In short:

  • While November’s jobs report was strong, manufacturing activity is contracting
  • Reworking lines to increase automation is prohibitively expensive and may not yield enough benefit to justify the cost
  • In contrast, mobile is a mature technology that can be implemented affordably and will deliver a material improvement

In survey after survey, adopting mobile technology is the top priority for manufacturers. Even cybersecurity and better data analytics fall behind mobility, though they’re close. Much further down the list are technologies that tend to get media attention, like IoT and robotics.

Why is that?

Fiscal reality. While the overall economy is doing well, manufacturing firms face challenges. While the backslide isn’t dramatic, and the sector is not technically in recession, the past few months have been especially tough due to tariffs and general trade uncertainty.

For most manufacturers, wholesale revamps of lines and processes are simply not in the cards. It’s too expensive in lean times. Rather, they need technologies that improve responsiveness and provide better and faster data collection, all at an incremental cost. Mobility fills that bill. Something as simple as replacing clipboards with industrial tablets is affordable, and the payoff can be surprisingly large.

For employees, mobile decreases the potential for errors and negates the need to make notes on paper and then re-enter the same information later at a keyboard. Adding in some RFID technology can make data gathering even easier and more automated.

For CFOs, the benefits of mobile technology are clear: Anything that delivers cleaner data at near-real-time speed without the need for an IoT-level investment is a win.

Mobile can enable sales. Order customization and bid development will both benefit from the technology, and mobile can slash the time it takes to evaluate work in progress and stock on hand to determine lead times for custom orders.

Even for manufacturers that are challenged to make significant new investments, mobile technology is worth a look. Testbeds in areas like inventory control and quality assurance are good places to start. Investment can be as minimal as a few ruggedized tablets and some integration via off-the-shelf tools. These projects have quick ROIs and can lead to improved yields and more-competitive bidding.

How Manufacturers Plan to Use New Mobile Technologies