The UK manufacturing industry has been enjoying a revival over recent years. Making up about a tenth of the UK economy, in April 2017, Britain’s factories had their fastest growth for three years. And the pressure is on to sustain this. In its’ “Construction 2025 report” the Government expects the industry to grow by 70% in the next decade. Furthermore, it wants costs to be cut by a third, and project times cut in half, without compromising quality and safety. In order to meet these expectations, manufacturers need to embrace new initiatives, and invest in the technology to do so.
In a recent survey of senior decision makers in UK manufacturing companies, 93 per cent said their company permitted mobile working, and they all believed it increased productivity. With increased productivity comes increased revenues, a reduction in errors, and the ability to work from anywhere, any time. In 2017 it’s no longer a surprise to see people working from laptops or mobiles, so as we become more digitally comfortable, there should be a drive towards adopting mobility within business environments.
The manufacturing industry should be no exception. It’s an industry where streamlined processes are essential in order to keep errors down, and revenues flowing. As customer demands become more complex, companies are increasingly outsourcing activities. While this reduces capacity limitations and allows tight-turnaround demands to be met, it also brings challenges. In particular, there needs to be effective co-ordination between multiple departments or companies, no matter whether employees are on the factory floor, in the field, or in an office. A field sales representative needs to be able to communicate with the factory, in order to see stock levels and so on. Similarly, a customer experience expert will need to be able to access information from the factory and the delivery team, to see where a parcel is.
While there’s clearly a desire to go mobile, and the benefits are tangible, many companies are lagging behind when it comes to implementing the technology that will help them perform business functions away from their desks. Indeed, 66 per cent of those surveyed highlighted that they didn’t find it easy to manage the business from a mobile device, and 45 per cent said they could not perform core business functions on a mobile app. Ironically, although technology is filtering into all aspects of our lives, it’s being seen as one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to achieving total mobility. While traditional ERP and CRM technology systems often have a reputation for being inflexible and static, there’s been an enormous amount of innovation in recent years, which means the ability to open up software to a range of devices is now possible. There are now tools available on the market, such as mobile application generators that allow users to easily create apps that will enable them to carry out their jobs as usual from mobile devices. This means that with the right vendor, companies should find it relatively straightforward to create mobile applications that allow them to perform key business processes.
But if the technology exists, why aren’t more companies in the sector using it? The most likely answer is that they’re unaware of the level of innovation that’s occurred in the last few years. Or similarly, they are aware of how technology has changed, but they’re resisting the innovation. Many companies, especially smaller ones, would rather stick to what they know, unaware that the technology available to them is actually simple and easy to use.
However, as mobile working moves from an option to a necessity, more companies will have to jump on the bandwagon if they want to stay ahead of their competitors. This will require employers to trust that their employees will remain productive outside of office walls. Currently, senior management are most likely to work remotely, suggesting a culture of elitism when it comes to mobile working. Conversely, almost a quarter of customer service reps, and a quarter of productive staff never work from home. The other hurdle decision makers will have to overcome is the shift in culture that may occur with increased mobility. A balance will have to be found between remote working and preserving company culture; a small consideration given all that mobility has to offer.
By Andres Richter, CEO, Priority Software