This is quite a common question – what is the difference between Manufacturing and Business Intelligence (BI) applications? Since many manufacturers often have a BI solution already implemented, the first thought is that BI can simply handle their manufacturing data … so do I need to add a manufacturing component?
This is a similar discussion on whether Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can be used to run manufacturing operations, instead of a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) or Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) solution. Some have tried, many have failed.
Why do I suggest this parallel? Because there is a common theme of trying to use a corporate system to address a local, shop floor need. In fact, it looks like we have another “Myth” that just might need to be “busted.”
To start, let’s define the challenge: Can I address all Manufacturing Intelligence requirements with Business Intelligence solution?
The situation: Let’s say we are a manufacturer with several sites around the globe, and we need:
- Real time visibility into manufacturing operations data, including logistics, production, quality and resources
- KPIs that can be calculated and visualized, starting from individual resources aggregating up to the factory level
- Analysis performed on correlations between various production tasks from different functions, from different perspectives
- Propagation of the information between systems and people (including shop floor operators)
- Real-time answers on ad-hoc questions raised on the shop floor dictate 24/7 availability
- Assurance that all necessary data is readily available to support regulatory compliance
The test: All of the above requirements are typical and can be addressed by a Manufacturing Intelligence system, so there is no need to test. Let’s see how Business Intelligence can address them by looking at some specific aspects.
Real time integration with shop floor data sources (machines and systems)
BI is typically implemented at the corporate office to identify, extract and analyze business data related to sales, revenues and expenses. Even though BI offers a wide range of connectors to take data from different sources, rarely can those systems acquire data in real time, especially when operating remotely.
Issue #1: Availability/reliability of BI is not adequate for real time MI data
Data model includes manufacturing operations
Manufacturing data from the shop floor (MES/MOM) are typically much higher in volume and lower in granularity than financial data in an ERP; BI systems operate similar to ERP, as they are typically batch oriented with an analysis range that spans from days to years.
Issue #2: Data volume is too great for BI applications to adequately analyze and manage
High availability system accessible from the shop floor and corporate
As BI is typically installed at the corporate headquarters, but this architecture is not well suited for the shop floor. One issue is security, when IT separates shop floor networks from corporate systems. Even when users can login into the BI application from the shop floor, too many layers and systems are required to pass data to and from the central BI application, resulting in processing delays, reducing the effectiveness of analyses performed.
Issue #3: IT policies and architectures create boundaries that prevent easy access to contextualized shop floor information
Ability to present data in context of end user activities
Many BI tools are very mature in data presentation and flexible in adaptation, but this doesn’t help those working on the shop floors that need to contextualize their analysis of data with the actions they are performing. Information needs to be easily accessible from within a familiar application environment, such as a MOM or MES system.
Issue #4: People do not want to switch between applications to perform ad-hoc queries
Conclusion: Similar to the debate between MES and ERP, there are similar discussions between BI and MI systems. But, as the above examples demonstrate, when you look under the outer “bodywork” of BI, it quickly becomes clear that it isn’t really a substitute for a true Manufacturing Intelligence system. Of course, one can claim that customizations are always possible. This is the same argument we have heard about ERPs. Is it worth it to try and change a Hindustan Ambassador (car on left) into a “wanna be” Peugeot 206 (car on right), when in the end, you still have an Ambassador?
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Myth busted. In general, there are too many gaps for a Business Intelligence application to efficiently cover all Manufacturing Intelligence requirements.