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The power of real-time, data-driven manufacturing

March 7, 2018

Continuous improvement or continuous flailing? 

In a world obsessed with performance, manufacturing companies must develop a solid productivity culture

Parsec Automation's Greg Newman

and strategy to successfully achieve the holy grail of continuous improvement. To meet this challenge, one of the first critical steps is to understand the roots of poor performance.

In the past, without proper technological tools, many managers relied on experience and intuition to make judgment calls. Although the value of experience must never be marginalized, considering the magnitude of investment in information technology, reliance on experience and intuition in place of reliable intelligence is risky—at best—and more than likely foolhardy. (Particularly in this era of retiring experts leaving in their wake a worrisome skills gap.)

Decision-making in the modern manufacturing world is reliant on actionable information delivered in a timely manner. The flipside of that—insufficient and untimely info—results in the flipside of continuous improvement. (Let’s call that continuous flailing.)

Imagine how many times during the course of a regular business day opportunities for making positive contributions and improving performance are squandered because decision-makers don’t have access to the right intelligence. In many cases, business systems deployed throughout the enterprise are more akin to islands or fiefdoms, rather than integrated operations that freely exchange critical data. There are many legitimate challenges in effectively integrating dissimilar systems. We all understand that. Just as the sheer magnitude of effort, expense and business disruption required to run a facility is immense.

So…what’s the answer?

The right software puts the right data in the right hands at the right time.

A manufacturing-operations-management software solution can be the key to operating as a data-driven factory. The right software can completely change the complexion of a factory, not just from a compliance viewpoint, but also from a continuous improvement and real-time analysis viewpoint. The primary objective should be to deliver real-time, accurate, and actionable intelligence to the decision makers, while leveraging existing assets, resources and infrastructure. The reasons for this objective: quickly, economically and measurably improving operations without disruption. Or, to put it more bluntly, to make your factory make more money.

With these objectives in mind, the ideal software solution must:

  • Collect data from existing systems and applications
  • Allow validated and streamlined manual data entry
  • Selectively and non-intrusively involve users to contextualize the collected data
  • Provide configurable and rules-based analytics
  • Propagate the personalized business intelligence to users in real-time
  • Not disrupt operations, existing applications or systems

While the ability for non-intrusive data-collection is critical, it is the seamless delivery of the information to the users (based on their personal preferences) that truly makes for a powerful decision-support tool. I recommend looking for solutions that put the exact information needed for critical decision-making in real-time, regardless of where the users are. Whether in the office, on the production floor, at home or on the road, the software should keep users informed and empowered to consistently make positive contributions to productivity.

By eliminating guesswork and reducing reliance on intuition, users will accomplish significant gains in productivity within a short time. Better decisions make a significant difference, especially when these decisions can prevent undesired events and results.

That is the holy grail. Better decisions courtesy of better data. Sound better?

Greg Newman is vice president of marketing with Parsec Automation Corp.

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