Data-driven manufacturing – using facts and data rather than conjecture and guesswork to manage manufacturing processes – should be the goal of any forward-thinking manufacturer. Many companies struggle to realize the benefits of data-driven initiatives, even as the decline in cost of technology, software and hardware make it available to companies of any size or industry.
The problem isn’t the technology – it’s how it is being implemented.
The Human Element in Manufacturing Technology
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review identified four challenges facing companies implementing data-driven manufacturing. Moving from a Time-Triggered to an Event-Triggered Control System, a Unified Data Model and the other items discussed in the article are critical in finally realizing the full benefit of data-driven manufacturing.
But what the article, and much of the industry, hasn’t addressed is the human element in data-driven manufacturing.
Humans play a critical role in managing production and workflow. While some processes can be completely automated with machines and sensors working together in a closed-loop control system, focusing on technology alone will leave holes in your processes. The operators must have easy and unimpeded access to relevant information during production.
Manufacturing software, specifically an MES (Manufacturing Execution System) designed with Smart Manufacturing tools, is the only solution that adequately meets this requirement.
Accelerating Production with MES
The key to true data-driven manufacturing is the MES. By focusing only on technology of manufacturing and not addressing the end users, companies will struggle to maximize the benefit of the data they are collecting.
For example, automating machines to signal required maintenance and then automatically adjusting routing while the maintenance work is done is a perfect example of data-driven manufacturing in action. Production doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and changes will have an impact on processes across the company. At this point, the MES should inform the operators of the updated routing. The dashboard used by Sales should also reflect the change, so the customer can be informed of the impact on the order.
The MES connects operators and machinery by communicating relevant data to the people best positioned to act on it. Without that communication, you’re left with disconnected and inefficient processes.
Looking Beyond Data-Driven Manufacturing
Companies are now collecting relevant production data, but without getting it to the right person at the right time, the data loses relevancy. An MES controls the manufacturing processes by managing information. In true data-driven manufacturing, the MES or manufacturing software system incorporates the human element and connects users to the critical data.
Without an MES, your data-driven manufacturing systems are still leaving potential production and profit on the table.