Manufacturing

Safeguard your business success with the power of real-time data

Manufacturers and distributors in the stainless steel industry are not exempt from the reach of rapidly advancing technology. Those who hesitate to invest in and implement a robust IT infrastructure and sound data practices will eventually be left to watch as the competition passes by. By Jeff Eiben, Principal Owner, River Point Technology
 
Real-time data is quickly becoming a necessity, whether your company manufactures or distributes products for the chemical, oil and gas, hydraulics, food service or any other
end-user.

The reason is this: We live and work in a connected world, and data is flowing in second by second. As the number of Internet connected devices increases (and the estimate is now 50 billion by 2020), the volume of data is becoming both invaluable and overwhelming. The question then for today’s manufacturers and distributors is not whether to incorporate real-time data into their core business operations, but how.

The power of real-time data
Siri, the Apple smartphone digital assistant, is a perfect example of how data and decision making go hand in hand. When we tell Siri where we want to go, “she” does all the rest. She decides what travel route is most efficient, where we can stop to eat or buy gas, and she even shares a few points of interest along the way. This is just one example of how a single Internet inquiry can immediately improve our moment-by-moment decision-making capabilities. This is the power of real-time data. What if we could harness that same power of data and apply it to your business environment?
What if we could incorporate the data of not one, but multiple business systems?

The result would be a massive collection of insight that would increase efficiencies, protect capital assets and improve overall decision-making. The business case for a robust, ready-for-growth IT infrastructure and sound data management practices is clear. Making the leap from conceptual to implementation, however, requires planning and a thorough understanding of real-time data. The best advice for developing your strategy is to begin where you are. That sounds easy, but companies often make one of two mistakes: They buy into a comprehensive solution that outsizes their needs, or they rely on a short-term investment to solve a long-term problem. Both are ineffective.

A baseline evaluation is a necessary first step. Identify what your company already has in place. From there you will be able to recognize gaps, develop a data strategy that is specific to your business needs, and prioritize next steps. The resulting roadmap will help you: Integrate data into your daily operations; predict the success of new product development; improve operational efficiencies; and ultimately provide valuable insights that will factor into future business decisions.


Case study
A regional manufacturing company returned from an industry conference enthused about the idea of capturing and utilizing data to improve their business operations, but they had no idea where to begin. A baseline evaluation revealed that the company was disregarding 99 percent of its data before it ever reached decision makers, primarily because the company never saw the need to invest in adequate data storage and analysis tools. As a result, they were missing out on several opportunities to increase efficiency and drive profit.

After completing a baseline evaluation, the company chose to focus on a single need, and that was to capture and use their data to maximize the efficiency of their supply chain. By generating, organizing and analyzing new streams of data, they were able to decrease the expense of raw materials, reduce inventory and expedite product delivery. The resulting annual savings is projected to reach more than $500,000 annually.

Your company can likewise set a data strategy once you have completed an objective, multi-layered evaluation that should consider:

• The integrity of an infrastructure that will protect your financial information, intellectual property, and other business\assets, as well as one that will expand to meet your evolving business needs.

• Reliable real-time data security and disaster recovery processes to prevent the interruption of operations and the loss of sensitive data and reputation, factors that often result from hardware failure, natural disaster, employee indiscretions, and other external threats.

• Predictive analytics that will trigger alerts, avoid potential equipment failures and prevent costly downtime.

• Supply chain efficiencies that can track raw materials, manage inventory and meet stringent delivery deadlines.

• Connected intelligence that does away with data silos and unifies useful information for quick access, analysis, and decision-making.

A comprehensive data assessment will identify the gaps between what you currently have in place and what steps you need to follow to achieve cost-savings and increased profitability.

Vetting an IoT partner
Conducting a comprehensive data evaluation is an affordable and wise investment in the future growth and success of your company. Choosing the right vendor is a first step in the right direction. Be sure to work with someone who is willing to utilize what you have in place and fill gaps before recommending a completely new infrastructure. 

Remember, the ultimate goal is to capture and effectively use real-time data that will keep your company on the path to success, even in an environment of ever-changing technology.

About author
Jeff Eiben is principal owner of River Point Technology, a Pittsburgh, PA-based company that conducts a Data MRI, a proprietary assessment tool specifically geared to evaluate a company’s IT infrastructure and real-time data procedures. Eiben can be reached directly at jeiben@RiverPointTechnology. More information is available at www.riverpointtechnology.com

 

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