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Manufacturing: How to Apply Analytics to Improve Plant Performance and ROI

In early April, manufacturers from carmakers to apparel companies raced to retool facilities to churn out much-needed face masks and ventilators in response to a global crisis.

It’s the kind of high-speed, high-stakes operational shift that any manufacturer would hope to avoid, except under extraordinary circumstances. But it illustrates the need for real-time insights, production flexibility, and multisite visibility that manufacturers now require – not in response to a worldwide emergency, thankfully, but to compete effectively in today’s business environment.

If you’re like many manufacturers across many sectors, you may be struggling to capture and take advantage of data that would help you get the most out of your facilities. You might be limited in your ability to forecast and plan, or to improve quality on an ongoing basis. You could benefit from better tools for uncovering issues and drilling down into root causes.

Most significant, you manage multiple sites across multiple geographies – most likely with equipment that’s aging and increasingly costly to keep up and running.

The good news is that there’s a solution to these challenges, and it’s more attainable than you might think. Based on our long experience in working with manufacturers in virtually every industry, the answer lies in gathering data in near-real time and then using advanced analytics to understand your operations in new ways.

Analytics for Better Outcomes

To take real advantage of analytics, you need a digital manufacturing solution. An effective solution should enable you to:

Achieve data insights – To start, you have to be able to capture data from disparate systems across all of your locations. For that, you need standards-based interfaces – for example, to grab data from both manufacturing operations management (MOM) systems and automation systems.

Next, you need to collect digital signals from operational technology controls, IoT devices, human-machine interfaces (HMIs), and other information sources in local plants. You then have to manipulate that data in a centralized location in the cloud. That will give you both plant-specific and enterprise-wide insights – visibility from the top floor across all of your shop floors.

Forecast and plan – Today’s marketplace moves fast. Interruptions in supply chains and unexpected demand shifts make forecasting more challenging than ever. You can no longer rely on past experience or gut feel to plan future production.

Effective software should deliver predictive analytics that equips you to plan with greater accuracy. It should also offer tools for pattern detection to help you transition from reactive to proactive planning. And preconfigured, multisite production actuals will keep your planners in tune with operations.

Identify issues – One challenge for manufacturers is that different functions – engineering and finance, for instance – gather different data sets. Or they look at the same data set and reach different conclusions.

That’s why you need a way to normalize your raw data. Data driven directly by a standardized process helps ensure accuracy and relevancy to continuous-improvement approaches to resolve issues.

The right software will enable you to drill down to find root causes of issues such as unscheduled downtime and speed loss. Advanced algorithms can accelerate such root-cause analysis, giving you predictive capabilities to boost efficiencies and yield.

Improve quality – To continually improve quality, all stakeholders must be able to understand performance drivers at the plant level and across your operations.

The ability to gather, standardize, and analyze data to track performance against KPIs is paramount. You should be able to use industry-standard KPIs or define your own KPIs with a modeling environment. And you should have the tools to integrate industry measurements such as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

In addition, it’s important to be able to generate self-service reports with customizable views so that stakeholders can visualize, understand, and track both KPIs and live operations data.

Optimize aging plants – Finally, every manufacturer wants to minimize downtime, reduce scrap, and increase ROI in physical assets. So your analytics tools should help you keep older equipment working as effectively as possible.

Your software must give you the insights to improve efficiency, production rate, and yield across all of your manufacturing locations. You should also be able to reduce the cost of goods sold and better manage both CapEx and OpEx.

Ultimately, a digital manufacturing solution will give you the opportunity to advance all of your plants to participate in Industry 4.0. It should enable you to apply not only analytics but also the right application of intelligent technologies such as the IoT, robotic process engineering, and machine learning. That will empower your organization to drive more granular process visibility where you need it and improve decision-making around where to invest CapEx and OpEx to maximize ROI.

Want to apply analytics to holistically improve plant performance and ROI in your organization? Learn about the SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud solution.

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