I am in the throes of research for an upcoming IDC Manufacturing Insights report on mobility in manufacturing, and wanted to share some of the interesting points that are bubbling to the top of numerous conversations with end users and vendors. There is no doubt that mobility continues to be a burgeoning force across manufacturing, with compelling use cases throughout the various value chains.
This ties into what IDC Manufacturing Insights has seen as part of a larger shift in manufacturing toward the next wave of productivity, supported by the four pillars - big data, cloud, mobile and social. Mobile is supporting the "house of productivity" with applications to a variety of manufacturing processes and systems, providing some innovative manufacturers with the opportunity to raise the bar on their competition.
While mobile is not new to manufacturing, we are seeing some remarkable new ways in which manufacturers are harnessing the potential of mobile, and using it to drive both bottom line savings and top-line revenue. Let me touch briefly on one very innovative approach to mobile, and then continue with some of the more common ways in which mobile is being leveraged today.
The first example involves Mondelez International, a company that was formed following the spin-off of the global snacking and food brands of Kraft Foods Inc., and includes such brands as Cadbury chocolate, Nabisco and Oreo biscuits, and Trident gums. The manufacturer, with approximately $36 billion in annual revenue and operations in more than 80 countries, recently launched its "Mobile Futures" program, in which it ultimately paired 9 mobile technology start-ups with some of its top brands (including OREO, Chips Ahoy!, Sour Patch Kids, and Trident) for a 90-day race to create new mobile pilots. The results will be new mobile technologies that enable the brands to directly engage consumers. This bold approach highlights a critical opportunity for consumer products manufacturers to use mobility to reach their customers, driving brand loyalty and revenue growth. The incubator-theme adds to the potential for some new, disruptive uses of mobility for consumer goods.
Looking across other manufacturing value chains, the potential for mobility is equally promising, if not quite as disruptive. The theme we continue to see play out is one of our IDC Insights' Worldwide Industry 2013 Top 10 Predictions, namely that people will be at the center of the manufacturing factory of the future. The "laborer" of today will become the "knowledge worker" of tomorrow, armed with a mobile-enabled device that will support decision-making at the necessary points in the process flows. This "unplugging" from the desktop is giving rise to the "untethered" worker who can move more freely throughout the plant floor and beyond, using a mobile device to connect into the work flow at various interaction points. Using mobile dashboards that link real-time data to KPIs and provide plant and line managers with new levels of visibility, allowing them to take the "next best action," is one example of how innovative manufacturers are applying mobility to the business.
The opportunities are exciting, but implementation can be daunting for manufacturers. Not only do there have to be considerations around what applications are best to start with, but even more importantly, how these starting apps should be part of an enterprise mobility strategy. Manufacturers today are commonly selecting apps that support field salespeople and service technicians as an entry point to mobility. They may be pre-built, or developed in-house. In a recent IDC survey, the number of manufacturers who are making the commitment to mobile application development was noteworthy. As the figure below illustrates, nearly 40% of manufacturers developed half or more of their new applications for mobile platforms in 2012.
When these initial mobility pilots prove successful, manufacturers need to make some important decisions around future adoption of mobility. Considerations around platform and device support, mobile security, governance, and compliance all must come into play. The potential for catastrophic security breaches caused by well-intended but poorly-implemented mobile apps cannot be overstated. Therefore, companies need to seriously consider their overarching mobility strategy and select enterprise-strength technologies to support their efforts.
The upcoming Methods and Practices report on Mobility in Manufacturing, which will publish in IDC Manufacturing Insights' IT Priorities and Strategies research advisory service, provides additional context around the use and adoption of mobile applications and technologies for manufacturing, with use cases and vendor offerings. It will include an explanation of IDC's Mobility Maturity Model, and help manufacturers gauge not only where they sit along the continuum, but also how to position themselves to take further advantage of mobility through specific use cases. Where are you in the mobility adoption process? Please feel free to share your progress here, and offer some further use cases for mobility that you've seen.