Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to the Plant

By Peter Reynolds

Technology Trends

In the current manufacturing environment, companies are looking for unique ways to manage cost and increase margins. Opportunities exist to improve the operational performance by enabling people with effective mobility tools and technology. Deploying large-scale company-driven mobile technology programs for industrial workers is often cost prohibitive and can distract an industrial organization from its mission and purpose.

Employees and workers in today's industrial manufacturing are becoming increasingly aware of how connected the world has become. The speed in which business and plant decisions must be made increases rapidly, as does the need for operational information from almost any location. Many workers today already own mobile devices such as consumer tablets and smartphones. Often, these have been used in an industrial environment, but in a way that might pose a risk in operational facilities, particularly facilities with hazardous environments where a slight spark could cause the plant to “go boom.”

While many plants do not allow employees to take a non-industrial consumer device into hazardous plant areas, it does occur. Many workers have a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” approach to consumer mobility. Industrial workers are bringing their own devices to work and using these to access personal data. Since this occurs without the knowledge and endorsement of management, no effort is expended to ensure these devices can leverage plant data. A better model for industrial worker technology enablement might be to embrace BYOD and consumer devices, but do so with specific policies and by offering a mechanism to ensure the device is rated for the proper area classification.

XCIEL iPad Mini.png

An XCIEL iPad Mini for Industrial Use

We’ve found one company that appears to have an answer to this dilemma. XCIEL ( offers simple, intrinsically safe smartphone and tablet cases and pouches. This provides industrial workers and employees who prefer BYOD with an elegant solution, but without a company incurring the high cost of the IT procurement and associated device management. These products from XCIEL allow a consumer device to be used in Class 1 Div. 2 area and also meet ATEX Zone 2 that is typical for most industrial environments.

Industrial BYOD programs reflect the aspirations of a generation of dedicated employees and the desire to support and participate in the efficient running of plant and business operations. In a world where knowledge workers can often access more computing power and bandwidth at home than at the office, the rules of the game have changed. For enterprise IT, it is about letting go, accepting that some things will be different, and enabling operations and maintenance people to flourish and function in an untethered manner.

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