes them the most natural replacement for paper. In addition, they avoid the much more expensive installation of fixed supervision and control stations necessary to communicate with the central computer system of the plant. Smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches are tools with which most people are already familiar. There is, therefore, no need for a strenuous adaptation period when these tools are integrated into the work process. Moreover, making this type of technology available at work could attract a younger workforce looking for a professional environment with advanced software systems and increase the retention rate of employees.

Overall Performance Improvement

70% of 3300 asked-manufacturers view mobile devices as the key to converting downtime in production, saving a daily average of 42 minutes per employee.

The need to improve productivity and efficiency as well as the desire to benefit from the influx of information provided by the growing sources of sensors and scanners have propelled the use of mobile devices in the factory. Imagine knowing at all times exactly what is on the production line or in your inventory no matter where you are. This allows employees to react much faster than before and reduce costly downtimes. Employees are freed from non-value added tasks. According to a report written by Credencys including 3300 manufacturing professionals, 70% view mobile devices as the key to converting downtime in production, saving a daily average of 42 minutes per employee.

There is also an improvement in regulatory compliance, as mobile solutions allow far more monitoring than the archaic pen and paper method. Mobile devices offer timestamps, product recall functionalities, and automatic alerts that eliminate delays and risk of errors. In short, mobility means better resource management, greatly improved quality control, more precision, better cost management and preventive maintenance. All of this translates into a guaranteed return on investment.

Creating Business Value Through Mobility

40 business applications were incorporated into British Airways and approximately 17,000 iPads were provided to its staff members

Despite their small size, their performance is exceptional and the possibilities of these devices are practically infinite, one simply needs a little imagination. According to Johnson & Johnson, the use of mobile technology on their production floor has been completely transformational. “It has changed the way we do business, that’s the main thing,” says Kieran Byrne, executive systems manager. For this company, the use of mobile devices has allowed rapid access to a large amount of documentation everywhere, the equivalent of having a complete library always at hand. The staff has even begun to find different ways to work with mobile devices which have allowed the company to create commercial value.

We are continuously developing new applications or new use cases. […] we’re developing an augmented-reality type experience for the mobility users that are overlaying a layer of virtual information on the physical, so if you hold up your iPad in front of the injection molding machine or a piece of equipment, you can see with your eyes, but you can also see other information that is tied to that specific location ” says Byrne.

British Airways was able to greatly transform its operations thanks to mobility. The airline is now responding faster, is more productive and collaborating more efficiently across the enterprise since more than 40 business applications were incorporated into the company and approximately 17,000 iPads were provided to its staff members.

Ultimately, mobility is pushing manufacturers to compete on delivery times while making a better product in less time than before. It can sometimes even help to improve the brand image. Mobility ranks first among technological considerations of the 1322 PwC-listed business executives, a late adoption of this technology could mean a great loss of competitiveness in favor of concurrence.

A Three-step Mobile Strategy

In order to ensure that the company’s efforts are as effective as possible, experts suggest that a mobile strategy be developed first. For example, if a company uses an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or a SCM (Supply Chain Management), it is essential that the mobile strategy defines the approach to connect the existing system to the mobile applications. According to Lopez Research6, most companies will have to integrate mobility in three phases:

Phase 1: Extension of existing mobile applications
This first phase consists of extending the functionality offered by desktop software to mobile applications. For example, mobile devices will be used to first replace paper and subsequently to approve requests, view expense reports and for time management.

Phase 2: Enhance the capabilities of existing applications
Next, new features that are made accessible by mobile devices are added to the apps such as image capture, barcode scanning, voice commands, or geolocation to increase efficiency and productivity. This phase highlights the importance of connecting machines to sensors, also known as the Internet of objects, as well as to include big data and performance indicators into the company’s digital strategy.

Phase 3: Focus on mobility to reinvent business models and processes
This final phase is characterized by the alteration of internal processes. We reinvent the way we work through the opportunities offered by mobility. For example, a product manufacturing company could also become a service company. The abundance of information now available to executives also having great value for customers, they might be interested in providing some of this data to customers via smart mobile devices so they can track their products in real time or even place orders directly on an application.

Mobile Applications That Exactly Meet Your Needs

Regardless of your field of business, it is important to properly orient the mobile strategy. Of course, a ton of software products and mobile applications are already available on the market. On the other hand, these public applications cannot be compared to an application perfectly adapted to the needs of the company. Nowadays, affordable pricing of custom-made development services enables companies to make personalized applications profitable very quickly.

Motorola Solutions Barometer 2011
© Motorola Solutions Barometer 2011

The familiarity of mobile devices is a great asset but it can also cause people to underestimate the potential of this technology. It is a common cliché but often, the best solution is there, right under our noses.

Which of the following are the most important benefits realized by your organization due to the utilization of mobile and wireless computing and/or communication products?

Emilie from ThirdBridge (BRIDGR's Partner)

Directrice de compte/Développement d'affaires chez Développements Third Bridge / BRIDGR's Partner

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