Enterprise mobility and UK manufacturers – the current state of play

Posted on 30 Jan 2014 by The Manufacturer

Antony Bourne, global industry director at IFS, talks about the current state of the relationship between enterprise mobility and UK manufacturing.

Antony Bourne, global industry director at IFS

Last year I spoke about how our industry is lagging behind when it comes to enterprise mobility, and should embrace new software and solutions in order to remain competitive. I highlighted a lack of proven case studies and the fact that new technology is outpacing the average shop floor as key reasons for this. This got us thinking, and at IFS we decided to delve deeper into the issue, with some surprising results.

Our study of 200 CIOs and IT managers from UK-based companies actually found that 95 per cent of the manufacturing and production companies surveyed have now invested in mobility schemes. The main reason behind this is to enable a flexible workforce (85 per cent) and to help the business remain competitive (62 per cent). With the UK manufacturing industry continuing to struggle, many firms are seeking innovation to help them stand out – and it looks like mobility has (quite rightly) been one of the first things on the list.


Mobile access to corporate data is one of the biggest business challenges and opportunities the modern enterprise has to face. It has to balance the benefits of access to corporate data from anywhere, anytime with the security issues this raises. In other words, can the corporation secure its most precious assets while boosting productivity and employee satisfaction?

The findings of the report show that the greatest demand for mobility is coming from within the organisation itself, as staff are looking for ways to make their jobs easier and improve their productivity. This is particularly evident with employees that spend the majority of their time on the road meeting with customers and prospects who want to better utilise the time between meetings and business days.

Employee demand

Interestingly, the demand for mobility schemes is so high that many employees are contravening corporate policies to access business information on personal devices, putting confidential business information at risk. Many organisations that don’t allow employees to access corporate data on their device are aware that this policy is being overlooked or ignored. A better approach is to invest in business apps, mobile device fleets and BYOD schemes to enable secure access to the data employees are demanding.

As we’re seeing greater demand for mobility from employees, our report shows that organisations are investing accordingly; 71 per cent are investing in mobile applications for staff, compared to 59 per cent investing in mobile apps for customers. Businesses are predominantly focused on rolling out personal productivity apps along with those that support job-specific functions, such as expenses, timesheets or document management, with a view to helping employees access corporate data and remain productive on the move.

In the manufacturing industry, those apps that allow approvals for expenses, purchase orders and invoices were the most important – especially for field engineers completing jobs on site – followed by sales support such as CRM.

Security risks

On top of the reasons I mentioned before, security risk is indisputably a huge barrier to adoption for many enterprises – of those in our study that haven’t yet invested in mobility, 46 per cent cited this was due to security concerns. The second most popular option – probably fuelled by stories in the media of confidential business data getting into the wrong hands or the recent NSA scandal – was data loss. Eighty-five per cent of manufacturers we spoke to were concerned about this.

It appears that manufacturers are embracing mobility more than we first thought, and for good reason – when used correctly, it increases productivity and in turn supports the business to be able to react more quickly to any unforeseen changes. And that’s before you consider the widespread benefits for field engineers who can do away with stacks of paper and submit job reports in real time (project managers – that means no more waiting for the postman to deliver an update that’s five days old!).

We’re also seeing increased demand from many of our customers who are asking how they can implement mobile solutions with our help, and I think this will be a key focus area for manufacturers this year. For more information, you can read the full IFS mobility report here.