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Avoiding common pitfalls of mobile ERP platforms

Deploying a mobile ERP system can be complicated, especially when errors pop up. In these expert tips, learn how to handle -- and avoid -- common mobile ERP mistakes.

When corporations deploy a manufacturing plant and furnish it with software to run their operations, there are many aspects to consider and, more importantly, mistakes to avoid. Mobile software has added a level of complexity to software, especially with multiple global manufacturing operations. The following tips highlight areas that organizations should further investigate and some common mistakes to keep in mind when deploying a mobile ERP platform on a global manufacturing scale.

Standardize the mobile ERP platform

Organizations often do not standardize their mobile applications and their hardware. Having multiple operating systems running can cause integration, storage and data issues for mobile platforms. There are several factors that will impact the success of a mobile ERP implementation. Organizations should standardize software across all locations and ensure that computing environments, applications, mirroring and storage are identical at all locations. This will lower risk and make support easier for administration.

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Standardization is especially important for organizations that have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. Multiple devices increase organizational risk as well as administration costs and IT budgets due to the multiple layers of application and organizational security that must be deployed to ensure that data is not compromised. Storage; data archiving and retrieval; and software compatibility to share, exchange and edit data between devices should be investigated from a security standpoint.

Simplify mobile applications across sites

Companies often overlook the simplicity of having the same version of software running at each site. Running different versions of the same software can cause many problems, especially if the organization manufactures products with exacting standards. In verticals such as aerospace and defense; automotive; medical equipment; and recipe-based manufacturing such as paints, inaccuracy can cause quality issues as well as safety, waste and delivery concerns. If software is not standardized at each site, the possibility of creating silos greatly increases. Manufacturers that already have ERP systems in place will have to layer mobile on top of those or integrate these systems.

When data is exchanged from site to site, different software versions may cause errors in transmission, specification requirements and tolerance failures, or even faulty data due to a bug-laden version of the application software. An example of this is the supply chain project management software used in the new Airbus project. Tolerances were not up to specifications, and communication broke down across multiple suppliers, delaying delivery. Different versions of software existed on many sites, causing inconsistencies throughout plants and the entire supply chain.

Network connectivity essential to mobile ERP

Network connectivity should be properly investigated, because this could derail the entire mobile ERP deployment. Connection speed, quality of service, throughput and reliability are areas to focus on. In different parts of the world, connectivity varies greatly from North American standards; international mobile networks may be less reliable or even more advanced.  It is of no consequence to have a mobile strategy if the mobile hardware cannot connect back the ERP or manufacturing system.

Connectivity issues may exist within a plant, from the shop floor to the office, or in the field, impacting service to customers. If service personnel cannot connect to the main backbone system, they are often devoid of information or misinformed, rendering them unable to update and edit service calls or monitor system data. It is ideal to use just one application for capturing and managing the mobile aspect of manufacturing, since supporting different devices on fluctuating network capabilities may prove problematic, especially for data transmission.

Organizations should closely investigate all of the above often overlooked areas to avoid mistakes in their mobile ERP deployment strategy. Matching these concerns with the proper IT systems, change management, training and alignment of resources will help ensure successful mobile ERP operations.

About the authors: Dylan Persaud is managing director at Eval-Source. His 20 years of IT experience is highlighted with 14 years at the enterprise level. Past positions include business systems analyst, implementation lead, project/product manager, enterprise architect, configuration specialist, market analyst and a manager of research, which has allowed him to examine organizations from the ground up and gave him a high-level overview of the enterprise software market. Working for companies such as IBM, IDC, Indigo and TEC, he has focused on how businesses can run more efficiently.

Keean Persaud, managing director at Eval-Source, has more than 15 years of enterprise software experience. His experience in the software industry comes from companies such as IBM and National Instruments, and has guided him toward specialized application sales of TMS and business software tools. Persaud created vendor programs, managed and created channels, created company-wide sales strategies, sold software, and is co-creator of the Tru-Eval system.  

Follow on Twitter @ManufacturingTT.

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