Jeff Sweeney talks mobile apps

Leadership & Strategy: Mobile Manufacturing Execs

Mobile apps offer the ability "to better communicate with our far-flung enterprise around the globe," says Jeff Sweeney, co-founder of East West Manufacturing Co. 

Jeff Sweeney credits Skype with securing an eight-figure new business deal. 

Well, partially. 

The co-founder of East West Manufacturing Co. was landing in Atlanta, where his company is based, when he received a Skype call. The call turned out to be a multiparty conference with customers in New Zealand and Vancouver and associates in Atlanta, China and Vietnam. While still on the Delta plane, he was able to knock out a 30-minute spur-of-the-moment conference call and expedite the quote process, essentially sealing the deal and gaining a new customer in New Zealand. 

See Also: Lean Manufacturing Leadership Best Practices

"It really saved a bunch of time and facilitated getting that done," Sweeney says.

Jeff Sweency of East West Manufacturing CoWithout Skype, he would have had to delay the call until a conference bridge could be set up, and potentially lose the early-mover advantage his global contract manufacturing company gained by using the video conferencing app. 

While Skype is his app du jour, Sweeney has transformed his business on a broader scale using technology. Employees use only laptop computers, and the company gave workers iPads during its holiday party.

"It has allowed us to grow without having to add staff linearly with our growth," he says. 

For a 50% growth in sales, he has had to increase his 500-person company's staffing level only 20% to 25%, thanks to the efficiencies inherent in his largely digital operation.

Mobile apps offer the ability "to better communicate with our far-flung enterprise around the globe," Sweeney says. 

Even as the company gets larger, Sweeney isn't traveling more often than in the past. He still spends only about 25% of his time on the road visiting factories abroad. 

That's because East West Manufacturing has made Skype -- and other mobile tools -- part of its daily operations. 

Putting Your Sights on Service

While many executives use mobile apps to make their business lives easier, Duane Perkinson instead finds the greatest benefit to be in the ability to redefine the services he offers his customers. 

Perkinson, the owner of Vision Xperts, a Chicago-based manufacturer and supplier of prescription safety eyewear, now not only designs safety glasses for his customers when he visits plants but also comes armed with a slew of mobile apps to test and show the effects of eye disease.

Perkinson says the eye test is as important as the drug test in factories, where constantly moving parts can be hazardous to employees who don't see properly.

"The whole idea is you want them to be as productive as possible and as safe as possible," Perkinson says. 

For that reason, one go-to program he uses is a vision simulator app. With it, he can show an employer how an employee with eye disease is actually seeing. 

"Ten years ago, before you had smartphone or tablets, you had to show them pictures," Perkinson says. "I didn't think they could relate. Unless you have the disease, there's no way to grasp it."

Now, using the app, he can show employers how workers are seeing on the job, giving them a clear look at how impaired vision can impact job performance and safety. 

He also tells customers about Amsler Grid, a macular degeneration test. The app allows employers to give workers quick eye tests to spot-check for eye disease or degeneration. 

"Those apps basically are tools," he says. 

Check out some of the most popular apps used by executives at iw.com/mobile-execs.

And those tools, he suspects, will only help strengthen his business and that of his industry, as they help make customers more aware of the effects of eye disease.

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