How can manufacturers use data to secure their future?
As post-Brexit predictions for the UK manufacturing sector painted a woeful picture, new figures from the Markit/CIPS manufacturing survey reveal a very different story.
The survey, which measures activity in factories, jumped from a 41-month low of 48.3 in July immediately following the referendum vote, to a 10-month high of 53.3 in August, sparking a huge jump in the pound. Rather than July’s reports that British businesses expected economic growth to grind to a half over the next three months, the weaker pound following the vote to leave the European Union (EU) has shown to have boosted new export business and helped to increase manufacturing output to its highest level since November 2015.
So what’s happened? Are the figures, as some economists have argued, simply an “overreaction the other way” following July’s sharp drop in manufacturing activity? Or have British manufacturers in fact demonstrated impressive agility to turn Brexit into an opportunity? And if so, what has been the key to their adaptability?
If the observations in our recent manufacturing white paper are correct, it appears that those gaining visibility of their operations’ effectiveness could ensure they are best placed to gain a competitive edge and not only survive, but prosper during this testing period.
A streamlined supply chain is complex and dynamic. There are numerous workflows to monitor the different suppliers involved at each stage of the process, from production line to stock availability. Effective process management ensures the final product is delivered to the customer on time and to order.
Along with the Internet of Things (IoT) which is already being embraced by many to – in theory – drive greater efficiencies, it results in a significant data trail. This ‘information’ can potentially provide incredible insight to the way manufacturers run their processes, but only if they can unlock the insights from this data.
Our white paper has identified this as the ‘Data Conundrum’ for manufacturers. It throws out a question to manufacturers as to where they sit in this situation, in control of their data or muddled under a mass of data which isn’t being managed and does not provide any useful insight from which to make informed decisions.
To assess where you’re placed in this data conundrum, we’ve put together some questions for you to self-assess your current situation, depending on your responses, you may find that business intelligence tools such as dashboards could play an important part in gaining back control of your data. Analytics dashboards help to visualise your data into trends and derive learnings based on real-time information. This is an important part in making the shift to data-driven decision-making and increasing productivity by bringing greater transparency to each stage of the manufacturing process.
Here is a list of eight questions that British manufacturers should ask themselves to see if they are in a data conundrum:
- Is your existing infrastructure fully integrated and easy to access by employees?
- Are your employees guilty of reverting to their own spreadsheets (such as Excel) because of (various) IT issues, causing you concern about pockets of data silos holding valuable information, not stored centrally?
- Are you able to track and measure productivity gains or indeed, problem areas from the data you hold?
- Do you get reports which allow you to have one consolidated view of different departments and operations?
- Do you have real-time reporting methods that mean business decision makers are confidence they are acting on up-to-date data?
- Do your reports provide you with the information you need to make decisions e.g. spot problems, identify trends and opportunities?
- Are you concerned that you are missing opportunities for efficiencies and where to drive automation?
- Do you believe you spend too much time analysing data?
Despite Theresa May announcing that she would be taking a message to last weekend's G20 summit in China that the UK is "open for business around the world,” the fact is we’re all operating in a significant period of economic uncertainty, which is further exacerbated by the changes demanded by the digital era. Making sure employees have the right tools to do their jobs well and overcome inefficiencies, will ensure ultimate productivity and business success.
By having access to real-time data, business leaders quickly gain the insight to spot problems and threats and can help British manufacturers gain a competitive edge, without a doubt. If you want to get into the driving seat with data-driven decision making, and find out how dashboards can help put you in a position to grow, compete and prosper, why not read our White Paper.
Robert Dagge is Managing Director at Dynistics
Follow @ManufacturingGL and @NellWalkerMG
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