As a company that has long specialized in implementing and supporting Microsoft Dynamics for manufacturing companies, it’s exciting to see all the new opportunities coming from our business analytics team. While metrics, business intelligence and insight have always been important to our manufacturing clients, advancements and greater availability of business analytics technology is transforming the manufacturing industry.

The top 5 business analytics trends we’re seeing right now include:

1. Using IoT devices for data collection

Most manufacturers are still trying to figure out how to jump into the IoT opportunity. Collecting data is an easy foray into using this technology. Monitor machines for overheating to keep from damaging equipment. Identify which parts break or need replacement most frequently. Over time, collected data can help you spot trends and reduce downtime.

2. Using predictive analytics

Predictive analytics is the key to having your organization become a “well-oiled machine.” Is that unit likely to have a defect? How much of that inventory will we need? Is that customer likely to buy?  Once solely the domain of hard-core number-crunchers, predictive analytics software programs have become more affordable, easier to use and are quickly becoming a priority for highly competitive manufacturing companies.

3. Augmenting company data with big data

Large enterprises often have such an overwhelming amount of data that it is difficult to obtain meaningful analytics. Big data solutions provide a fast, effective way to query petabytes of data contained across multiple systems.

In addition to modeling data from ERP/ MRP and CRM systems, smart companies are streaming real time data from multiple external sources including websites, customer support center, social media, mobile data, payroll provider, regulatory systems, commodity systems and EDI systems.

Standard Azure data lake technology enables all company data to be staged in real time in one location. Analytics are able to be harvested rapidly with the use of Azure Data Warehouse technology and Azure BI Platforms. Third party platforms such Hadoop, Cloudera and Horton Works enable large companies to query massive data sets more effectively inside Azure.

4. Integrating ERP with cloud-based data stores

The beauty of cloud-based platforms like Azure data lake is the nearly unlimited bandwidth and inter-operability with business systems like Dynamics 365. Records can be stored in the cloud and easily accessed by partners, vendors or even other company divisions, without impacting system performance. The nearly real-time synchronization between systems means that the right decisions get made faster and with less effort.

5. Including the voice of the operator to drive decision making

Daily reports can tell you that the first shift had substantially fewer defects than the second shift, but may not be able you exactly why. By incorporating the voice of the operator into the stream of data points, management may be able to gain insight about the root cause of the issue. Maybe it’s not that the second shift is tired or less experienced, it could be that the first shift took the easy work and left the harder production runs for the second shift to do.

Business intelligence has long been driven by the phrase, “that what gets measured, gets managed.” But with machine learning, predictive analytics and nearly instant business analytics results, a better phrase might be, “Speed wins.” As a manufacturer, you have an unprecedented opportunity to gain a competitive edge through improved analytics and insight.

Adam Jenkins

Author Adam Jenkins

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