I recently had the privilege of speaking at Mobilize 2004 in Las Vegas, where I discussed key trends in mobile and wireless technology and how both 802.11 Wi-Fi and next-generation 3G CDMA and GSM wide-area cellular networks will make it possible for more and more enterprise-level users to send, receive and access information in real time and how that will impact productivity. Though I gave good examples of how this was already being done by companies such as FedEx, Cisco and Pitney Bowes, another speaker gave an example that truly underscored the incredible impact a mobile and wireless project can have on a company’s bottom line.
Jasyn Voshell, WLAN security director and lead product manager at Lockheed Martin, described how Lockheed deployed 500 Wi-Fi repeaters inside a hangar that is one mile long by one mile wide and is used specifically for making F-16 fighter jets. Voshell’s remarks came at the beginning of a day focused entirely on mobile and wireless security, and he explained that he and his team used outside wireless software as well as home-grown security technology to deliver what is an extremely secure wireless network for use in a facility that must be secure at all times.
But the real story was how Lockheed used this wireless technology to impact productivity. Voshell stated that in the past, if a mechanic was working on a jet and needed additional information, he would have to climb down from his working platform, walk to the nearest hardwired PC or terminal and search for the relevant material. Given that time-consuming process, along with all of the other steps entailed in manufacturing a jet, it took approximately six months to build one fighter from start to finish. With secure wireless networks in place, however, these mechanics now have a portable computer beside them at their work site; and as a result, the time involved in making a jet has been reduced from six months to four.
Although Voshell’s team did a lot of research and work to ensure the wireless network was truly secure, as well as developed the ROI justification well in advance, the impact on the manufacturing process and reduced time to completion were worth the capital investment.
In other sessions, speakers from Sears and Pepsi echoed the fact that using a secure wireless network to enhance the business process and speed up productivity is a clear result of creating and implementing a well-designed, secure wireless architecture. These companies are especially keen on the use of wireless in supply chain management.
Another common theme was the use of mobile and wireless technology in sales and field forces. Pitney Bowes uses middleware from Antenna Software, which ties its field service reps directly to the company’s large database in real time through two-way pagers and PDAs with wireless connections. Now they can directly query information about repair parts and availability from a customer site, as well as info about a customer’s credit status and pending orders.
All of this points to what I believe is the larger theme impacting all of the enterprise, which is based on something called the real-time enterprise.
The Lockheed Martin example is just one of the ways in which mobile and wireless technology has dramatically impacted productivity in a large company. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, since mobile and wireless technology, as shown through multiple examples at the conference, is clearly on track to usher in the real-time enterprise and change the way people work, both in and out of the office. •
Tim Bajarin is president and CEO of Campbell, Calif.-based Creative Strategies (www.creativestrategies.com)