Manufacturing’s evolving workforce has introduced both challenges and opportunities to the manufacturing industry. With the increasing penetration of smartphones and tablets in the workplace, manufacturers are seeking ways to leverage their newly-connected workers to enhance the impact of the enterprise network and adapt to the needs of its employees and customers. The reasoning is simple. Deploying mobile collaboration technologies on the plant floor adds value by connecting factory product experts with R&D, sales and even maintenance teams that are off-site. Until recently, plant floor engineering resources were “off the grid,” detaching product knowledge and real-time production status from enhancing global operations, sales, and customer support.  Adding these previously untapped workers to the network brings exciting collaboration opportunities from reducing plant floor downtime to sharing best practices across the manufacturing enterprise.  This new level of connectedness can also go beyond internal uses to benefit customers and partners who rely on manufacturing efficiency and information sharing.

 Increasing the reach of connected workers promotes the effectiveness of enterprise resource planning (ERP) investments. At its core, ERP facilitates the flow of information between business functions – from the plant floor to sales to R&D and beyond – integrating internal and external management information across an entire organization. Newly connected individuals at the plant can now leverage ERP and plant lifecycle management (PLM) system data, both to quickly react to demand changes and to contribute real-time data during or immediately following shifts, making the network smarter and more current. 


Figure 1: Mobile collaboration benefits on the manufacturing plant floor

IP-enabled technology initiatives, including enhanced plant-floor mobility applications and collaborative engineering solutions, connect front-line engineers with experts located anywhere in the world through solutions such as:

  • Rich Media Collaboration: Enables easy conferencing for multiple team members to discuss details and share documents while eliminating latencies in serial communications.
  • Unified Mobility and Presence: Enables ad-hoc and faster communications, moving from email communications to efficient, real-time phone calls and instant messages
  • IPC solutions: Enables IPC and UC functionality, including one-touch meeting access and presence information.
  • Tablet computing: Enables VDI/VXI functionality from a tablet form factor, including video and conferencing capabilities.
  • Sales CRM Integration: Expedites communication out of existing tools without launching new applications to identify contact information or create collaboration session.


Figure 2: Mobile collaboration can incorporate manufacturing plant floor expertise in R&D

Effective mobile collaboration deployments usually require effective Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies and data security.  Each of these is addressable with technology and procedures designed to ensure a safe and successful deployment.  Change management plays a critical role to ensure that employees have an easy path to productivity using their mobile assets. 

How could mobile collaboration in your workplace help you improve your relationships with customers? What about with your colleagues?



Jason Pates

Manufacturing Lead, Customer Business Transformation

Cisco Consulting Services