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Apr 29 2014

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Some Manufacturing Intelligence is Smarter than Others

smart_manufacturing_intelligenceI came across an interesting article about human intelligence, and it got me thinking about the nature of manufacturing intelligence.

The article was addressing the question of why some people are more intelligent than others. It turns out a key factor is the brain’s processing speed. Research has shown that even a simple test of nerve reaction time—like hitting a button when it lights up—can be an indicator of a person’s intelligence. Further, the more complex the task, the more important speed becomes. The conclusion: “Processing speed may affect human performance on all higher cognitive tasks.”

Could the same be true for manufacturing intelligence—especially for global enterprises?

Manufacturing Intelligence vs. the Human Brain

There are many parallels. Like the human brain, manufacturing enterprises have to aggregate information from many locations and data streams in order to make decisions (sensory information delivered to the brain), then visualize it in a way appropriate to each person’s responsibilities (understanding what is happening, in the proper context).

To do this, every major manufacturing enterprise today has some kind of factory intelligence and reporting system in place, and an automated equipment layer so change can be implemented on the shop floor.

But these systems are not equal. In any specific industry, you can point to a few leaders who seem to know what is happening before anyone else, who always seem to get there first with the right answers. It might be that their manufacturing intelligence is simply faster and smarter.

With Manufacturing Intelligence – Speed Matters

Why would this be so? Well, the speed with which information is aggregated and delivered to users is directly tied to the IT architecture of the integration. Think of this as the manufacturer’s nervous system.  There are slow ways of doing it, and there are fast ways of doing it.

For example, if you have to aggregate your data from the shop floor, then reconcile and clean it and deliver it in packaged reports for decision-making, your response times will be slow, and the information may not be as trustworthy (think “yesterday’s news”). In enterprises that continue to embrace a mish-mash of legacy systems, days or weeks could go by before a clear picture of what’s going on reaches key decision makers.

Alternatively, if you have an IT architecture that supports global, real-time visibility (or “real enough”), based on actual shop floor activity always gathered and reported consistently, then your difference makers will have access to critical information that much sooner. They’ll then be able act that much sooner, to enable more efficient decision support. In theory, this should also make them act smarter, but no guarantees.

Of course, speed alone is not sufficient. Some enterprises have tried to speed up their processing by adding faster graphic reporting tools at the top. But if the information feeding these systems is not based on valid, consistent data from the global shop floor, then these manufacturers are achieving speed at the cost of accuracy—and that’s not very smart.

There are probably many factors involved in manufacturing intelligence, but speed is certainly crucial. To go back to the human intelligence example, think of the blinking light reaction-time test as a quality failure somewhere in the manufacturing system. The sooner you understand the problem, the sooner you can hit the button … and the more intelligent you will look to your stakeholders, boss, competitors, and of course in the overall marketplace, your end customers.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/04/some-manufacturing-intelligence-is-smarter-than-others/

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