Manufacturing Goes Mobile
July 24, 2012
Mobile devices have changed the way people interact, view media and do business. Manufacturers are taking advantage of smartphones, tablets and other mobile technologies to streamline operations and boost productivity. But given the potential for security leaks, is mobility work the risk? Smartphones and PDAs like the Blackberry and iPhone have made mobile connectivity a necessary component of conducting business in the 21st century. The recent wave of tablet computers has introduced more functionality to an already connected world, including manufacturing. Sales in the the tablet computer industry reached 60 million units last year, up from 17 million units sold in 2010, with projections for as many as 320 million units to be sold in 2015, according to Gartner In its 2012 State of Mobility Survey However, a significant percentage of Symantec respondents admitted their business is behind the mobile curve, often due to security concerns. Almost half of respondents declared mobility to be extremely challenging to adopt and 41 percent characterized mobile devices as one of their top three IT risks. Respondents cited mobile device cost and complexity reductions as among their top business priorities. Are American manufacturers willing to tackle the IT security burden of mobile adoption in order to reap the benefits of a mobile operation? The tablet PC has entered the manufacturing industry through two major channels: management and operations. These technologies allow factory managers to keep tabs on all assets, labor, inventory and processes at the swipe of a finger, while shop floor workers can streamline their day-to-day operations by tracking machinery and inventory at a ground-floor level. Shop floor managers and employees use a variety of mobile devices and industry-specific apps to monitor factory productivity and efficiency, reference myriad production documents or contact offsite colleagues with questions. While the PC has enmeshed itself in factory environments, the tablet frees up workers to exercise greater independence and mobility. A Motorola survey of the effects of mobile tech on manufacturing productivity found that "manufacturers with mobile applications saved a daily average of 42 minutes per employee," as reported by CIMx One of the most frequently cited benefits to mobility adoption is access to on-the-go asset and inventory tracking. As IndustryWeek When networked, mobile devices are connected to real-time inventory tracking, and on-the-floor updates can be regularly entered by multiple shop floor workers. These updates are available to everyone on the network. Sales can securely check inventory numbers, knowing that the data is monitored by a mobile-enabled worker who is on-site, greatly alleviating supply chain burdens. Not only can mobile devices track inventory, they can also track processes and labor progress. As Motorola However, change also poses risks. As manufacturers increasingly rely on mobile devices to improve productivity and efficiency, concerns about mobility are emerging. The Poneman Institute's Global Study on Mobility Risks Symantec's mobility survey concludes that the benefits of mobility justify the cost and effort of implementing a cybersecurity policy: "Organizations that choose to embrace mobility without compromising on security are most likely to improve business processes and achieve productivity gains. To this end, organizations should consider developing a mobile strategy that defines the organization's mobile culture and aligns with their security risk tolerance."