Industry Field Mobility: Evidence From Sage Software Surveys

Field Mobility Benefits

Just recently, one of our Service Pro® integration partners, Sage Software, released the results of multiple surveys they conducted that explored the condition of mobility in small and medium sized, North American businesses. These surveys unveiled some interesting facts and figures that support findings we’ve uncovered as a provider of mobile field service and inspection software for industries such as manufacturing, distribution, construction and more.

Enterprise mobility can be a complicated subject in businesses where new technology represents a dynamic functional change in the organization; i.e. in industries like the ones we service. Businesses that adopt a software solution can understand it’s positive operational effect by using a “before and after” comparison. And it seems the effects of mobile implementation are positive considering 85% of general SMB’s surveyed by Sage reported mobile technology having a positive effect on their business.

Workforce Mobility
(Source: Sage)

In our experience, such a positive response to the implementation of field mobility technology is not surprising. More helpful, however, is comprehending how and why mobile technology is so positively impacting these businesses. In what fields are these small and medium sized businesses? What tasks and processes has mobility helped them improve? What devices are they using? What is corporate policy in regards to devices?

To get a real understanding of enterprise mobility adoption, one must analyze how mobile technology disperses throughout specific industries. To do this, we’ll be analyzing the results of other Sage surveys that specifically address mobile technology in the construction and manufacturing fields. In addition, we’ll add some insights that we’ve uncovered as to how these specific fields are adopting field mobility.

Mobility in the Manufacturing Field

In the manufacturing industry, we can see how enterprise mobility is addressed a little differently than other fields. Key processes take place throughout company facilities and mobile solutions are required in order to help supervisors, equipment techs, quality inspectors and operators perform their jobs more efficiently and in a more connected manner. With such a wide variety of mobile workers, each attending different needs, we can see why technology usage is more evenly distributed across devices.

Mobile Device Usage

(Source: Sage)

However, even with many devices being used in the current manufacturing process, organizations are still citing an increase in the usage of mobile devices over the past year. 63% reported an increase in tablets and 78.3% cited an increase in smartphone usage. And when asked about organizational productivity as related to mobile technology, there is an overwhelming sentiment that mobility has had positive effects on efficiency.

Workforce Mobility Effects

(Source: Sage)

So now the question becomes, how are manufacturers using mobile devices to improve these processes?

It all starts with organizational empowerment through service management software. By having a system that integrates back-end functions and also provides workforce mobility through native applications, manufacturing organizations can simplify their processes from start to finish.

Information access makes up a significant part of field mobility. No matter their position, manufacturing workers with remote access to important business information are simply more efficient. Take, for example, the equipment technician who can pull up past maintenance logs and video repair guides on his mobile device when servicing a molding machine.

At the other end of the mobility spectrum is remote data entry and syncing. Enabling workers to upload formatted information to the office database without making a cross-facility trip can make huge improvements in operational efficiency. An example here would be a quality inspector performing pre-designed inspections on his mobile device, and then uploading the results to the company’s database by syncing that device. Additionally, new technologies like the RFID chip can greatly improve the manufacturing inventory process when coupled mobile management features.

Back at the main office, administrators can have access to a wide range of features through integrated desktop software. They can manage schedules and inventories, track orders and invoices and setup automated alerts to speed up the distribution process.

Mobility in the Construction Field

For construction companies, enterprise mobility represents an ideal business state. With inspectors, contractors and technicians constantly working in the field, being able to stay organized and maintain productive processes is the key to operational success. That’s why more construction companies are choosing devices that are better fit for mobility rather than clunky devices that prove bothersome to transport. Sage’s survey of construction companies (graph featured below) echoes this sentiment.

For construction companies, enterprise mobility represents an ideal business state. With inspectors, contractors and technicians constantly working in the field, being able to stay organized and maintain productive processes is the key to operational success. That’s why more construction companies are choosing devices that are better fit for mobility rather than clunky devices that prove bothersome to transport. Sage’s survey of construction companies (graph featured below) echoes this sentiment.

Question: How many of your employees are using the following to access work-related information when they are not in the office?

Mobile Device Usage 2

(Source: Sage)

Additionally, as the amount of involved employees continues to rise, construction companies are using far more smartphones to accommodate remote access than any other device. This growing preference is in plain sight. In fact, when asked how much they believe use of the different devices has changed over the past year, construction survey respondents reported the following:

Increasing Workforce Mobility

(Source: Sage)

With over 75% of respondents stating the use of smartphones and tablets (the 2 truly mobile devices in the survey) has increased, it’s clear that the construction field has a trending preference for mobility and that as innovation continues, more and more companies will adopt a culture centered on the highly mobile workforce.

Yet, while these construction organizations have shown a trend towards mobility, are they really getting the most possible use out of their smartphones and other mobile devices? The survey reports that over 40% of construction companies said using a mobile device was not useful at all for:
[list_well][well_item]Viewing a calendar[/well_item][well_item]Keeping up with the status of projects and organizing project details[/well_item][well_item]Creating invoices[/well_item][well_item]Keeping a task list[/well_item][well_item]Accessing customer information[/well_item][/list_well]

With integrated service management software, construction companies would be able to accomplish each of these goals and more quite easily on a mobile device. This leads us to believe that, despite technological trends in favor of mobility, the construction field should seek software solutions that ensure they’re reaping all the benefits of a mobile-connected workforce.

For example, here are some the tasks construction organizations can accomplish by using service management software:
[list_well][well_item]Seamless inventory & time management – Contractors can log the time they spent on a job site as well as the parts they used (either from their vehicle or from a facility) all from their mobile device in real time. This makes invoicing and managing parts much easier for administrators.[/well_item][well_item]Simplified job site safety compliance – Safety inspections can be constructed with drag and drop features. Then, safety inspectors can perform these inspections on their mobile device, recording not just text, but pictures and video as well. After the inspection is complete, they can sync up their device to send the results to the office database.[/well_item][well_item]Complete visual scheduling – Managers at construction agencies can use a heads up dashboard to monitor all of his/her employees in the field. Employees can be sorted by skillset (carpenter, contractor, safety inspector) and other fields and drag and drop features make fast-paced scheduling a breeze.[/well_item][/list_well]

BYOD

One of the hottest mobility topics in 2013 has been the issue of whether employees should be able to perform work-related responsibilities on their own mobile device or whether businesses should provide employees with devices. Issues such as unanimous operating systems, information security and policy preparedness are all key argument points in the BYOD discussion. So, as the discussion continues, we wished to examine how the construction and manufacturing industry are currently addressing BYOD throughout organizations.

In construction, the majority of businesses seem to favor providing their employees with mobile devices rather than relying on a BYOD policy. Only 30% of companies allow their employees to use their own device and in some of those scenarios, the companies pay for the service on employee-owned devices.

Sage Graph 6 (Resized)

(Source: Sage)

When asked about BYOD policy in construction companies, responses were consistent with the data above. 33% of respondents said they already have a company policy that allows employees to bring and use their own mobile devices. In addition, 8% of companies surveyed are currently considering a policy like this.

But here’s an interesting data point in the BYOD policy question:

BYOD Graph

(Source: Sage)

These responses go to show that, although most construction organizations currently provide their employees with mobile devices rather than instituting BYOD; the majority of companies have simply not yet considered a BYOD policy. There are few organizations (10%) that have actually considered a BYOD policy and then shot it down. Meaning that in the future, we may see may more BYOD policies instituted, even to the point where they overtake preference for company-issued devices.

In manufacturing, things are not so much different. Some of the noticeable variations from the construction industry include more employees bringing their own devices (28% vs. 23%) and more manufacturing companies paying for the service on employee owned devices (18% vs. 7%).

Data on BYOD policies in manufacturing organizations is, again, consistent with the increase we just noted. 46% of companies say they have a BYOD policy in place, with 8% currently considering such a policy.

When compared with construction, fewer manufacturing organizations cited that they have not yet considered a BYOD policy (30% vs. 46%), but this may be attributed to the higher number of companies that have already passed a BYOD policy. The number of companies that have denied a BYOD policy are relatively similar (13% vs. 10%).

These numbers suggest that both industries, although having minor differences, are trending in the same direction. It would seem that, as mobile devices continue to enter the workforce and more BYOD issues are addressed, the majority of companies will at least consider a BYOD policy. And judging by the small amount of companies that have shot down these policies, it seems more often than not that consideration leads to adoption.

Over to You

Workforce mobility is a growing theme across almost all industries. As we’ve detailed above, manufacturing and construction are fields where workforce mobility is not only being vastly adopted, but also leading to overwhelmingly positive business results.

Has your business implemented or planned on implementing mobile workforce solutions? What have the results been? Any troubles throughout the implementation? Leave your comments below!

Construction & Manufacturing Workforce Software

Service Pro is a fully integrated, service and workforce management system designed to dramatically boost operational efficiency in manufacturing, construction, field service, cable companies and more. Service Pro’s features, which include everything from workforce portals to inventory and asset management as well as mobile applications solutions, help companies optimize their routine processes as well as help consistently grow their business.