In the history of business, 1980s would, probably, be associated with the PC revolution and, of course, the roots of ever green idea of “Lean”. This concept of Lean has constantly flourished from staying within the manufacturing shop floors to every corner of the Enterprise. From what used to be addressed as Lean manufacturing has now expanded to Lean Operations, Lean Enterprise, Lean IT, Lean Resources, Lean (slim) People & the Leaner (slimmer) devices we use.
The reason why lean had such a wide adoption was because it allowed companies to constantly optimize their costs by getting rid of the ‘unnecessary’ and thus, improve profitability. In this pursuit, every single activity, within their operations, would have been subjected to the Toyota 3Ms namely the Muda, Mura, Muri. However, the story doesn’t end here with a single attempt of simplifying processes by practising Lean. It is a continuous on-going exercise to relook at the Lean practise, itself, and modernize them with time and the technology, prevailing in that era. And yes, you have guessed it correctly!
It is about the relevance of Enterprise Mobility within the continuous journey of a Lean Enterprise. One of the building blocks for leaner operations is accurate information, available at the right time, to the right set of people, by enhancing the decision making capabilities and ensuring a flawless execution of the business objectives.
Let us envisage a few already-Lean business practices that can be made more agile by leveraging mobile:
Laptops and Personal Computers, effectively, eliminated the time delays associated with physical movement of paper-based documents for approvals, through signatures. Such Lean practices of electronic approvals can further be simplified, if the workflows are extended on to the decision maker’s mobile phone. For example: For a Procurement manager, it would be an advantage, if the PO approval can be completed without time delays, while addressing all the relevant approvers. Finance managers would always hope to eliminate the cost overruns due and the delayed Invoice settlements. Mobile enabled Invoice approval can overcome such situations.
Likewise, a Sales Manager, operating from the client’s office, trying to track the necessary discount approvals, in order to load the deal into the booking system, needs to think of these situations during those critical moments before the quarter end. It would be of great support, if they can accelerate the approval process and if the approval waiting time could be reduced drastically. Choosing the Mobile path for executing the Sales approvals would be the most impactful way of handling such scenarios.
For any businesses, that have their Sales and Service personals at the field, most of the time, it is a common situation where they accumulate and enter all the bills into the system at once, typically during the quarter or year end. It would be difficult for approvers to go through each and every expense report, track the expenses and act upon the expenses that are out of policy. Eventually, some of them would be carried forward to the coming year which will lead to delaying the closing of the ticketed items for the company. Accessing the laptops, while in the field and to log into the VPN, to access the expense system in the ERP, and to transfer the bills and paper work into the system, is not easy. Therefore, a Mobile Expense Approval application would be better to address this situation in an effective manner.
Warehouse & Supply Chain Operations
Intensive processes, such as Material receiving, Inventory transfers, stock entries etc., are the primary requirement in warehouse and supply chain operations. This usually involves employees, spending a lot of time, capturing information manually, i.e. with a pen and paper. The captured information is then keyed into their workstations that are generally situated far away (shop floors to their desks). Such manual practices bring in unnecessary time delays in data collection and leads to associated data entry errors. Mobilizing such processes will, not only, help in automation, but also bring in drastic improvements in productivity and minimize the errors to almost negligible.
Here is a scenario: Receiving incoming materials into the warehouse, through a mobile device, where the user can access the approved Purchase Order (PO) for that ordered item. He/she needs to pull-up the supplier details from the system, attach the necessary inspection receipts, use the scanner to capture the bar code, identified with the package, indicate the quantity received, attach the scanned packing slip for further authentication, transfer the received items into the necessary sub-inventory or send it to the location to the respective operating unit which ordered the item.
Let’s imagine performing these transactions manually and then the time involved in completing the entire cycle of operations. Extending the receiving process on Mobile not only increases the system throughput, but also reduces the material movement cycle time to a large extent.
Record to Report (RTR)
The shelf-life of data is shrinking day-by- day and decisions, solely, being made on historical data have become a rare practice. Therefore, real-time data is very much the need of the hour in today’s Enterprise. Enabling mobility would help, both, – during the data collection and at the time of data consumption. The time lag between-when the data is collected and when it is processed, can be shrunk to a large extent by using Mobile devices for data handling.
Mobile Analytics and Reporting would, potentially, place the relevant data into the hands of the managers, who need access to it easily, and during the critical moment when they need to take fast decisions. Therefore, this will help managers to respond instantly to the key trends, within their divisions, and take better strategic decisions.
If we think through each of the processes and systems, within the Enterprise, there could be a whole lot of them that has the potential to be mobilized. Such initiatives help in minimizing the process cycle times attached with the Procure to Pay (P2P), Order to Fulfil, Quote to Cash (Q2C) or Record to Report (R2R) operations, within an Enterprise.
To summarize, if we could witness elephants put to dance in the 90s by Louis Gerstner, a similar situation can happen with dinosaurs in the era of Enterprise Mobility!
Channel Sales Manager, RapidValue Solutions