The spread of new technologies, including, in particular, the Internet of Things (IoT), has launched the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0. One of the main features of Industry 4.0 is the transition from traditional facilities to smart factories, i.e. highly digitized and connected production facilities that integrate modern technologies such as AI, big data, IoT and robotics. This revolutionary changes obviously have a deep impact on the manufacturing industry.
Smart factories involve many technologies that require the ability to collect, share, and process huge amounts of data. This adds to the fact that more and more businesses are developing complex products that require the cooperation of different factories, often with different owners. Further, this vertical has always generated a lot of data, whether from customer interactions, production or organizational changes. Just think how many critical manufacturing issues are data-driven: inventory management, fulfillment, WIP tracking, etc.
Silos and bottlenecks: the obstacle to industry 4.0
The astonishing amount of data mentioned above usually origins from different disconnected sources, such as a CRM system, product tests and sales reports, and ends up being siloed and meaningless. As enterprise information often lacks interoperability with control systems, it also complicates cooperation among companies.
This lack of structure in a company data can generate data bottlenecks which in turn can lead to erroneous strategic decisions. If critical processes are slow, if it is challenging to make critical, real-time information available for reporting or if internal IT resources are constantly tied up in accessing data, rather than managing data-flows, it means the company is most definitely facing data bottlenecks.
Unsurprisingly, the main issue discussed today by manufacturers concerns the difficulties in accessing, structuring and analyzing data in order to enable real-time, smart decision-making processes. Siloed data is costly, as it needs to be stored, and risky, since it leads to partially misinformed decisions.
Data integration strategy is the key to making information more manageable
The challenge of siloed data, however, is also a great opportunity for manufacturers. Companies that will be able to efficiently integrate and use their data will achieve higher quality production and agility, improve their decision-making and the use their assets. All of this while reducing costs, since data integration is said to save labor costs and improve inventory control. Indeed, it allows companies to embrace supply chain automation and has thus become a very hot topic in the manufacturing industry.
Data integration can be defined as the ability to seamlessly mesh information technology with operations technology in order to enable manufacturers to fully leverage the value of the data generated from their factories.
In other words, it consists in allowing the free flow of information through each stage of the manufacturing cycle by interconnecting digital and physical systems across manufacturing operations. This is achieved by connecting core systems through an integrated enterprise resource management (ERP), manufacturing execution system (MES), and product lifecycle management (PLM) platform in order to gain better insights from the data retrieved.
Indeed, ERP, MES and PLM hold insightful data that is indispensable to maximize manufacturing efficiency and quality. ERP systems tells manufacturers about inventory levels and delivery lead times; MESs track and manage manufacturing information in real time, providing golden information about traceability and performance; PLM systems include all the information related to a specific product, from concept to production. Once merged into a unique platform, they ensure greater control over manufacturing processes, leading to better products and a faster production cycle.
Data integration requires companies to both solve technical issues and promote internal cultural changes that highlight the criticality of data-driven decision-making. In terms of technical issues, the market is already offering many cost-effective softwares specifically developed to easily integrate data.
These IT solutions are greatly beneficial as they provide accurate up-to-date data, improve communication across the organization and allow companies to save time and money, and, eventually, to take smarter decisions. They can have a positive impact on a large number of vital issues such as, for instance, machines repairs, sales estimates and inventory management.
However, each business has unique needs. Each company should choose a solution coherent with its surrounding circumstances. It should understand what matter is most critical and choose its data integration solution accordingly.
For instance, if a company is asked to provide the same data over and over to different constituents, its priority should be setting up a system that automatically sources data changes and replicates them to a set of downline systems serving each constituent, independently from where he/she is or what platform he/she is using. It should therefore take a change data capture (CDC) approach to data integration that requires only few IT resources and can identify changes and synchronize different systems.
Conversely, if a company’s main focus is on compliance and quality control, for example because of tight industry regulations, it should choose a solution that ensures data control. This is the case for many large organizations. Due to their size, these corporations tend to take a top-down approach to control processes and to accept the inevitability of some human error given the large number of individuals involved. They should therefore opt for a data integration solution focused on data control, which enables companies to gather potentially erroneous data to a separate system in order to further check process and quality.
Data integration is paramount to embrace digital technologies
Despite its complexity, more and more businesses are integrating their data because it makes their internal operations simpler and cheaper. It makes the internal knowledge of the company more reliable and provides a pipeline of information without affecting production and operations.
Industry 4.0 cannot exist without data integration and CEOs who fail to understand this will put at risk their organization survival.
Datumize offers several solutions and products to help companies effectively capture and integrate their data and get meaningful, critical insights to increase their revenue. Our clients have experienced an average revenue growth of 5% from our solutions. Don’t let your competitors run away with your market share, contact us to find out more about dark data and how it can boost your business.