Increased software mobility key to manufacturing innovation

Antony Bourne, global industry director at IFS, talks to The Manufacturer about why the industry is falling behind other sectors in embracing mobility in ERP software, and how this is proving detrimental to businesses.

“Mobility continues to be a hot topic in the ERP/enterprise software market, but the conversations are changing from theory to optimisation and practical use.

Debunking the manufacturing mobility myth
Antony Bourne, global industry director at IFS.

“Mobility is the convergence of social, mobility, cloud and information patterns that drive new business scenarios. This started me thinking about why manufacturers appear to be behind the curve in embracing this technology and in seeing the benefits on the shop floor.

“It’s a myth that mobility is not suited to manufacturers, and in my opinion there are two main reasons why manufacturers are not tracking the mobility trend.

#1 – A lack of proven case studies

“I do hear some confusion about exactly what enterprise mobility means and the impact it can have on productivity. At our IFS World Conference last year I shared a mobility case study with one of our manufacturing customers, Miller St Nazianz, to help bring the productivity benefits to life. Our customers are using mobile apps and we have a number of case studies in the pipeline to share the competitive advantages more broadly. The uses are many and varied, ranging from the use of mobile devices in the warehouse to assist in picking/ packing processes, to installation engineers commissioning a piece of equipment on a customer site.

“We need real life stories to bring these scenarios to life, for example where the manufacturing director is automatically alerted on his tablet/ mobile device to an issue on the shop floor, when out of the office, and can immediately investigate the details and, if necessary, reschedule or make alternative plans as a result. Without the ability to directly review the details, a delay would have resulted and the ability to manage the situation would have been affected.

#2 – Communication and technology trends are outpacing the average shop floor

“Looking back 18 years, when I worked in a manufacturing environment, the last thing on my mind was mobility. It simply didn’t exist and everything was done in the supervisor’s office, either on paper or entered on some dumb terminal.

“It’s clear that the way we communicate has changed and that the rate of change is increasing. With the rise of social media during the last decade, early adopters embraced web-enabled phones and tablets in their private lives. Today, we’ve moved on to see tablets and phones making clear productivity improvements in the workplace.

“It surprises me that the manufacturing industry, one known for constantly reinventing itself, has not been leading the charge. Process improvement and supply chain optimisation have been studied and refined by some of the finest minds of our generation, but it seems not to be moving as fast as the technology and communication trends.

“The key thing about mobility is that, when used correctly, it increases productivity, which in turn supports the business to be able to react more quickly to any unforeseen changes. But the question that remains for mobility and the manufacturing industry: will it live up to the hype?”

IFS will hold its annual world conference in Barcelona from October 28-31st. For more information on the event, click here.