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Process Improvements in Manufacturing Using Data Analytics

How does Facebook know who to suggest as a friend?

How does Google complete your search before you’ve finished typing it?

How does Netflix accurately predict a show for you?

It all comes down to analytics. Now an everyday part of our lives, the analytical process drives a lot of our decision-making. We can even track, measure, and share our exercise, sleep, diet, and much more.

Yet, that’s just a small sample of everything that’s happening around us, similar to a manufacturing plant floor. How could a system possibly capture all of that intricate data?

Well, it can if it’s software created specifically for manufacturing. Huge databases within intelligent systems collect and store data automatically, offering the opportunity to discover data-driven insights to improve processes and increase efficiency and revenue.


Understanding the Past to Improve the Future

Manufacturers have always been obsessed with efficiency. The faster and least labor-intensive, the better. Uncovering inefficiencies is still often done by conducting an industrial engineering study — observing a station and using a stopwatch to time a process and/or record on a clipboard what can be seen. Using this method, only obvious improvements can ever be made to increase productivity.

But what about the issues that cannot be seen? Using only traditional methods — and not being able to see and analyze data to uncover root causes — no insights can be gained to improve a process. The “hidden factory” continues to rob you of profits and impact your bottom line.

Today, modern software systems, such as an MES (manufacturing execution system), capture data that was previously invisible. For manufacturers, an MES is uniquely prepared to help with not only data capture but also analytics. They’re built specifically for manufacturing, with a goal of minimizing waste and increasing productivity. What’s “seen” is the activity of every station, every part, every operator, every second of the day!

With an MES, you can see how several different sources contribute to lost production:

  • Operators
  • Products
  • Stations
  • Process Steps

An MES helps determine the causes of lost production, so you can improve those processes. Without an MES, you won’t ever find the causes, let alone the solutions.

Here’s a real-life example. A manufacturer had production troubles and was convinced that operator turnover was driving it. However, they had no data to back up the hypothesis. After working with PINpoint to review data pulled from analytics, it was clear that certain operators struggled only at certain stations. After some reorganizing — avoiding these operator/station combinations and optimizing operator assignments — the problem was solved and productivity jumped.

Compared to other industries, manufacturers are notoriously poor at advancing their own IT capabilities. These days, however, it’s easy to put inexpensive computational power and rapidly advancing analytics to work. There’s no excuse for failing to capitalize on analytics opportunities, gather information, and uncover new ways to optimize processes.


Without Analysis, Data is Useless

When it comes to manufacturers looking for new ways to boost productivity and profitability, they need look no further than their own data. Not just capturing volumes of information but analyzing it properly. Otherwise, it’s just a pile of stagnant intelligence.

In order to benefit from collected data, analysis needs to be leveraged, and insights need to be gained. Only then can better decision-making be used to make an improvement and boost the bottom line.

Here’s a simple way of looking at it:

Data → Insight → Action → Improvement


Getting There From Here in Four Steps

As with most technology-enabled changes, new analytics tools alone are not enoughto deliver improvements. Manufacturers must implement changes across the board to ensure they can aggregate and analyze data AND get the most from the findings.

Here are three important steps in reaching a higher level of manufacturing:

  • Combine Analytic Skills with Real-World Expertise
  • Run a Successful Pilot
  • Revamp Processes

More simply stated, improvements are all about making positive changes in people, processes, and technology.

A top-level software system provider goes beyond the technology, offering training programs and services to help manufacturers get on board company-wide. This change management focus is a priority especially during chaotic economic times that include labor shortages and a global pandemic.

What kind of results are expected? At PINpoint, we’ve worked with many companies to analyze data that identifies improvement opportunities. In general, they’ve increased productivity up to 30%, and decreased production losses by up to 75%. Every manufacturing plant is different, however, with many variables to consider. That’s exactly why data analysis is so critical to uncovering root causes of problems.

Want a quick look at three top software systems? Get your copy of our infographic, The Digital Enterprise — ERP vs. PLM vs. MES. Just click the button below!

4 Big Benefits of an MES Solution
for discrete manufacturing