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Developing a mobility plan for manufacturing and retail

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Many retail and manufacturing organisations continue to rely on paper-based processes or proprietary systems for tasks such as inventory management. Due to issues with these legacy approaches, we're seeing a lot of companies looking at implementing mobile solutions to replace these processes and systems. Employees also want simpler solutions to find information or perform tasks without having to return to the office or re-enter the same information into multiple devices or systems.


However, many organisations limit their initial mobility scope of work to addressing specific processes or tasks. This approach can restrict management visibility of mobility, miss or provide incomplete return-on-investment data, and can be difficult to implement in isolation. Without a whole-of-business approach that covers a range of use cases and return-on-investment models, these companies risk senior management knocking back their proposals.


I'd recommend any business in retail, manufacturing or other labour-intensive industry start with a broad mobility plan. To help secure signoff from senior management, this document should clearly detail the operational cost reductions, productivity improvements and process efficiencies that mobility can deliver.


For example, manufacturing companies can replace the paper-based supply-chain or stock checking systems, as well as the manual forms used to record compliance, processes and incidents with mobile applications linked directly to their core business systems. By eliminating the need for employees to enter data twice, these businesses could achieve substantial productivity improvements.


In addition, by making these applications accessible over standard mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, businesses can avoid investing in expensive vendor-specific hardware for a single purpose, for example scanner device, and instead combine them on a single platform.

This plan may not be set in stone. For example, a baseline mobility project may 'flush out' complementary initiatives not originally accounted for. The plan - and return-on-investment modelling - can be adjusted to accommodate these projects. To avoid a piecemeal approach to mobility and drive all initiatives in this area, businesses should consider implementing a single management platform.


So how should a business start developing its mobility plan? I would recommend beginning by addressing the following questions.


  • Where can the business benefit most from introducing mobility? One way of doing this is to work through 'day in the life' scenarios of one or more employees that rely on manual or proprietary systems to complete their tasks.
  • What are the implications of deploying mobility for the business, our customers, our partners and our employees?
  • What are competitors doing with mobility? Does mobility represent an opportunity to gain a competitive edge, or is it an investment in ensuring that my business keeps up with industry trends?
  • What investments are necessary to implement mobility and over what period can we expect to see a return on these?
  • How can we measure the success of mobility projects within my organisation?


If an organisation does not have the in-house resources to answer these questions, it can obtain advice from an expert partner that can help develop a plan, and assist with the execution.


What are your views on mobility? How is your retail or manufacturing business using mobility to improve its systems and processes? Feel free to drop me a note.


By Robbie Kruger, Optus Business Industry Manager (Mobility). More from Robbie on Twitter: @robbiekruger


All views expressed are the author's own.