Six ways manufacturers can use data to streamline operations


You want to harness all the data your business produces, but where to start? Robert Jurcec gives some suggestions.

Manufacturers have more data available to them than ever before, however, many companies and their finance teams struggle with knowing how to use it. Big data describes the large volume of data that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. It’s not the amount that matters but what manufacturers do with the data that matters. Manufacturers can analyse their data for insights that lead to better business decisions and problem-solving. 

Big data is ultimately about making better use of the operational data within a manufacturing organisation. 

Anticipate customer needs with product development and improvement

Anticipating customer demand, whilst challenging, is more critical than ever. Big data can help transform valuable data into actionable customer insights, create a roadmap for new product developments and improve existing products. By mining data that they already have, manufacturers can identify customer needs that they might not otherwise have captured. 

Improve customer experience

With mounting competitive pressures, the race is on for every customer and manufacturers need a clear view of customer experience. Forward-thinking manufacturers are using data to gather, analyse and act on information to improve customer experience. By integrating data from R&D, engineering, and manufacturing units, manufacturers can significantly cut time to market and improve the quality of their products. 

If manufacturers want to retain customers, they need to identify their individual needs. With the ability to harness and quickly analyse all of the data at their disposal, manufacturers can make smarter predictions about their customers’ needs and behaviours.  

Streamline fraud and compliance monitoring and reporting

Security landscapes and compliance requirements are continually evolving, and manufacturers need to ensure that their data remains secure. Big data can help manufacturers identify patterns that indicate fraud and collate large volumes of information to make regulatory reporting much faster. Big data allows compliance teams to process in real-time to recognise and address any risks before they become harmful to the company. 

The Financial Cost of Fraud 2018 report found that fraud is costing the world economy nearly $6 trillion (AUD) every year. Fraudulent billing is one of the biggest risks manufacturers face and can significantly impact their bottom line. Manufacturers operate on tight margins so having the right information can help identify fraudulent activities like inflated invoices, invoices for personal purchases and invoices submitted for fictitious goods or services. 

Enhance operational efficiency and supply chain management

Operational efficiency may not be a hot topic, but it’s an area in which data has a huge impact. With big data, manufacturers can analyse and assess production, customer orders and other factors to reduce downtime and anticipate future demand. 

Many suppliers are now sharing information with manufacturers to provide more supply chain transparency, streamline efficiencies, and improve communication within the various supplier tiers.  With increased visibility into supplier quality levels and other performance data, manufacturers can assess, manage and negotiate risk management strategies. For example, a manufacturer can identify delays and react appropriately to reduce waiting times.  

Introduce predictive maintenance

Many secrets lie hidden within company data that can significantly improve the lives of many manufacturing companies. Factors that can predict mechanical failures are buried deep and include information such as equipment model details, log entries, sensor data and error messages. By analysing this type of data, manufacturers can identify potential issues before they occur, deploy maintenance more cost-effectively to where it’s needed the most, and prolong the life of equipment.

Manufacturers are increasingly turning to predictive maintenance algorithms that are based on machine learning capabilities, as they get better at accurately identifying potential failures. Sensors on a piece of equipment can collect just about any information that is required, which is then stored and analysed. Not only can data help determine the best time to carry out maintenance, but it can also help identify the best time for maintenance to occur based on production demand.  

Drive innovation

For many businesses and governments in different parts of the world, techniques for processing and analysing these large volumes of data constitute an essential resource for driving value creation, fostering new products, processes, and markets, as well as enabling the creation of new knowledge (OECD 2014). Big data can help manufacturers innovate by producing insights into the very depths of their business and then identify new revenue opportunities and cost savings. 

Insights gained from data can be used to improve financial and planning decision-making, examine customer trends and implement dynamic pricing. The possibilities are endless.  

Big data has the potential to create a single source of truth within a manufacturing company that drives innovation, protects margins and improves customer relationships. Successful manufacturers will be the ones that can adapt and move faster than their competitors using big data to give them the insights they need to make the right call.

Robert Jurcec is CEO and founder of OneKloudX. You can connect with him on Linkedin here.

Picture: The Fabricator

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