Role-Based Mobile Apps Transform Manufacturing
Contributed by Mahesh Lunani
Role-based mobile applications can help manufacturing companies dramatically boost productivity and growth.
Mobile application use is skyrocketing, especially among millennials who primarily access the Web using mobile devices. As both consumers and businesspeople, they crave virtualized environments that allow them to communicate and collaborate anywhere and anytime. To fulfill this need, all businesses, manufacturers among them, must create enterprise grade mobile applications that provide specific even single –– functions in a simple and intuitive way. By combining existing technologies with a deep understanding of their business, progressive manufacturers can create app “stores” with applications capabilities that can be easily configured to match employee, business partner and customer roles.
In the short term, such “role–based” apps can boost productivity by 5% to 10%, pundits believe. More forward–thinking manufacturers will radically overhaul their business and operating models using mobility, driving non–linear growth to their top and bottom lines. For most manufacturers, the required investment will be lower than for many other strategic initiatives, as the communications infrastructure already exists, and the devices already contain required capabilities such as cameras and location–positioning capabilities.
The benefits fall into three major areas: Effectiveness, transformation and disruptive business models.
Mobile apps can increase efficiency and productivity in workflows involving approvals, submissions and analytics. One such app allowed senior manufacturing managers to view sales of their top 50 customers. Another example is an app that provides a days-sales-outstanding (DSO) view of all customers, calculating the maximum discount a sales person could offer to customers who exceeded DSO limits. This would drive not only greater productivity, but better cash management.
In another case, a European supply chain logistics company deployed mobile devices to drivers to monitor collections, deliveries, fuel efficiency, daily mileage and location. Moreover, Hyundai's 2011 Equus sedan replaces the printed owner's manual with an application that reminds customers of routine service and lets them schedule maintenance. This increases the “stickiness” and engagement levels between the customer and the dealer and manufacturer throughout the product lifecycle.
The next, and more strategic benefit, is using mobility to re-engineer business processes for major performance improvements. For example, manufacturing employees could use the cameras and location features of smartphones to more quickly and accurately report health, safety and environmental incidents. This would not only speed response, but minimize liability and fraud and fulfill insurance and compliance needs.
At least one insurer is using mobile devices to track customer driving habits, using that information to offer variable rates and recommend new habits that will lower insurance costs. Another has developed an app and external device that allows a smartphone to record and transmit ultrasound images for as little as $1 each. The same tracking and information gathering capabilities could give manufacturers insights into how their products are used and help customers get more value from them. This opens the door to new product and services sales opportunities at a very low incremental cost, as the mobile infrastructure already exists.
Disruptive Business Model
Mobile apps can also create disruptive business and operating models that drive non–linear growth. This is particularly true for companies in emerging markets, where marketing and selling through mobile devices can be faster and less expensive than creating a traditional retail and sales network.
One multinational manufacturer with tens of thousands of SKUs is considering such a platform. One app would give the sales force SKU information, stock levels, profitability levels and dealer–specific orders. A second would provide retailers and distributors with sales promotion and new product information, as well as order status, inventory and invoice data. A third would give customers ordering, pricing, fulfillment status, coupons and mobile payment options.
Because these apps could be used across businesses, products and regions, they could provide non-linear economies of scale with a low fixed cost. They would also enable optimal cash cycle time, with mobile bank payments driving improved cash management, as well as better brand management control.
To develop an effective strategy, manufacturers must understand the business activities, roles and product opportunities, how to leverage mobility in these environments and how to identify and create role–specific applications that drive value. They must then develop a mobile architecture that builds on existing and emerging hardware and software platforms, security, a distribution infrastructure and communication protocols. Finally, they should create a “mobility center of excellence” to develop, deploy and support mobile apps, manage the mobility architecture and drive application adoption.
To learn more, read the white paper Enterprise Mobile Apps: How Role-Based Apps Will Drive Productivity and Transformation in Manufacturing Companies (PDF) and about the services Cognizant provides to manufacturing companies.