Mobile Data Access Extends Supply Chain Management Into the Field

Dustin Caudell
Fri, Apr 7, 2017
Extending data access to workers in the field can prove invaluable as manufacturers become more dependent on service-oriented work models.
Extending data access to workers in the field can prove invaluable as manufacturers become more dependent on service-oriented work models.

Manufacturers and similar organizations are facing growing challenges as they are tasked to put a new focus on delivering services as opposed to simply creating products. Mobile data collection is becoming more important as this trend takes hold.

Field service workers who have access to the information they need - not to mention the ability to record key data - are empowered to focus more on the customer and less on managing logistics. Extending relevant supply chain management functions out to mobile users, ranging from inventory updating to invoicing, can be invaluable here. As these trends become entrenched, more businesses are becoming aware of the need to invest in new technologies to support field services functionality.

The Shifting Service Dynamic in Manufacturing
Selling products isn't necessarily enough to differentiate a business as more industries commoditize. Instead, the ability to offer better service and more responsiveness can mean the difference between one brand and another. To this end, organizations are finding that technology that empowers users to get the information they need when they need it allows for stronger customer interactions. A study from Salesforce found that executives across the manufacturing sector believe service is a critical part in their businesses, and entrenched, paper-based processes have been holding them back.

Of those executives participating in the Salesforce survey, 21 percent said they somewhat agree that their service departments play a strategic role in their businesses. Another 63 percent said they strongly agree. Furthermore, 66 percent of those polled said they consider their service teams to be revenue generators. Driving innovation across field services can be dependent on technological innovation, and the respondents to the Salesforce survey pointed to this need moving forward. Approximately 52 percent of respondents said they believe it is very important for service teams to integrate new technologies into operations. Another 24 percent said technology integration is essential.

The trend here is fairly straightforward: Manufacturers are putting a greater emphasis on services that support revenue creation. They realize technology is critical in making this possible. Extending mobile functionality out to the field is critical in this process. For example, giving drivers access to full customer data prior to pursuing work orders enables them to identify the types of assets they may be working with during the visit. From there, users can look into inventory levels and make sure all necessary parts are present before going to a client location, accelerating the entire transaction and improving the likelihood of meeting all of the customer's needs in a single interaction.

Creating Better Customer Experience With Technology
As customer experiences become more important across the manufacturing sector, many organizations are being forced to deal with data silos that have long held them back. A recent Customer Think report explained that consumers are interacting with brands in new and more varied ways than they have in the past. Because of this, organizations can no longer leave customer interactions siloed in the various departments they initiated in. As a result, data integration across organizational boundaries is becoming essential.

For example, if a client calls customer service with a problem and a representative sets up a work order, a field service employee shouldn't need to then call the customer and get details of the problem. Instead, that field worker should be able to look at the order, check inventory levels with an app and head to the customer location with all the necessary supplies. The need for multiple calls and touchpoints with different apps and users can slip into the background, allowing for greater convenience for employees and customers alike.

Connecting data across varied user groups is essential as organizations work to improve customer experiences. This creates an operational climate in which enterprise mobile solutions are increasingly vital in manufacturing. Even if your field service teams represent a small part of your business, giving them tools to function with greater efficiency can create stronger customer interactions and drive, driving revenue gains.

Bringing Data Across Organizational Boundaries
Automated data collection and mobile enterprise application platforms help companies maximize the value of raw data and turn it into organizational knowledge. Field workers that are running low on an asset can set a repurchase order to trigger when they next connect to the network. Similarly, ERP integration brings together the varied types of information used across the business and makes sure it all gets to the right people at the right times. This creates an environment in which supply chain management strategies can extend out to workers in the field to ensure they are always in the best position to meet customer needs.

Supply chain management processes tend to be complex and include a wide range of internal and external stakeholders. For a long time, segregated data systems left organizations to isolate different teams within the supply chain, giving them each distinct responsibilities and tools to get the job done. This deep separation of operations has left companies scrambling to create more transparency and cohesion in the supply chain, and the growing pressure to improve field services is a prime example of this need. Employees interacting with customers in the field increasingly depend on access to supply chain systems in order to maximize those interactions. Giving those users access to data and applications on their mobile devices is instrumental in delivering this functionality and driving value creation.

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