Experts agree that the fourth industrial revolution is upon us. The first was powered by the steam engine. The second by Henry Ford’s moving production line. The third by the digitization of manufacturing. But the fourth industrial revolution is different.
Why? Because it is disruptive, fast, and covers just about every industry imaginable. It is focused on innovation powered by platforms that bring people, processes, and technologies together. Most importantly, these platforms are all available via mobile devices like smartphones and handheld enterprise computers.
The result is a new era of production. But not all organizations will be prepared to take advantage.
A corresponding revolution is helping to distinguish the winners from the losers. This Workforce Mobility Revolution is already well underway. It not only offers new ways of working by introducing an entirely new level of visibility into operations. It also presents unique opportunities for greater productivity, efficiency, and accuracy. Organizations that understand these opportunities and act on them quickly will reap the full benefits in the industrial age ahead.
Winners Take All
In the digital (or third industrial) revolution, companies lost out by not taking the initiative. According to Pierre Nanterme, CEO of Accenture, “Digital is the main reason just over half of the companies on the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000.”
Success in the fourth industrial revolution will require companies to adapt and adapt quickly. A mobile workforce offers the perfect starting point for progressive companies looking to stay ahead of existing competitors and keep up with new industry disruptors.
For those that do embrace the mobile workforce as a way to succeed, the dividends will be high. The World Economic Forum forecasts:
- Transportation and communication costs dropping
- Logistics and global supply chains becoming more effective
- The cost of trade diminishing
These seismic changes will open new markets and drive economic growth. Organizations that are agile and innovative will have the technological means to provide improved value across the board (in speed, quality, and pricing).
What does the workforce mobility revolution actually look like?
It’s the leap in warehouse productivity from halving the time it takes to pick an order. It’s the improved healthcare outcomes from nurses working side-by-side with patients to help them visualize their treatment and prognosis. It’s the boost in customer confidence from delivery drivers getting to every stop on time. And it’s the peace of mind of a store manager who knows that every shelf is fully stocked – and correctly priced.
As one of the forerunners in the Workforce Mobility Revolution, you can expect to gain in:
- Productivity – from the use of advanced operating systems, devices, and purpose-built software applications that speed up workflows.
- Efficiency – via processes that eliminate waste or complexity.
- Accuracy – with advanced data collection capabilities that reduce the soft and hard costs associated with errors.
Setting the Opportunity in Motion
To harness the full potential of workforce mobility, you will need advanced mobile operating systems, devices, and software solutions. Modernization offers a chance to push the boundaries of your organization. You can redefine how things are done and implement faster, smarter processes that propel your organization forward.
This will set in motion your ability to gain complete visibility of your operations. With enterprise mobile devices providing more data–including those from barcodes, RFID, GPS, and sensors–you will know more and be able to act on more in real-time.
In turn, you can also leverage the benefits of technology mega-trends like the Cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT). This rapid increase in visibility will be felt across your organization, allowing you to make smarter decisions and improve value to your customers faster than your competitors.
These opportunities are clearly there for the taking for companies willing to move quickly.
Realizing the Benefits
To take advantage of the huge opportunities that the Workforce Mobility Revolution is ushering in, you need the right workforce mobility strategy – and the right technology to support it.
Organizations using the most effective mobile tools enable their workers to be more productive by getting more done, quicker. They can be more efficient by eliminating time-consuming processes. They can also ensure more accuracy by putting precise, up-to-date information straight into the hands of the people who need it.
Achieving more productivity
For large enterprises, tiny improvements in individual productivity can add up to a significant overall business impact. Using the latest mobile devices on a modern OS increases productivity and reduces costs in two key ways:
- An intuitive device experience means users will need minimal (or even zero) training. No more user manuals to read. No more days getting temporary or seasonal workers up to speed. When applications require little or no learning curve, new staff can be productive from day one. The closer the experience is to the experience on their personal devices, the more effective they can be as well. Our own research shows that 15-20% productivity increases are possible, just by replacing hard keys with all-touch interfaces.
- Modern systems provide much quicker response times, which means tasks can be completed faster. On legacy devices, screen transitions or database syncs can take several seconds. But with near instant responses from modern tools, all those short delays are eliminated. In a large organization, that can add up to hundreds or even thousands of man hours gained each year.
Industry Focus: Warehousing
Simple changes can make a big difference to productivity – like a modern user interface for enterprise mobile devices. Zebra equipped workers in its own warehouse with all-touch devices and measured the performance difference.
Not only did staff enter data significantly faster, the data was also more accurate, resulting in a huge gain in productivity. By removing hard keys, menus, and nesting, typing speed increased 39% while error rates dropped by 60%, leading to a 15-20% overall increase in productivity.
Achieving more efficiency
When upgrading your OS and devices, it’s essential to take advantage of the opportunity to revise workflows. If you can make processes more efficient you’ll see a much larger return on your workforce mobility investment.
By incorporating a review of processes alongside the introduction of new mobile technology, you can aim to complete tasks faster and with fewer resources. For example, moving from green screen data entry to a modern user interface doesn’t need to be a simple like-for-like replacement. It’s a chance to pick apart the processes involved and eliminate any unnecessary steps using more advanced functionality.
Achieving more accuracy
Choosing new technologies also provides a unique opportunity to cut out costly mistakes. For example, the seemingly inescapable error rates in data entry or warehouse picking. Just one incorrect character entered on a keyboard can lead to a costly shipping error. But scanning a barcode reduces the risk of error to virtually zero. And that increased accuracy transfers straight to your bottom line.
With intuitive technologies, you can also make employee roles easier, meaning they will find it much more straightforward to complete the task at hand.
Industry Focus: Healthcare
Upgrading to the latest generation of mobile devices and operating systems isn’t a case of just replacing old with new. It also offers healthcare providers an opportunity to mobilize access to more information than ever before. When previously paper-based processes are mobilized, it’s possible to achieve significant efficiency gains. Clinical staff gets access to the information they need at the point of care. Having that access wherever they need it can reduce the time spent on administrative tasks and increase the time spent with patients.
Industry Focus: Manufacturing
Manufacturers of medical supplies rely on high-velocity picks to fulfill orders quickly. But when warehouse staff are reading from printed or on-screen pick lists, mistakes happen. With modern mobile technology, instead of reading from a list, a voice-directed system can be used to tell employees where to go and what to pick. Following verbal instructions makes the high velocity pick process much faster and far more accurate. This also means productivity goes up while risk and costs go down.
There is no denying the importance of the fourth industrial revolution to our lives. From this point forward, everything we do will become much more closely connected and faster than ever before.
The effect on industry will be transformational– for the winners and losers alike. Previously robust business models could quickly flounder in the face of disruptive ideas that are harnessing the full power of innovative mobile platforms.
So success lies in embracing the corresponding Workforce Mobility Revolution. This is the starting point for taking advantage of the opportunities that are available – greater productivity, greater efficiency, and greater accuracy.
Enterprise mobile technologies are already in place to make a big difference in the way you do business. And now is the time to take advantage because the revolution has already begun.