Putting the Power of Mobility into Employees’ Hands

The overarching question for business leaders looking to adopt, or further embrace, mobile solutions across the enterprise is not just what to deploy but how to deploy it.

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Technology is a strategic imperative for supply chain organizations and plays an essential role in driving revenue and margin. Over 60% of respondents to a Gartner study from earlier this year said it’s a source of competitive advantage. The need for greater agility, as well as labor constraints, are among the drivers of further investments into technology, according to the same Gartner report.

Mobile technology can be an answer to both of those challenges, and it’s already transforming the supply chain from the manufacturing floor to the warehouse and everything in between. The overarching question for business leaders looking to adopt, or further embrace, mobile solutions across the enterprise is not just what to deploy but how to deploy it.

The connected supply chain relies on putting real-time information into the hands of employees on the front line who can use it to take action. Mobile computing enables exactly that, but without proper controls in place, mobile devices can introduce unwanted risk. This leads to one of two scenarios:

  1. Putting off the adoption of mobile devices altogether because business leaders aren’t sure how to go about bringing them into the enterprise

  1. Giving it a shot but falling short of mobile computing’s true potential, either due to not having control of the environment or over-controlling the environment and under-realizing the technology’s potential.

The way to ensure employees have the right information and functionality on their device at the right time is by managing the devices situationally and dynamically. That’s where context comes in.

Accounting for the fluid nature of workers

Enterprise mobility tools facilitate a wide range of work in an equally wide range of settings, whether behind the wheel, in the warehouse or on the factory floor. But standing in the way of those tools reaching their full potential are outdated means of managing them that don’t take into account the fluid nature of workers.

Context can help.

When a mobile device management solution has a contextual layer added to it, device permissions can adjust dynamically as each individual employee’s context changes throughout a shift. Contextual mobility management enables what’s happening around the device to impact what can happen on the device, so as an employee moves from the warehouse floor into the breakroom for lunch, for example, their device permissions (along with the features and content available on it) also adjust. When they transition into a setting deemed safe according to their employer’s mobile policy, the phone reverts back to its full functionality with all features, apps and content becoming available instantly. There’s no manual IT intervention needed to adjust permissions. It happens automatically and in real time.

In this way, employers can ensure devices are being used within company guidelines, and, more importantly, can proactively eliminate risks and distractions, helping keep employees safe.

Empowering performance

Restrictive, one-size-fits-all approaches to mobility management may give executives peace of mind, but they also minimize performance potential and lead to underutilization of mobile tools. At a time when the need for connectedness and visibility across the supply chain are at an all-time high, giving up some control to have more command can pave the way for performance enhancements.

Context can help solve for what I refer to as the human side of mobility by identifying situational triggers and adapting what can be done on the device at a given time. Employees aren’t static throughout a shift - they move around, their settings change, and as they do, their mobile device permissions should also adjust. By adding contextual intelligence to the management of mobile technology, companies can deliver a more relevant user experience and improved worker safety and productivity, ensuring employees have the functionality they need for the task at hand and nothing they don’t.

Here’s how that can look: An employee can scan items and access inventory management apps on their device when a forklift is safely parked, but the device knows to temporarily remove that functionality when the forklift is maneuvering down the aisles. On the factory floor, team members can utilize asset management and equipment maintenance apps in designated areas, but in spaces deemed high risk, those features are removed automatically from the device so as not to pose unwanted distractions. And during transport, a driver can utilize maps or receive voice calls through Bluetooth, but apps like video calling or text messaging are temporarily withheld. This shifting of permissions based on context drives down risk, and it does so in a way that’s unobtrusive and maintains respect for every team member’s privacy. When the worker is off the clock or outside of the managed work zone, so is the technology, and the device reverts back to its normal, full functionality.

Mobility keeps operations moving and teams engaged. It improves communication, data capture, reporting and more. Logistics leaders can capitalize on the role mobility can play in creating supply chain efficiencies by utilizing context to help determine what’s appropriate or not in a given situation, as defined in the organization’s mobility policy.

Just as a sentence gives context to our choice of words, or what’s happening around us gives context to our actions, what’s happening around an employee’s mobile device should provide the context to determine what they can do on it in a given situation. This approach allows mobility to shine in its role as a driver of safety and efficiency across the supply chain.