If you excuse the expression, you’d have to be “sleeping under a rock” if you are not aware of the market excitement around Big Data. Big Data offers the opportunity for big returns and there are plenty of statistics substantiating its power and potential. However, as with all great ideas and technologies, the true power behind any new innovation comes through its adaptation and its use.
Prior to jumping into the Big Data pool, companies should understand how and where to jump. As stated by Albert Einstein, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” While Big Data, the potential solution, offers possibilities once only imagined, the ultimate value Big Data offers is when companies are able to leverage Big Data into competitive advantage.
I think conceptually companies understand the value in being able to process more and varying types of data at speed, now commonly characterized as the four V’s- “Volume,” “Variety”, “Velocity,” and “Veracity.” What is infinitely harder for companies to grasp is knowing how and where to leverage Big Data to create competitive advantage.
While Big Data use will vary by company and industry, there are three common areas all manufacturing companies should consider exploring:
- Improving customer intelligence and channel insight
- Moving from selling products to selling solutions
- Operating a Real-time business with no boundaries
Improving customer intelligence and channel Insight
Customers know more about your company, your competitors and your products at any time in your history. This places most manufacturers at an immediate disadvantage trying to engage with their customers. Because your customers are in a position to know more, you must know more about your customers while being able to contextually interact and communicate with those customers. The only way to cut through a potentially sterile and anonymous customer relationship is to continually demonstrate that you understand your customer’s needs. You do this successfully, by relating what you have in the terms that your customer understands and values. Big Data can help you leverage actionable customer intelligence by bringing together, seemingly disparate pieces of customer information like social data, customer transactions and response behavior, into a holistic, insightful customer picture that makes customer relevant information available at the point it’s required in real time.
Moving from selling products to selling solutions
Manufacturing operations are both data rich and “user poor,” with only a small percentage of the data being actively harvested and utilized. In the digital economy, production flexibility is very much dependent upon a company’s competency in leveraging Big Data and its use in the manufacturing environment. The use of Big Data is now transforming once labor intensive and error prone, time consuming planning processes like Material Resource Planning into accurate, real time production forecasting systems as originally intended. In order to meet the needs of a digitized consumer, having products manufactured and delivered their way, manufacturers must be able to design, produce and deliver highly customized products at scale. This requires connected systems between product design, customer orders, ERP core systems, shop floor systems and supply chains. Leveraging Big Data can help harmonize the huge amounts of structured and unstructured data, from once independent information silos, while providing real time visibility into manufacturing and supply chain performance and risk. Lastly, by leveraging Big Data and the Internet of Things, companies can connect to their assets and the products that they manufacture in real time. This provides new valuable insights into asset utilization, asset performance predictability, and product usage. Having after-sale product usage intelligence, creates the opportunity for manufacturing companies to take on more after sale services ownership and sell solutions with recurring revenue streams. This further improves customer stickiness while meeting the growing appetite of consumers, who are increasingly more focused on the value of solution use than product purchase ownership.
Operating a Real-time business with no boundaries
This third area, at first glance, may seem a bit nebulous, yet is very much possible. Big Data does offer companies the opportunity to create and execute on this “plausible dream” provided they can forget and move from the IT governing architectures and thought processes of the past. Manufacturing companies that built and developed systems to manage processes for HR, finances, customers, supply chains, operations, etc. in a non-digitized world, owe it to themselves to move forward from the past. The market has changed and continues to change. The architectures and systems of the past should not govern your future. Processes and systems need to be evaluated with fresh perspectives because the world is so much more connected today, inside and outside a company’s four walls. Operating a real time business with no boundaries, once thought impossible, is very much technically feasible today. Companies that have the courage and conviction to re-imagine and re-invent will benefit the most from Big Data in the digital economy and ultimately gain competitive market advantage.
SAP offers two important resources to help manufacturers move toward re-inventing and re-imagining their business. Supported through our Design Thinking and Industry Value Engineering teams, SAP offers standardized tools, methodologies and performance benchmarks to help companies broaden their thinking beyond departmental boundaries and IT architectures while further establishing and quantifying potential business value.
To learn how leading companies are improving and transforming their business, through the use of Big Data customer case studies, we invite you to visit the attached resource center.
Harry E. Blunt
Director, North America Industry Field Marketing
SAP America, Inc.
3999 West Chester Pike
Newtown Square, PA 19073