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Is BYOD really the right way for you?

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While BYOD is a common practice on the factory floor, consumer focused mobile devices may not be the best option for the logistics industry.

According to Ralf Moller, general manager marketing for WiseTech Global, Apple changed the world in 2007 when it launched the iPhone.  

Over a three year period, the company ploughed US $150 million and 1000 of the brightest software and hardware developers into the creation of a mobile device that would be more than a mere communication tool; it would be a device that would change the way in which people interact with each other and the world around them.

In 2007, the project came to fruition, and the very first iPhone hit the market. 

At the time, there were mobile devices that connected to the internet and provided access to email – such as the Blackberry and several Nokia mobile phones.  

These devices had been created with business users in mind, and offered little in the way of extra services, fun applications or games.

When it launched the iPhone, Apple switched the focus of the mobile market away from the business user, and placed it firmly on the consumer.

With so much consumer technology readily available, the more rugged mobile devices designed for business operations in the field are beginning to look old and outdated.

As a result, more than a few companies have pushed towards purchasing smart phones for business purposes or initiating a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy on the factory floor.

According to a recent Gartner research study, CIOs working at manufacturing companies now rank the investment in mobile technologies as a
top priority.  

This focus will have repercussions on how manufacturers allocate their IT budgets, resulting in greater mobility-related purchases such as smart phones, tablets, mobile security products, wireless networks and, most likely, cloud-based storage services.

These types of changes are expected to dramatically impact how processes are executed on the shop floor.

To start, users will start requesting to execute production processes, input or view work instructions or evaluate manufacturing intelligence from their hand-held devices.  

Access to greater operational intelligence, faster, can also provide sufficient benefits to ensure continued mobility purchases. As manufacturing research, design and production have become such global activities, gaining access and availability to these knowledge workers in real-time, on a 24/7 basis, offers the potential for even further productivity gains from the implementation of mobility solutions.

Unfortunately what’s good for the consumer isn’t necessarily good for the transport operator for a number of reasons and here’s why. 
Firstly there is the issue of reliability – Consumer devices are not built to operate “on the road” – and need to be regularly replaced.
Consumer devices can also end up costing a business far more than you bargained for without delivering significant productivity outcomes, because upgrade cycles are shorter, operating expenses are higher, and they’re not designed to withstand the sort of wear and tear that occurs on the road.

The rapid replacement cycle associated with consumer devices is also at odds with the way software is bought and implemented in a business environment.

Unlike consumer applications, which can be knocked together in a matter of days or weeks, enterprise software is dense and complex, and takes months and often years, to develop.

This is why it’s important to know whether new mobile devices will support your existing software, or any software you are looking to purchase, before you make a purchase decision.

A lot of companies have invested in the development of field and mobility software to run on the Windows 6.5 operating system which is still in use in most ruggedised, business-focused devices.

Consumer devices, on the other hand, run on Google’s Android operating system, Apple’s iOS, or the latest version of Windows from Microsoft.

While all of these newer operating systems look and feel sleeker than Windows 6.5, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to run business applications, making them virtually useless in a business context. 

At the end of the day, no matter the aesthetics, a consumer-focussed mobile device is unlikely to provide the reliability and interoperability you’ll need for a fast paced logistics or supply chain business.

Rather than starting with the device and then trying to figure out what software you want to run, it’s a much better idea to start with the software and work backwards to select the right mobile device.

While the newest devices might be alrightfor the consumer, chances are they are all wrong for your business

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