Manufacturers cannot expect to achieve and sustain success with traditional decision-making when facing today’s unprecedented shifts in markets, demands, technologies and opportunities. To maintain market leadership and profit margins, companies must respond intelligently to more frequent, drastic and faster changes. Some change is external, and some comes from core business strategies and processes to innovate, partner, and expand into new markets and set market trends.
Increasing Productivity in Today’s New Workplace
Manufacturers are very innovative and new business models are thriving. But, with new products, customers, markets and situations, strategies that have worked in the past can soon become obsolete. Further, customers have now grown to expect greater responsiveness. This means conventional process structures and business strategies have become increasingly risky. Additionally, essential continuous process improvement initiatives have become significantly more challenging in digging out root cause issues due to the dynamic, constantly changing and sometimes unstable underlying technology platform.
According to the November 2012 McKinsey study, Manufacturing the Future, this strategy transformation requires companies to “match granular insights with granular operations strategy.” In other words, people need real-time situational insights they can act on right away to drive improvement.
Employees face many volatile situations that require quick decisions based on deep, complete data. For example, does it make sense to switch to making a different product when a material is not available or is it better to use a substitute material? That depends on the current demand for all the products in question within the plant, on current inventory levels, on customer and quality specifications, on scheduled supplier deliveries and other factors.
Since most large companies are outsourcing more than ever, these complex decisions involve a whole information network across the enterprise, into the supply chain and out into the marketplace. To gain effective insights, intelligence must be derived from data gathered across that network of disciplines, locations and partners.
Insights to Support Better Decision-Making
The business question around big data is: “How do you generate more value than just adhering to a strategy to gather as much data and information as you can? How do you leverage this information and turn it into structured manufacturing intelligence for different roles in the company?” This insight needs to be based on the full business context so each individual can respond quickly with the right action. By some estimates, only 7 percent of big data captured is meaningful to businesses today. Gathering information for information's sake is costly not only in storage and information technology (IT) costs, but also in the cost for end users to navigate and make sense of the information.
Manufacturing has significant big data issues and tight timelines, since in addition to usual market and business data, there is a production process that changes moment to moment. Typically, production information systems serve just one site and are somewhat standalone. However, connecting more plants into the intelligence flow can have exponential benefits for a global manufacturer. That multi-plant intelligence must flow into the enterprise information view and vice versa. Each provides critical context for the intelligence of the other to become insights. Being able to monitor and analyze manufacturing activities across plants not only gives the people responsible for change the confidence to make these changes, but also the validation that the changes are working or not.