Data-Driven: The Future of Manufacturing Lies in Data Analysis

Clara Garviliuc
Contributing Writer

There is every sign that competition will continue to put the squeeze on manufacturers, even while demands for quality products and faster processes increase. Raw material costs are also rising, and manufacturers are searching for every possible way to weather increasing uncertainty and generate profit. And as it turns out, the answers to the question of how to survive in an ultra-competitive global market might lie a lot closer to home than many realize.

Harnessing data analytics is an integral part of the push within manufacturing industries to deal with the rising cost of materials, a complex and sometimes murky supply chain, highly specialized production lines, and even issues with quality targets. It’s no longer enough to target efficiency alone; manufacturers must become resilient. 

Manual Data Collection vs. Plant Management Software

Examining industry data is nothing new, but more and more manufacturers are discovering that their own data is a valuable asset. Manufacturers collect data for various reasons, and many manufacturers still manage it manually, on paper. The limitations of manual data collection become apparent as the need to leverage every asset increases and facilities continue exploring data analysis.

Manufacturers that achieve some success may find themselves settled into rates of production that are not optimal but have become acceptable. Others ask questions about efficiency and improvement but rely on incomplete or disorganized internal data for answers. Manual data collection can make analysis a challenge, especially in larger plants that generate higher volumes of data. It takes time to create reports—manual collection means alerts and notifications for non-conformances may not reach the right people until a significant amount of waste or rework has occurred. 

Digital Data Analysis with Plant Management Software

Digital data collection allows manufacturers to analyze data in real-time. Moving to digitalization is cost-effective in multiple ways, from reducing paperwork and associated office equipment to real-time alerts that enable a facility to resolve production downtime quickly. 

Digital data analysis is active—it drives continuous improvement. Plant management software provides facilities with the tools to manage production and shift resources to more productive tasks. Data over time allows facilities to make reasonable predictions about when to service or replace equipment before it breaks and creates unplanned downtime. And finally, software can pore over millions of data points in seconds when it would be impractical or too time-consuming for humans.