Modern manufacturers face enormous pressures. Growing markets and intense global competition are driving manufacturers to improve speed and quality while lowering costs. These companies need to make evidence-backed decisions when it comes to products, and cannot afford serious missteps.
Making sound decisions should be guided by trusted and thorough information – data that can be found in an advanced business intelligence suite. Manufacturers that adopt (and properly leverage) cloud-based BI tools are experiencing notable gains in decision making and efficiency while realizing reduced costs. Let’s explore a few.
Enabling Real-time Decision Making
It’s important to note that literal “real-time” isn’t possible, since there will always be a lag time as data is recorded and moved from system to system. However, advanced cloud-based BI tools offer insights in very close to real-time.
The manufacturing-centric data looks at the actual production floor to help spot flow problems or pinpoint the source of quality errors. Access to near real-time data allows managers to find and fix issues quickly, and alert upper management in case bigger process decisions need to be made. Faster access to this data can prevent manufacturers from producing faulty products, wasting raw materials, and unnecessarily paying overtime wages to staff.
Additional benefits of cloud-based BI tools for manufacturers include:
- Maintenance will benefit from real-time data as they’ll receive continual updates on the condition of working parts and equipment. Maintenance management software can produce data for the entire BI platform, allowing management to see for example differences in wear and replacement rates at two different facilities.
- Cloud-based BI data that is available in intuitive and customizable dashboards is valuable for non-technical users. Within a factory setting, this means line supervisors and other “on the floor” workers can use BI to spot immediate problems. The reports they view can be quickly shared with others, so BI becomes integral to the entire operation.
- “Traceability” is crucial in manufacturing. What it means is the ability to track, for example, a product back through the supply chain. For example, perhaps a maker of car door handles learns some of the handles weren’t properly opening the door without excessive force. Using a BI tool, the system can related serial numbers from the affected parts to determine where in the manufacturing process the problems might have occurred. It also gives the company a head start on recalling affected vehicles and quickly making the needed parts replacement.
Harnessing real-time data from multiple sources using a cloud-based BI tool can provide a broader view of manufacturing facility performance, as it can take into account hundreds of individual metrics and turn them into actionable insights.
Cloud business intelligence suites can remove manual monitoring and reporting tasks from the daily workload of staff members. By reducing the number of trivial data-centric tasks, staff can instead focus more energy on process improvements or product quality enhancements. And, these actions themselves can be more informed and effective because they’re based on data.
This information can lead to productivity gains in several areas including; process improvement, asset management, customer engagement, supplier management, risk identification, and personnel management. BI analytics make this possible because it takes into account multiple data sources, so there’s context and the chance for users to see patterns that were perhaps previously unseen.
BI platforms can combine manufacturing-specific data garnered through the value chain (design, testing, production, distribution, refinement, etc.) with outside data sources to provide new ways of looking at processes and products.
Manufacturers sell their products to someone, so BI data must ultimately guide management on what are the most efficient products in terms of expense to manufacture compared to profits. BI can pull in materials data, time-to-market statistics, and financials to gain a clearer picture of product mixes they should consider increasing and those that might need to be abandoned.
Cloud-based business intelligence can transform a traditional manufacturing environment, taking it from a 20th century model of straightforward design, development, and production to a multi-layered approach that offers chances to refine and improve in real time.