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Dan Griffin

For both businesses and consumers, we are living in a mobile-first world. The technology has permeated virtually every industry, providing immeasurable productivity and efficiency gains. For the modern and skilled manufacturer, mobile technology is the key to a successful shop floor and back office. A recent survey conducted by Motorola found that 7 in 10 IT decision-makers in the manufacturing industry look to mobile and wireless solutions to streamline operations when deciding to incorporate mobile technology on the shop floor. Having remote and real-time access to key business information, including financials, stock levels and real-time info on deliveries allows sales teams to close deals faster and shop floor managers to streamline and optimize business operations. With mobile enhancements, business is no longer conducted just within the warehouse walls or the shop floor — critical business information can be accessed with a few taps wherever and whenever needed by anyone with a smartphone or tablet.

Despite the proven impact of mobility on a business, the leap to mobile is still fairly recent for many manufacturers, and the best approach is still being analyzed and perfected. Take time to ensure you are checking the box on every best practice for making the most of mobile technology within a manufacturing business to stay competitive and deliver the best possible customer service. At the same time, keep in mind that mobility is not a blanket strategy and there are still some actions of a business that should not be mobilized.   

Take the Shop Floor Into the Back Office

The manufacturing industry was at the forefront of mobile adoption, as the technology has deep roots on the manufacturing shop floor in the form of the handheld scanning devices floor workers have relied on for years. While workers still scan pallets with handheld guns, mobile innovation on the shop floor hasn’t stopped there. Today, some manufacturers are even using machines on the floor that are recording their own performance and populating the data into software systems and dashboards. Taking a cue from their colleagues, sales teams, operational and back office employees are working off tablets and smartphones. Don’t let these two trends happen in a silo. Make it a priority to ensure that data collected on the shop floor is integrated into your back office software like the ERP system. Anything not 100 percent integrated is a missed opportunity.  

Make it Instant

Any delays in information availability can be costly. Make the integration of data sources instantaneous so that all authorized employees see a single, real-time view into business information collected on the shop floor like order status, delivery time and stock levels, which can be useful to traveling executives and sales reps. Ensure data views are uniform across the smartphone, tablet and browser. Don’t stop at sending shop floor data to the back office. Consider other types of information mobile executives may need on the fly, like financial and business intelligence data, and provide mobile access to authorized users.

Clean the Legacy Junk Out of Your Trunk

While taking steps to integrate mobile data into your business applications, it’s a good time to take stock of outdated, legacy systems. True integration among data collected throughout the business is fueled by integration of all business software systems and platforms. Upgrade any disparate, legacy systems so they aren’t a barrier to mobile success.

Make User Experience a Priority

The widespread usage of smartphones and 24x7 Internet access has made everyone, including all of your employees, a very discerning user. According to a Forrester study, over 30 billion ‘mobile moment’ occurrences happen on a daily basis for US adults, with 90 percent of mobile smart device usage taking place in apps. For all of us, ease of experience is critical, even for enterprise applications. If it’s not fast, simple and useful, even business applications won’t be used. In a study conducted by web developer, Margin Media, 48 percent of respondents say if they arrive on a business site that isn’t working well on mobile; they take it as an indication of the business not catering towards the user’s experience.

Be Selective, Not Comprehensive

Understanding the power of mobile technology also means understanding when it’s best not to apply it. Not every aspect of a manufacturing business should be mobilized. For instance, creating invoices and purchase orders are often best suited to the desktop. So are robust applications like spreadsheets.

Thanks to its heritage and diverse business environment, manufacturing is poised to be one of the industries that benefits most greatly from mobility. Build on the foundation of mobility already thriving in your business and bring disparate data sources together to make your mobile experience truly integrated, instant and engaging. Your bottom line will thank you. 

Dan Griffin serves as the Director of Product Management at Exact Macola.

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