Leveraging Mobile

Six steps to successful materials data collection with tablets and smartphones


Mobility in the workplace is here to stay: more than 100 million U.S. subscribers are on smartphones, and 90 million Americans will own tablets by 2014. Recent studies project that 72 percent of the global population will be mobile by 2016, and by 2017, there will be 1.4 mobile devices for every person alive. In combination, the increase in BYOD (bring your own device) workplaces, the ubiquity of tablets and smartphones, and the availability of mobile business applications together are driving the trend for supply chain organizations to implement mobile functionality for efficient data collection and tracking.

Supply chain organizations must adopt mobility plans to stay competitive. Mobility in data collection and inventory tracking activities presents opportunities for significant ROI and quickly realized benefits.

When embarking on a mobile strategy, however, it is important to avoid “mobility for mobility’s sake.” Mobile applications also should not be developed as one-time projects in reaction to pain points without a thorough analysis involving key stakeholders. For maximum effectiveness and profitability, strategically and methodically identify, implement, and monitor your mobility projects.

Following are six steps to help you create a strategy for optimizing tablets and smartphones to perform data collection and tracking functions for increased accuracy, performance, and efficiency.

 

Assess Your Current Mobile Practices

In each area where mobile practices currently are in place—such as receiving, order picking, or shipment tracking—assess the functionality to begin determining the greatest needs for development. Create a matrix that lists each type of mobile transaction and the level of development completed.

For example, you may have a mobile receiving solution that has been integrated into your ERP, with full IT support and company-approved devices. Whereas, in another area, such as shipping, your organization may only have a few transactions that are viewable on employee-owned mobile devices. As you create a detailed list of current mobile capabilities, gaps will become apparent. Gather information about your current infrastructure and resources supporting mobility. Engage with IT to find out what development capabilities and security policies are currently in place. Find out how current mobile applications are developed, what mobile devices and platforms are currently supported, and what third party partner relationships already exist.

Perform a Needs Analysis

The third step is to determine the data collection functions that would most benefit from mobile capability. Because mobile affects most of your organization, you should involve the key stakeholders from those areas (e.g., customer service, marketing, the executive level, etc.) to ensure that your strategy is aligned with other company-wide objectives.

To get a complete picture of your organization’s mobile data collection needs, carefully scrutinize:

  • Company projections for mobile device usage and application development
  • Competitor capabilities and implementation of mobile technology
  • Industry-wide trends for mobile data collection
  • Customer and employee feedback from surveys, social media, or usability research

Analyze your organization’s use of ruggedized handheld devices or laptops for inventory, transportation, and warehouse management. You may not have thought about replacing these “mobile” devices in the near future, but new smartphones and tablets are rapidly evolving to perform these tasks, and it is worth investigating the enhancements that these devices and their compatible applications could provide.

Finally, consider whether your organization has the resources and technical knowledge to implement your mobile strategy. Outsourcing to a specialized partner is often less expensive in the long run.

Prioritize Your Projects

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