Manufacturers' Reliance on Mobile Solutions Grows

June 29, 2009
New research finds more than seven in 10 surveyed IT decision-makers in the manufacturing industry reported that mobile and wireless technologies had allowed their companies to convert downtime into productive time by providing real-time access to corpora

New research commissioned by Motorola Inc. found more than seven in 10 surveyed information technology (IT) decision-makers in the manufacturing industry reported that mobile and wireless technologies had allowed their companies to convert downtime into productive time by providing real-time access to corporate resources. The study found manufacturers with mobility solutions saved a daily average of 42 minutes per employee.

The Motorola Enterprise Mobility Manufacturing Barometer surveyed 3,300 manufacturing IT decision makers in 14 countries across four continents. Some 80% said mobility was more important for their organizations today than in 2008. Just over half said mobile and wireless technologies offered their companies a competitive advantage. However, only 11% of manufacturers surveyed described themselves as innovators in implementing new IT and telecommunications technologies. Motorola said manufacturers adopt new technology when it is perceived "safe," lagging peer industries.

Top drivers for mobility investments are inventory/materials management and sales force applications, the study found. Application investment on the shop floor was driven by inventory management, materials management, and process-oriented applications such as work-in-progress (WIP) tracking,plant operations/human machine interface (HMI) and quality control/quality assurance. The study also identified the rising demand for sales force and field service applications, with nearly 29% of surveyed enterprises using field service applications citing an increase in business revenues/sales results and 25% reporting an increase in customer/partner satisfaction.

From a geographical perspective, all regions agreed that inventory management was a key mobile application for the manufacturing industry, while Asia Pacific highlighted the importance of customer-facing applications and the Americas and Europe touted sales force applications. In summary, manufacturers investing and leveraging wireless infrastructure and industry-specific devices see higher productivity for all workers, increased velocity of investment in raw materials and an increase in the accuracy and relevance of the real-time data they need to make better business decisions.

"With more than 60% of the surveyed manufacturing IT decision makers stating that their organization currently has a mobility strategy, it is clear that mobility is no longer viewed by manufacturing IT executives as the vision of the future but strategically important today," said Jim Hilton, senior director, Global Manufacturing Solutions for Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions.

Manufacturers surveyed plan to increase the use of voice-over-WLAN (VoWLAN), fixed mobile convergence (FMC) and various asset management/asset maintenance solutions over the next 12 to 24 months. The study found strong interest in rich media and video conferencing applications. Respondents also indicated plans to expand the use of wireless LAN and wireless sensing technologies within both process and discrete manufacturing environments.

In manufacturing, the most frequently cited challenges to using mobile and wireless technologies were security concerns, cost of hardware, cost of software, integration, service and support, and difficulties integrating mobile applications with existing infrastructure.

Surveyed manufacturing IT decision makers cited total cost of ownership (TCO), return on investment (ROI) and internal rate of return (IRR) as the main tools to justify their organization's mobility investments. In fact, more than 50 percent of surveyed companies tracking ROI indicated they expect a return within 15 months of their initial investment. Motorola's Hilton said 12 months appeared to be the "ease point" for positive investment decisions.

PPG Industries, the coatings and specialty products and services company, is using Motorola's private commercial radios for improved plant communications and security, and the firm's MC9000 rugged handheld mobile computers for mobile human-machine interface (HMI) and asset management, helping improve operational efficiencies and increase worker productivity.

"We have garnered significant savings from utilizing wireless technology for measurement and point-to-point applications between systems," said Rob Brooks, process control supervisor, PPG Industries. "And, although we are just in the infancy of enabling the mobile operator and technician in our facility, the potential benefits in efficiency, safety and environment are huge."

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Steve Minter | Steve Minter, Executive Editor

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An award-winning editor, Executive Editor Steve Minter covers leadership, global economic and trade issues and energy, tackling subject matter ranging from CEO profiles and leadership theories to economic trends and energy policy. As well, he supervises content development for editorial products including the magazine,, research and information products, and conferences.

Before joining the IW staff, Steve was publisher and editorial director of Penton Media’s EHS Today, where he was instrumental in the development of the Champions of Safety and America’s Safest Companies recognition programs.

Steve received his B.A. in English from Oberlin College. He is married and has two adult children.

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