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Mobile Tech in Manufacturing: Inventory Management

Mark ForsterManufacturing

Enterprise mobility is now a key strategic initiative amongst leading global manufacturing organisations. The implementation of mobile tech saves employees an average of 42 minutes daily per person. A considerable 70% of IT managers would prefer to introduce mobile and wireless applications into day-to-day operations. And yet, according to a Canvas survey of industry players, only 6% of organisations use mobile apps for inventory management.

In light of the evident benefits and clear enthusiasm amongst businesses, it’s quite strange  that nearly 30% of enterprises are still working on a mobile strategy; only 25% have had a strategy in place for 12 months or more. While this may be music to mobile app developers’ ears, these facts are at the same time alarming for the sector. As technology is the most important factor of production, it’s imperative that the industry catches up.

To offer an insight into how technology can help the sector, let’s take a deeper look at the benefits of mobile apps for inventory management:


Less Admin, More Efficiency

Productive pressure drives mobile adaption in manufacturing. Mobility is a top priority both within the firm and for distribution purposes. Technological advancements in the Mobile & Wireless arena provide an opportunity for companies in the industry to broaden their enterprise support systems and enhance resource planning. In doing so, they can eliminate paperwork, streamline service processes and increase customer satisfaction. 

Mobile apps increase the staying power of manufacturers, enabling them to keep up with the dynamics of the ever-changing industry. In an effort to increase accuracy levels and operational efficiency, and stay in-the-know of warehouse activity, many manufacturers are now turning to mobile apps. These allow them to automate key warehouse management and production management tasks, to improve supply chain management, supplier management, and materials planning.

When integrated into the company’s ERP or warehouse management system, these apps speed up information processing and provide crucial data such as inventory levels and sales orders in real time. This is extremely beneficial for companies in multiple locations, as users can view their operational needs in each location, enabling managers and executives to view pertinent information faster than ever. 

A typical information flow in a warehouse set up involves a lengthy and arduous task of sending emails, invoices and purchase orders back and forth several times before receiving final approval. With mobile apps in place, companies can cut the approval process time by as much as half. All the stakeholders can access real-time information about pending orders and forecasts on their smart devices, making it easier to gather and implement company-wide intelligence and analytics.


Informed Decision-Making 

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Mobile apps enhance communication and collaboration at work , as they enable information to be shared seamlessly across the organisation. Business executives and managers who use mobile apps are able to access company-wide, real-time data, enabling them to make fast and well-informed decisions on the go. This instant transfer of information eliminates miscommunication across departments, improves effectiveness of everyday tasks, and increases efficiency across all departments. 

Mobile app developers can integrate mobility solutions that automate all operations within an organisation, to deliver instant, real-time updates. This will enable manufacturers to manage their inventories more effectively, while eliminating production downtime. Managers will have access to accurate, real-time inventory counts, allowing the purchasing department to negotiate more favourable pricing and improved margins. 

Barcode reading applications can track inventories in various stages of the manufacturing process, facilitating the remote control of multiple plant systems in different locations. Materials Management/Warehouse Management can be carried out with the adoption of warehouse sensors, which update on the ERP in real time with the entry/exit of materials. An inventory management mobile app enables precise tracking and paperless management of inventories, which results in increased productivity, lower costs, an optimised supply chain and improved customer service. 


Improved Mobility

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Manufacturing enterprises present various challenges for the implementation of mobility, as they operate in a diverse range of environments, from warehouses dealing with incoming material and outgoing products, to clean and industrial production areas, and so on. Mobility solutions enable manufacturers to improve these business processes, whilst helping them to meet customer expectations. 

Many companies have their plants located in different places worldwide. These companies also include a high number of employees. Using mobile applications, supply chain managers can easily access real-time information on the movement of materials in any given plant. Inventory costs of the production unit will be reduced by connecting these systems to the organisation’s Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) system, to identify ways in which workflow and operations can be streamlined.


The Direction of Manufacturing Tech

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As more and more organisations use inventory management applications in their warehouses, mobile solutions have become a necessity to increase productivity, as well as providing support to employees, suppliers and customers.  

In an effort to build on these successes, many manufacturers are now looking for ways to increase their reliance on mobile tech in other processes. Manufacturers who use mobile apps can even boost their marketing and sales efforts. These apps help them plan and execute key marketing and sales strategies, as well as monitoring the effectiveness of their campaigns – all on their mobile devices.

Nowadays, most newly developed products allow integration with mobile devices to facilitate remote monitoring and operation of the product. With the rise of Internet of Things (IoT), products can independently communicate to a remote device about their performance, send critical information reports, and run diagnoses for troubleshoots. 

IoT has revolutionised our homes, workplace, travel, transport and entertainment. Now it’s the manufacturing industry’s turn to integrate IoT into production processes. Smart inventory management may lead to smart manufacturing processes; imagine an inventory on the conveyer belt sending real time information via mobile devices to members throughout the organisation, enabling them to monitor and plan their inventory to the exact unit. 

Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms are providing a huge number of apps that cater specifically to this segment. Companies adopt mobile technologies to drive employee productivity and responsiveness, but some key concerns around security and the cost of hardware and software remain. Nevertheless, in time the mobile revolution is set to transform the way business is done – not just here, but in every industry.