How can real-time data improve your manufacturing plant?

In today’s hyperfast landscape, real-time data is the only way to go. However, implementing these solutions is no small feat. Emily Newton explains how companies can prepare for the new age of big data and improve their manufacturing operations.
How can real-time data improve your manufacturing plant?
Most operations already run-on data. Managers measure information about supply chain stats, customer demands, equipment conditions and worker productivity. They're either recorded digitally or on paper.

However, these methods are quite slow. This can have a huge impact on operations, employees, equipment and partners. The same is true of incredibly slow legacy operations.

Most manufacturers are only achieving about 40% of their potential. That’s because they spend too much time doing tasks manually instead of using digital solutions and automation.

In today’s hyperfast landscape, real-time data is the only way to go. However, implementing these solutions is no small feat, especially in an analog ecosystem. How can companies outfit old equipment and processes for the new age of big data and improve their manufacturing operations?

How to implement real-time data in manufacturing plants
Unless someone has an extensive background in IT or is an expert on commercial electronics, they’ll need help.

People must take the time to understand how and where they can deploy real-time solutions within a facility. What equipment can be upgraded or replaced? Existing solutions can also be outfitted with IIoT sensors or devices. That way, wireless and real-time technologies can be deployed without a major overhaul.

Who can be enlisted to help with the upgrades? Alternatively, companies can partner with a contract manufacturer that’s already using smart technologies.

8 Ways real-time data can improve manufacturing plants
Manufacturers aren’t the only ones that benefit from a more efficient operation. Every vendor connected to it does, along with the rest of the supply chain.

As with most things in the business world, proper management requires a steady influx of information. Real-time data ensures it’s coming in instantly and is always at the ready.

1. Revolutionary automation
An entire operation can be automated using IIoT, AI, machine learning, advanced robotics and a data-driven command center. Automating some of the more repetitive and rote tasks frees up employees to do more essential work.

Automation capabilities are unlike anything that’s ever come before. Machine learning tools will scour data to identify trends, patterns or anomalies. That presents new, unheard-of opportunities for optimisation.

Imagine an AI sees a company running out of a supply item within the next month. It contacts the vendor and orders more before anyone even notices the problem.

2. Enhanced visibility
Additional data and information mean more visibility. This is a crucial component of smooth and successful operations within the supply chain. An accurate bird’s-eye view of what’s happening is needed at any given moment. 

That information must also be swiftly accessible to appropriate personnel. With real-time solutions, the data is collected, processed and shared in the blink of an eye, ensuring everyone gets what they need to know immediately.

3. Proactive operations
Real-time data allows managers to stop being reactive and taking action after an event happens to being proactive. How equipment and machinery maintenance is affected is a good example. IIoT sensors let a system analyse the performance or conditions of equipment and send out alerts. That way, crews are always on top of regular services. They can also nip outlying tasks in the bud, which is imperative for securing the health of the equipment.

If a system recognises the oil in a machine is low and knows it ran out faster than usual, it can flag a potential leak. If a machine’s performance decreases, the system auto-creates a service order. That would mitigate future breakdowns.

4. Streamlined compliance
A failure to meet federal or local regulations, or noncompliance, can be apocalyptic for manufacturers. Even so, it’s not something most operations focus on as they should. Real-time data solutions can ensure manufacturers fine-tune adjustments during a project, task or campaign to comply.

Better yet, the data can power an alert system that instantly informs workers or managers when something is awry.

5. Better inventory controls
Real-time data empowers inventory control automation. It also creates a streamlined system that can spotlight some of the operation’s biggest inefficiencies. Data can help identify an overstock of raw materials or supplies, inventory delays, shortages and more. Organising inventory becomes a computerised process that’s incredibly precise.

6. True preparedness
Disasters cannot always be prevented, but real-time data can help organisations prepare for what might be coming down the pipeline.

The data allows for predictive modeling, which can virtually play out a situation. Project managers can see what might happen before, during and after a particular event and develop potential solutions. They can even take those ideas and run them through the modeling system to find statistically reliable answers. The result is true preparedness for almost any eventuality.

7. Build-to-order
Mass customisation and build-to-order are only possible with real-time data. They’re also relatively new paradigms to most manufacturers. That’s because they are incredibly challenging and, until recently, they weren’t cost-effective.

Real-time data can be used to influence and inform action. If a customer adjusts a bulk order, necessary changes can be made immediately, saving lots of inventory in the process.

The data can be used to create custom campaigns or variants. Nike does this with its “By You” line of shoes.

8. Vendor reporting solutions
It’s necessary to understand and know what vendors or partners are doing and how that affects a company’s operations. Real-time data can keep track of vendor performance stats, like cycle times, error rates, inventory availability and more.

The information can be used to renegotiate contracts and get better rates or more competitive opportunities.

Real-time is the way to go
The digital transformation has been talked about for years, especially in the industrial sector, but what many don’t realise is that it’s already here. The hyperfast, hyperdigital world demands more efficient and smarter supply chain operations, which starts with manufacturers.

Real-time data technologies can help with so much. At this point, there’s no reason not to consider adopting these solutions.

About the Author:
Emily Newton is a tech and industrial journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized magazine. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily.

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