From big data analytics to mobile ERP systems integration, real-time data is driving manufacturing efficiency, employee engagement and profit
Some are calling it the 4th Industrial Revolution. Technology capabilities are finally catching up to the piles of data that can be—and in some cases, have been—collected about manufacturing operations by smart sensors, ERP software and other systems.
Innovative solutions are enabling manufacturers to access and analyze data in real-time to implement better strategies and streamline entire processes, from materials purchase through final goods shipment. The message to efficiency-focused manufacturing leaders is clear—capture the data, because it is valuable. Let us count (some of the) ways.
What if you could slash production downtime 30 to 50 percent and increase machine life 20 to 40 percent? The impacts on everything from scheduling to bottom-line profit would be significant, right?
Well, good news. A McKinsey report found these figures to be the outcomes from data-driven predictive maintenance initiatives. By monitoring a far wider variety of information about machines than ever before, manufacturers are identifying the root cause behind complex failure scenarios. This is enabling appropriate maintenance activity before issues can bring down production lines, as well as prompt response at the first signs of problems in the making.
Another benefit, scheduled maintenance—which eats up staff resources and consumables, whether the machines truly need attention or not—is becoming more granularly targeted and less costly.
Real-time data is also boosting inventory accuracy. There are gains to be had for single-location facilities when you know exactly what goods are on hand. And the advantages only increase as production is spread across multiple facilities, possibly around the world. Inventory turns are accelerating, overstock issues are being reduced and the amount of physical material stored by manufacturers is dropping.
#3 ENERGY EFFICIENCY
Manufacturing is energy-intensive. That’s not news. For both cost and climate reasons, manufacturers are under intense pressure to maximize production output per unit of energy input. Fortunately, real-time data analytics can identify sources of energy waste as they happen, as well as aid process improvements and equipment maintenance, retrofits and upgrades that can drive down energy consumption.
#4 WASTE REDUCTION
Another profit-booster that doubles as an eco-friendly overhaul is waste reduction. Real-time data can, for example, provide instant feedback when products coming off the line are not meeting quality standards, so the root cause can be determined and adjustments can be made without delay.
Just as important as reducing waste, monitoring real-time data improves manufacturers’ ability to ensure consistent quality, reduce quality management costs and avoid production time loss. Figuring out which lines, facilities, processes and even individual machines are delivering quality products is easier than ever.
#6 SCHEDULE ACCURACY
A lot of factors affect production times, so manufacturers have long had to base schedules on averages and estimates. With real-time data, however, schedules can be updated on-the-fly to reflect the actualities on the shop floor, with positive effects on productivity and machinery utilization rates.
#7 PROCESS IMPROVEMENT
Manufacturers have squeezed significant efficiency out of Lean and Six Sigma techniques. Now real-time data is taking process engineering to a new level. Advanced technology systems are helping to find process improvement opportunities not caught by Kanban and other, more manual approaches. These small changes often deliver fractional benefits but they do add up.
#8 SUPPLY CHAIN
Supply chains have become increasingly complicated and manufacturers are striving to balance volume, cost, part interoperability, quality, delivery schedules and countless other factors. Fortunately, real-time data is enhancing transparency and supplier connection so manufacturers see and adapt to any issues, such as a truck breakdown that will delay materials. Moreover, advanced modeling can dynamically adjust the procurement mix to reduce costs, minimize capital tied up in inventory, keep materials arriving at pace and increase profit.
Don’t think real-time data is just for the shop floor or production. Sales teams can also price customer requests with ease, submit proposals faster and win more business when they have up-to-the-minute information. Data-driven forecasting can also improve delivery estimates to avoid reputation-damaging hold-ups and secure more repeat orders.
Capturing the data
We’ve listed nine ways real-time data is transforming manufacturing—improving processes, slashing costs, widening profit margins and delivering faster ROI on equipment and other investments. But we could have easily compiled dozens of additional success stories.
Hopefully, the possibilities are as inspiring to you as they are to us, and might even increase the urgency with which you work to seize real-time data wherever it exists, across operations and throughout the supply chain.
For nearly every manufacturer, capturing data will be a multi-faceted effort. The sensors being installed as part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are important but not sufficient. In particular, companies cannot afford to overlook ERP mobile apps for manufacturing that put data access, entry and updating capabilities conveniently on the shop floor, in the hands of the sales team and with field service personnel at client sites.
Such real-time data tools benefit more than just the business itself. When employees are provided access to information to help them do their jobs better and more efficiently, higher engagement and job satisfaction levels follow. After all, who doesn’t appreciate feeling more empowered and effective? It’s just another reason to get started collecting real-time data if you haven’t already.
Want to know more about how affordable mobile ERP apps can help you deliver better manufacturing data to decision makers? The article linked there is a quick but informative read.