A Small Manufacturing Company Rolls Out iPad: 3 Tips

Industrial Mold & Machine in Ohio is using the iPad to help bridge a corporate cultural divide. Here, they share three rollout tips.

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Tue, November 02, 2010

CIO — At Industrial Mold & Machine's 29,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Twinsburg, Ohio, a wall divided computer savvy office workers and shop floor workers unfamiliar with technology. Hence, communication between the two groups came in the form of e-mails sent from office computers to a handful of often-neglected PCs stationed around the shop floor.

The wall and lack of interaction led to a tale of two corporate cultures.

Then Apple released the iPad earlier this year. "We saw the iPad as a way to pull everybody in," says Larry Housel, knowledge and information manager at Industrial Mold & Machine, which makes metal moldings for all sorts of products, such as plastic cups, sleds and kitchen utensils.

[ Learn how to disaster-proof your mobile app before rollout, reports CIO.com. (Registration required.) ]

Housel began a project to put an iPad into the hands of every one of the company's 37 employees, from top management to engineers to support staff to, yes, shop floor workers. The latter group could keep an iPad inside their nearby toolboxes and receive email, access the company calendar, submit vacation requests, get work assignments and tap into an employee social network called Socialtext.

So far, a third of the iPads have been rolled out.

Tip: Ride the iPad's Ease of Use

Why the iPad? For starters, the iPad and its simple app icons and touch screen make adoption easier for many of the shop floor employees who are fearful of traditional PCs. "We've got people who don't have a computer at home," Housel says. "Some wouldn't know what to do with a computer if I put one in front of them."

One of the ways Industrial Mold & Machine tries to bridge its cultural divide is Socialtext, a kind of Facebook for the enterprise. The hope is that employees will engage with each other on the social network, which also has tools such as Wiki workspaces, microblogging, internal blogs, and social spreadsheets, that can help them collaborate and get work done.

The problem, though, is that Socialtext is accessible mainly via a browser—no iPhone app yet—and thus doesn't render well on a smartphone's small screen, says Housel. But the iPad's 10-inch screen presents Socialtext just like a regular computer screen on the iPad's Safari browser.

Tip: Create an iPad User Group

Housel formed a group of various employees throughout the company to discuss how the iPad is being used, as well as any apps that people might have run across.

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