Mobile Audits & Corrective Actions: Are Devices Safe on the Plant Floor?


By Scot Larsen
October 9, 2018

Mobile Audit

Mobile device usage in the workplace is skyrocketing, with research from Digital Strategy Consulting showing that 6 in 10 employees use apps for work activities. Of those using department-specific apps, more than half report increased productivity as a result.

Even manufacturing is seeing the effect, as mobile audit and corrective action apps become increasingly popular for helping quality management teams find and fix problems faster. But is it really safe to introduce mobile devices on the plant floor, given questions around data security and intellectual property?

Today we compare the risks and rewards of mobile audit and corrective action apps for manufacturers, and how you can protect your sensitive data.

Advantages of Mobile Audits & Corrective Actions

Mobile audit and corrective action apps offer several advantages over old-fashioned paper tracking methods, including:

  • Increased efficiency: Companies that switch to mobile audits have reported an 85% reduction in the administrative time required to schedule and compile results. Depending on the size of your facility, moving away from paper-based tracking could free up one or two full-time employees for other important work.
  • Audit integrity: Pencil-whipping or “check the box” approaches are prevalent in high-frequency audits like layered process audits (LPAs) required of automotive suppliers. Mobile audit tools let you rotate and randomize questions to keep people on their toes, also time-stamping audits so it’s clear when people are rushing through them.
  • Streamlined reporting: Instead of having to wait for someone to sift through audit findings, data from mobile audits is available immediately on a web-based dashboard. Instant insights mean you can identify process errors earlier to prevent defects, rather than just looking at them in the rear-view mirror.
  • Faster problem-solving: Mobile audit tools allow you to upload photos showing what ‘good’ looks like to eliminate confusion. In terms of corrective action, mobile photo uploads also let you capture problems on the plant floor in detail without having to try to explain them with just words.
  • Employee engagement: Millennials make up more than one-third of the workforce today, and addressing manufacturing’s talent shortage will require the industry to overcome its reputation as old-timey. To do that, companies need to get on board with the tools the next generation already use every day.
  • Data Integrity: Mobile Auditing solutions, especially those designed to run natively on iOS or Android, can capture audit data in real time, even if there is poor or limited connectivity ensuring data is captured and utilized quickly.

Mobile Device Risks on the Plant Floor

Of course, not everyone is excited about the growing prevalence of mobile devices in the manufacturing environment. IT departments are particularly concerned about the impacts on digital security, and are among the most likely to resist introduction of mobile technology on the plant floor.

What are some of the risks they’re worried about?

  • Bring your own device (BYOD): Nearly 9 in 10 companies let employees use their personal devices to access business apps, according to research by Syntonic. While BYOD programs aren’t going anywhere, many IT departments are understandably worried about data loss and cybersecurity risks.
  • Data security: Even with company-issued devices, having WiFi-enabled smartphones and tablets requires increased protections for network security, as each device represents a potential point of entry for hackers and malware.
  • Intellectual property (IP): Especially in manufacturing facilities, it’s critical to protect sensitive IP that people may be carrying around on their phones. In many cases, that includes information that you don’t want leaving your plant.

Mobile Device Security for the Plant Floor

Despite these risks, the trend towards using mobile devices in the workplace continues to grow. For many companies, the potential productivity benefits—and the operational efficiency that comes with it—is simply too great to miss out on.

Fortunately, manufacturers have multiple options for securing mobile devices in use on the plant floor, such as:

  • Sensitive data encryption to encrypt and store data on local servers before removing it from local devices
  • Geo-fencing that enables or disables applications based on the device’s geographic location
  • Application and device controls via settings such as data encryption, storage and user access privileges
  • MDM applications that automatically manage security on company devices through remote reset, locking devices or enforcing security policies

The risks of mobile devices in the workplace are unavoidable, but companies pursuing operational excellence must adapt to the risks instead of avoiding mobile altogether.

After all, the positive side of risk is opportunity. The benefits of mobile audits and corrective actions far outweigh the risks of carefully managed devices on the plant floor, allowing for improved efficiency, productivity and problem-solving.

Scot Larson
Scot Larsen