Drive efficiency in manufacturing with mobile technology for deskless workers.

Innovative manufacturers are empowering workers with mobile technology, one of the ways to boost productivity in your deskless workforce. To better understand the roadmap to success, Jamf insiders share what manufacturers need to think about when they introduce mobile devices to their employees.

November 27 2023 by

Ric Lucero

Tim Knox

Front-line worker on factory floor uses iPad managed by Jamf.

Mobile devices enable users to be productive in more places than ever, across a wide spectrum of use cases. Employees who do not sit behind a desk can use this technology to fundamentally transform business operations. But to get the most out of mobile device deployments for the deskless workforce, it's important to understand what goes into deploying mobile devices. While this is true across industries, each industry has its specific needs.

For a view into how mobile devices can successfully play a role in the manufacturing industry, Jamf insiders Tim Knox, Consulting Engineer, Industry Solutions and Ric Lucero, Global Lead, Industry Solutions, discussed the high-level needs manufacturers should think about when introducing mobile devices.

Mobile technology: transforming the manufacturing industry

Ric Lucero: Over the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of great use cases with iPhone and iPad in many industries, not just the manufacturing space. At the highest level, when we talk about device deployments, we are looking at different deployment types: for a purpose or for a person. Can you share more details about what we mean by this?

Tim Knox: When we look at how organizations deploy devices, the first thing we want to think about is how they will be used.

When devices are deployed for an individual, it’s often their primary machine, like their Mac, as a companion to their iPhone or iPad.

Conversely, when devices are deployed for a purpose, it’s deployed for a specific intent. Think of an iPad used for onboarding, certification training or as a point-of-sale. Often, these devices need to be used by many employees, like on a manufacturing floor, whereas in an office setting, it is more of a one-device-to-one-user deployment.

Devices can be configured for radically different purposes, and understanding end-user interaction is the key. When it comes to deploying mobile devices to a manufacturing floor, there are important nuances that should be considered, depending on the device’s purpose.

Technology adoption

RL: Another area I want to go through is technology adoption. It’s not just making sure the device is configured properly, provisioned with the correct apps, etc., but making it easier for the manufacturing floor workers to want to use the devices.

You get to work closely with lots of forward-thinking organizations; do you see any commonality or best practices that help them foster tech adoption for their frontline?

TK: People love iPads. They know them, they probably use them at home and they are incredibly intuitive. No one uses a device specifically engineered to scan bar codes for fun at home, but they do use iPads and iPhones. They feel comfortable to use because people are comfortable using them.

You mentioned app provisioning, so let’s go one step further and look at how applications are used.

If employees do not have a digital persona (credentials to an identity provider like Okta or EntraID) they must still — and I don’t want to say sign-in, because that is not exactly correct — get to the apps they need.

How do we do that? After all, devices that are shared across many users must allow those users to easily access the resources they need and to set it up for the next user.

This is why something like Jamf Setup in Jamf Pro can be so powerful. With Jamf Setup, you don’t need IT to configure each device for each person’s purpose each day. The warehouse employee can pick up any device with Setup on it, make a selection, and the device will change its own context based on that selection. No need for IT.

Preparing devices for the next user

And once they are done with that device, it needs to be ready for the next user with the previous user’s data wiped. With Return to Service, available via the Jamf Pro API or the Return to Service app, organizations can leverage re-provisioning workflows to automatically configure mobile devices, without needing to go through the Setup Assistant. The previously selected language, region, and critically the WiFi profile, are all on the device, ready to go.

It’s been really exciting to see what manufacturing organizations can do with these workflows. IT admins can get really creative with Jamf to allow for flexibility on devices while still maintaining their security.

RL: It makes me think of our customer who uses iPads, and the first and only app that is on the home screen is Jamf Setup. Once a user selects their role from Setup, that’s when the rest of the applications show up. Employees can pick up any device and have it customized to them with the resources they need.

It’s better to connect the worker to the work by way of removing friction. And some of that historical friction is the need for manual device re-provisioning by IT. But now, IT can configure devices in a way that mitigates future engagement. Beyond that, it’s also helping floor staff remediate device issues without needing to open an IT ticket.

These simple user interactions are the key to helping drive adoption. In a way, how I like to think about it is almost “hiding” the technology.

Doing it right in less time

TK: That’s a good way to think about it. On the backend, IT teams — or any team responsible for devices or how employees use them — want to do a number of things:

  • Configure devices for their intended purpose
  • Automate and scale device and application management
  • Establish and maintain device compliance
  • Tailor the device experience with pre-built, role-specific configurations
  • Control what data is accessed on the device

To go back to your last example, the IT admin was able to configure specific roles in Jamf Setup to deliver specific functionality to specific employee groups.

What I’m getting at is that these organizations don’t have to hop in a truck between every onboarding day to deliver or pre-provision devices by hand, or rely on people whose primary job isn’t to maintain iPads to do that function.

Everything can be done from one place, meaning each facility no longer needs its own MDM server, IT team, etc. These are all things that can be done with our workflows, and this is just a partial list.

One thing I know we both hear over and over is that, particularly for mobile devices, the MDM spec is uniform. It’s why something like Jamf Marketplace is so powerful. It allows us to extend our already powerful workflows to do things on mobile devices that were not historically available.

These are all vital areas to think through when deploying devices. But for the manufacturing floor employee — or any employee for that matter — the simple fact is that the device just needs to work.

Safety first with on-site and digital training

RL: The beauty is in the simplicity. That’s important not just for technology adoption, but in other areas too, namely: training and safety.

The manufacturing floor is a rugged environment with complex machinery. Employees must learn how to safely use sometimes complex machinery.

With a device like an iPad, organizations can really broaden where employees are trained. That means employees can train right at their manufacturing facility, using iPads to both render machine simulations and do compliance training. This is something that historical processes cannot duplicate.

TK: Those historical processes also cannot match mobile device’s ability to collect data.

Digital training can better capture skills and capability tracking, provide better access to upskilling and provide an immediate view into compliance. However organizations want to train, mobile devices can help capture how that training is progressing.

To expand just a little more on data: if the whole idea behind deploying technology is to improve performance, increase access to information and to create more efficient workplaces, we need to make that as easy and as flexible as possible. To make in-the-moment business decisions to maintain or improve output we need to make it simple - and even inviting - for those decision-makers to grab any device and be able to access that information. Mobile devices also help automate documentation, reducing human error. And as I mentioned in the beginning, it starts with your end users.

RL: It goes back to how we started by discussing person and purpose. By understanding how, why, and to whom a device is being deployed, IT teams, floor managers and more can improve results and help end users be successful.

Explore how to use Jamf in your organization.

Subscribe to the Jamf Blog

Have market trends, Apple updates and Jamf news delivered directly to your inbox.

To learn more about how we collect, use, disclose, transfer, and store your information, please visit our Privacy Policy.