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Mobile manufacturing requires standardization, strategy

Companies that are interested in realizing mobility's potential must first familiarize themselves with best practices around mobile ERP and manufacturing applications.

Since the iPhone's debut in 2007, smartphones -- and later, tablets -- have become so commonplace that any phone that is, well, just a phone seems as antiquated as a horse and buggy. For consumers, the question has evolved from "What's a smartphone?" to "What smartphone do you have?" And for manufacturers, who were long stereotyped as technophobes, the question is changing from "What use do we have for mobile manufacturing?" to "What can we do with mobile computing next?"

Nothing worth having comes easy, however, and that rings true for manufacturers looking to adopt mobile ERP and other enterprise applications into their daily operations. There is often a steep learning curve to navigate, especially when it comes to using mobile devices on the shop floor. There are also standardization issues and security risks associated with making the move to mobile. To that end, here are some common mobile manufacturing best practices that your IT department should know.

An important cornerstone of your mobile ERP strategy should be standardizing your mobile platform. Having multiple operating systems running can cause integration, storage and data issues for mobile platforms. Another important component is simplifying mobile applications across sites. Running different versions of the same software can cause many problems, especially if an organization manufactures products with exacting standards. Network connectivity is another essential factor. You should be sure to investigate connectivity -- especially connection speed, quality of service, throughput and reliability -- because connectivity issues could derail the entire mobile ERP deployment. 

As for choosing and using manufacturing mobile applications as part of your move to mobile manufacturing, one key to success in this area is doing the work to understand users. This can enable you to create easier-to-use technology that truly solves employees' problems and, in turn, the company's. Another key is implementing for the best internal fit. IT decision makers in an array of companies -- from textile mills to chemical manufacturing -- must identify where in the company mobile will best serve the business. And last, but certainly not least, there is security: No mobile implementation plan should be without a clear-eyed focus on security and strategies to proactively address issues.

Addressing all these issues is a tall order, but the payoffs are worth it. Indeed, mobile manufacturing can give manufacturers a competitive edge not previously available. 

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This was last published in February 2016

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