Understanding the ROI of Mobile Solutions in the Manufacturing Industry

Your field service technician is on a call with a customer. He sees that the customer needs to order a spare part for the system to return to full operating capacity. The customer asks when the spare part will arrive and how much it will cost-- expecting the technician can provide that information immediately.

Back on the shop floor, an unexpected breakdown of an asset has halted the production line. The technician needs to access the service history, contact the previous technician and review the warranty before beginning work-- which takes all morning.

A new set of regulations next year is adding on additional paperwork, data entry and filing for over-capacity quality assurance initiatives-- and the additional cost in labor to comply. Meanwhile, your CFO doesn’t have the real-time throughput of the company’s shop floors-- causing a data lag for the financial models and estimates.

What these scenarios have in common: these are expensive problems in the manufacturing industry and ones that mobility can solve. This is why CIOs in the manufacturing industry reported that investment in mobile applications is a top priority.

Improve relationship with customers

If your on-time delivery to commit rates, customer conversion rates and average service calls per technician are behind industry benchmarks, start with these applications to improve the engagement and service to customers first. Customers today expect unprecedented responsiveness and information-- and not just for the sales team. Field service technicians are providing valuable touch points for your brand, but without the right information on a mobile device, they provide a lag in responding to customer requests. Your field service technicians also don’t know the customer’s situation as well as they should. With experiences like these, are you sure your customers are not looking to switch companies already?

Imagine a mobile solution for your field service technicians that provides a daily dispatch list and integrated GPS and routing to their mobile device. Contrast that with the current situation: the team checks in at the dispatch office and possibly takes the wrong route to an office, risking showing up late or missing an appointment. After the tech arrives on site, he or she can pull up the service history, request summary, warranty information, customer contact information and history to gain a full picture of the customer’s situation. If the customer is eligible for an upcoming offer or upgrade, a push notification will let them know when they check in to the site. If additional parts are needed, a mobile solution for your configure, price and quote (CPQ) system will empower the tech to provide a complete quote and date of delivery. After he or she is finished with the task, their mobile device logs the time.

Before the customer purchases your product, empowering your sales team with a mobile solution will shorten the sales cycle. Manufacturing customers today are doing more and more research on your products; some estimates suggest customers are up to 90 percent finished with their research process when they initiate a call with a salesperson. These customers are asking very, very specific questions and expecting customized solutions and answers. Providing a full set of sales tools on a mobile device will make the conversations with potential customers more productive and move your team significantly closer to the sale with each meeting.

Reduce waste in the manufacturing process

Your workflows and production processes are losing money without a digital solution that merges seamlessly into the operations needs. Your WIP inventory, compliance labor hours and ratio of downtime to operating time for assets can all decrease if you improve the visibility into your processes and the ability to instantly communicate on the shop floor.

Provide more transparency into your inventory levels with a mobile solution that integrates with RFID scanning and communicates with suppliers for vendor-managed inventory processes. Once raw materials reach a certain level, an automatic connection is made with the supplier to provide more-- but not more than is required for the production goals. This reduces capital expenditures for stocking inventory and shortens the cash-to-cash cycle time.

As the materials move through your process, compliance reporting requires significant labor hours for paperwork in highly regulated industries. The RFID scanning and integration with a mobile solution can not only provide complete traceability of parts (a requirement for some industries), but the right solution will also empower the employees responsible for managing compliance to not be chained to their desks to submit the paperwork.

In these same sectors, regulations also require parts be inspected and maintained at specific time intervals. Connecting your MES data from your machines and leveraging a mobile solution with push notifications to immediately alert the right employees will reduce your downtime to operating machine for your assets.

Create more accurate forecasts and real-time reports for management

You’ve identified your goals with mobility-- how will you measure the ROI and track progress toward KPIs?

Managers and directors do not need to chain themselves to a desk to gain a picture of how the facility is operating. A mobile solution leveraging best practices in data visualization and a dashboard can provide a quick snapshot of key metrics.

This Forbes article tells of one manufacturer whose CFO ties shop floor data to financial metrics-- a real-time picture of your financial health. This same CFO also produces more accurate predictions of production costs with advanced pattern detection and analytics.

How are you using mobile to solve problems in the manufacturing industry?

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