A new study says that more than 70% of IT decision-makers in manufacturing  are looking to leverage mobile and wireless solutions to streamline their operations, saving them a daily average of 42 minutes per employee.

The Motorola Enterprise Mobility Manufacturing Barometer surveyed manufacturing IT decision-makers in 14 countries across four continents, of whom 80% cited that mobility was more important for their organisations today than in 2008. This represents a 9% increase from previous research, indicating that enterprise mobility applications continue to grow in importance as manufacturers look to boost operational efficiencies and increase productivity in the current macro-economic climate.
Over one-quarter of those surveyed identified inventory/materials management and sales force applications as their organisation’s top drivers for continued mobility investments. Key application investment on the shop floor was driven by inventory management, materials management, and process-oriented applications such as work-in-progress (WIP) tracking, human machine interface (HMI)/operator interface applications and quality control/quality assurance.
The study also identified the rising demand for sales force and field service applications, with nearly 29% of surveyed enterprises using field service applications citing an increase in business revenues/sales results and 25%reporting an increase in customer/partner satisfaction.  From a geographical perspective, all regions agreed that inventory management was a key mobile application for the manufacturing industry, while Asia Pacific highlighted the importance of customer-facing applications and the Americas and Europe touted sales force applications. In summary, manufacturers investing and leveraging wireless infrastructure and industry-specific devices see higher productivity for all workers, increased velocity of investment in raw materials and an increase in the accuracy and relevance of the real-time data they need to make better business decisions.
“With more than 60% of the surveyed manufacturing IT decision-makers stating that their organisation currently has a mobility strategy, it is clear that mobility is no longer viewed by manufacturing IT executives as the vision of the future, but strategically important today,” says Jim Hilton, senior director, Global Manufacturing Solutions for Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions. “In fact, more than one-half of those surveyed cited a competitive advantage through the use of mobile and wireless technologies to empower their shop-floor and field-mobility workforce to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace.”
Respondents to the Motorola Enterprise Mobility Manufacturing Barometer also provided insights into future mobility trends. Manufacturers plan to increase the use of voice-over-WLAN (VoWLAN), fixed mobile convergence (FMC) and various asset management/asset maintenance solutions over the next 12 to 24 months.
The study also found strong interest in rich media and video conferencing applications that allow manufacturers to realise additional efficiencies and increase workforce productivity.  Respondents also indicated plans to expand the use of wireless LAN and wireless sensing technologies within both process and discrete manufacturing environments, allowing manufacturers to achieve process automation, efficiency, and agility without additional wired networking infrastructure investments. Sales force applications lead the plans for new installations and upgrades in the Americas, while inventory management has the highest planned growth rate in Europe and streaming media and customer-facing applications are viewed equally important for the next wave of mobility in the manufacturing sector in Asia-Pacific.
Surveyed manufacturing IT decision-makers cited total cost of ownership (TCO), return on investment (ROI) and internal rate of return (IRR) as the main tools to justify their organisation’s mobility investments. In fact, more than 50% of surveyed enterprises utilising an ROI analysis indicated they expect a return within 15 months of their initial investment.