ERP implementation has changed a lot in the past several years. It wasn't so long ago that adopters were still using these systems almost exclusively on desktop computers. But now, thanks to the proliferation of tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices, ERP systems can be used literally anywhere in a warehouse or on the factory floor as a means of streamlining and tracking operations every step of the way.

That can generally be seen as good news for manufacturers that have taken on ERP in more recent years, because it grants them additional flexibility and oversight of operations, according to a report from In The Black. With this in mind, ERP software makers are also working to make sure their platforms work as readily on a smartphone as they do on a centralized desktop computer.

What's the need?
When it comes to who is using mobile ERP in addition to more traditional versions of the management software, one recent estimate from Australia put the split at 20 percent using mobile, and 80 percent relying on either legacy systems, a physical inventory count or a hybrid approach, the report said. About 3 in 4 companies use some sort of hybrid approach because of the cost of initially implementing large-scale ERP, but more are realizing the benefits of adoption as well. That can certainly be the case when it comes to incorporating mobile warehouse inventory management and tracking as well.

"This changes the way everyone works," Bruce Rayment, CEO of the manufacturer Halifax Vogel Group, told the site. "I can see a time where [physical inventory tracking is] possible. It would depend on the communications network and the cost of the application."

Getting mobile up to speed
As it relates to making ERP platforms a little more usable on mobile devices, there are plenty of options, according to a report from App Developer Magazine. In much the same way as traditional ERP can be customized to fit almost any company needs, things like NAV barcode scanning and other means of tracking both workers and inventory can be more easily incorporated these days. That kind of implementation can not only empower decision-makers getting a top-down view of a company, but also workers on the floor in real time, because it could help them track down the materials they need as quickly as possible.

The goal with mobile ERP is often increasing physical inventory efficiency so that more man-hours can be devoted to actual production. Mobile ERP can help by scanning materials or products in and out, and helping companies get a more accurate accounting of what they have on hand at any given time. That, in turn, can help avoid supply chain snags that otherwise could hinder their production rate.

For more information on improving efficiency with barcode technology, download the free white paper entitled "Keeping the Physical World and the Virtual World in Sync" from Insight Works.