Jun 12 2012

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Unlocking Manufacturing Intelligence, Part 1

The following is the first of a two-part post on the evolution of manufacturing data. This section explores the challenges associated with managing this data, while the next post will focus on the benefits of using next generation methodologies.

Today, it seems as if the typical global manufacturing network has information coming from more places than one company can handle. Without strategic software implementations, the task of improving operational efficiencies can be daunting for users attempting to rifle through data from disparate plant systems. Many of Apriso’s leading clients are experiencing success by using careful planning to facilitate this process. One area of particular interest is in communication from the shop floor to the rest of the enterprise.


Challenges with the Status Quo

Over the past 10 to 20 years, many large manufacturing companies have taken the journey of implementing a global Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system as a main IT pillar to manage enterprise operations like finance, human resources and inventory. This is an important step toward centralizing and managing data across plants. But, more often than not, users require additional and more specific capabilities for certain processes. Despite ERP systems lacking the more granular functionalities required to effectively manage operations, many companies still use them along with Business Intelligence (BI) as solutions to analyze and manage data at the shop floor level.

Using BI and ERP is not an ideal approach to improving the transparency and integrity of plant information. Mainly, this approach lacks the capability to handle and relay real-time Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) data. Manufacturing operations data is too complex to take an umbrella approach to managing its efficiency. Understanding this, quality managers will often implement a Manufacturing Intelligence (MI) system to manage data in their plant.


The Implications of Standalone MI Solutions

The gaps with the above approach are well-known. In order to fill these gaps, companies have been adding manufacturing data management capabilities such as standalone MI solutions for many years now. Generally, this approach brings initial benefits, proving to be a good way to attain visibility and metrics on the shop floor. However, this is more of a Band-Aid method than a strategic implementation, as it is met with various challenges.

First, when implemented individually on a plant-by-plant basis, MI metrics tend to be in silos, so can’t effectively communicate information on business functions or manufacturing processes to other plants. This data barrier makes it very difficult for managers to use and evaluate metrics and trends at an enterprise level.

Second, the use of standalone MI solutions does not offer strong flexibility and scalability to work well with other enterprise applications as they are implemented. Under this scenario, since enterprise systems were not initially considered, roadblocks to implementation can arise. This is a notable issue, considering the level of Merger and Acquisition (M&A) activities and changes in asset ownership associated with the manufacturing industry.

Third, the importance of real-time access to manufacturing operations data is more critical than ever. Latency in delivering this visibility translates into poor quality, operational disruptions and reduced efficiency. Reviewing manufacturing intelligence on a plant by plant basis can’t deliver the same sort of visibility as a global, enterprise solution capable of aggregating intelligence from across the enterprise.

While it is important to increase the visibility of manufacturing metrics, standalone MI software works much better within a single plant than between a global network of plants. Consequently, MI solutions that do not account for enterprise level implications can end up being more costly than effective in the long-run.


The Need for a Global Approach to Manufacturing Intelligence

A global approach to manufacturing operations management coupled with standardized MI that includes Business Process Management (BPM) as an integration enabler is the best way to monitor and evaluate process and product data between plant floors. By taking this approach, leading companies can provide the needed context around data and processes to truly unlock the value of shop floor data. In my next post, I will discuss the benefits of taking a BPM approach to MOM and MI implementations.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2012/06/unlocking-manufacturing-intelligence-part-1/

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