Manufacturing data silos

Break Down Data Silos To Increase Efficiency

by Tanja Rauniaho-Mitchell

If you have a hard time getting accurate information about how your business is operating and performing, you’re not alone. In fact, most manufacturers we talk to say that the inability to share or access data prevents them from gaining the visibility and control they need.

The problem stems from valuable data that’s locked inside multiple, siloed systems that don’t integrate without a lot of work. To eliminate these silos, it’s important to understand what they are and the problems they cause.

What are data silos and why do they exist?

As the name suggests, a data silo is a set of data only accessible to one department, team or system in an organization. 

To some extent, data silos are unavoidable. This is because each department accumulates data related to its responsibilities, focusing on its particular roles and information to deliver results. And, without silos, organizations can’t divide and conquer tasks to achieve business goals.  

The problem with data silos

Yet, modern manufacturers are increasingly working towards becoming connected companies and making data available across the enterprise. That’s because they realize that data silos, while common, have negative impact on manufacturing efficiency.

Indeed, efficiency is something that make or break your business. It can, in fact, have a significant impact on your costs as well as your ability to remain competitive. For example, if you can’t meet the demands of your customers because you are running a slow shop floor or shipping faulty products, you can say “so long” to your revenue. According to market research firm IDC, companies lose 20 to 30 percent in revenue every year due to inefficiencies.

It is important to note that the problem isn’t a lack of effort on the shop floor. Instead, the underlying problem is siloed data that contributes to several costly problems.

The cost of data silos

The direct costs of data silos within an organization may not be clear. Yet, there are numerous ways that data silos waste company resources and reduce employee efficiency. Below are 5 ways in which silos hurt organizations:

  • Lack of data visibility: Data silos make it impossible to gain end-to-end visibility of your production processes. Due to lack of 360-degree view of your processes, you can’t detect issues that would enable you to streamline your operations.
  • Lack of collaboration: Rather than work together, teams stick to their own data and their objectives. As a result, employees only see part of the broader picture. Consequently, they miss out on opportunities to work together toward common goals or extract the full value of data that has already been collected.
  • Inefficiencies: According to manufacturing industry surveys, employees waste 30 minutes to 2 hours every day looking for information. Employees are forced to continuously shift between disparate sources of information, resulting in productivity issues.
  • Inaccuracy: Employees use guesswork and estimates if they can’t find the information they need or if there are multiple versions of the same data in the organization. This, in turn, leads to errors and mistakes.
  • Poor decision making: Whether you are a manager or a shop floor operator with access to limited datasets, it is difficult to competently prioritize activities and less likely to make smart choices.

Data integration – the key to break down manufacturing data silos

The challenge of siloed data can, however, also be a great opportunity for manufacturers. Since data silos are primarily result from different tools being used that “don’t talk to each other”, companies that will be able to break down data silos by integrating and using their data across the enterprise will achieve a competitive advantage.

The key to overcoming silos and gaining a competitive data-driven advantage is the ability to freely access, integrate and analyze data across machines, systems and departments – and turn that data into valuable insights. Those insights will, in turn, enable real-time, smart decision-making processes that can improve efficiency and speed up production processes.

Bridging data silos using smart factory analytics solution

Companies can achieve this by connecting machines and core systems like ERP, MES, PLM, and automation system through a smart factory analytics solution. In fact, a smart factory solution is purpose-built to handle a continuous stream of data manufacturing companies produce every day. Furthermore, smart factory analytics is focused on collecting, integrating and analyzing structured and unstructured data from unlimited number of sources to identify areas for improvement.

Indeed, a smart factory analytics solution integrates 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.

Benefits of a smart manufacturing operations

The goal of smart factory analytics solution is to increase efficiency, productivity and throughput – doing more with the same resources. It does this by using machine and operator data to find and eliminate efficiencies in their manufacturing process.

In essence, smart factory analytics solution should do 4 things well:

  1. Acquire data
  2. Clean & contextualize data
  3. Calculate manufacturing KPIs
  4. Produce role-based, real-time insights accessible on visual dashboards

Investing in the right smart manufacturing technologies can help boost the bottom line, expand the customer base, and enhance an organization’s competitive edge. to sum up, integrated and connected smart manufacturing systems help to:

  • Increase productivity: With real-time visibility into the shop floor, issues are spotted and resolved faster. Adjustments are made in real-time, and all management levels have access to crucial operational information.
  • Improve product quality: Real-time production monitoring promotes optimal operational efficiency and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), enabling managers to proactively identify and address defects, improving quality at every stage of the production process.
  • Enhance operational agility: Integration of system-wide data, collected from physical, operational and human assets drives efficiency and agility. These, in turn, reduce production downtime and improve manufacturer’s ability to predict and avoid potential failures and adjust to changes in demand.

In addition to these benefits, one of the biggest advantages is that a smart factory solution allows everyone from the machine operator to the CEO to have a voice. Placing the power of information in the hands of all employees can create a collaborative environment in which everyone plays an important role in solving problems.

The results

So, are companies really benefiting from the move to a smart manufacturing operation or is it still for debate? The answer is yes. In fact, companies who have made the shift and have implemented smart factory solutions have seen tremendous gains. Watch the webinar below to find out how.

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