Maximizing productivity in today’s complex and competitive environment is top of mind for manufacturers, while improving company culture is often overlooked.
What companies don’t realize is that these two challenges are closely connected through the power of analytics.
While only management has traditionally had access to real-time data, weaving analytics into workspaces from the shop floor to the c-suite enables personnel to set goals, spot problems and be proactive to identify new opportunities and risks.
Making sure the organization has access to full-system visibility and real-time data is one of the first steps to creating a proactive company culture. Embedded analytics enable personnel—from C-level executives to warehouse managers, to continually monitor issues, predict customer needs and make well informed decisions, critical for strategic problem-solving and proactive response to pending market changes.
Ongoing, timely data capture helps maintain control. Working with real-time data, rather than snapshot capture of historical data, allows companies to stay on top of potential problems. The use of automatic notification, alerts and escalation rules keeps managers informed of warning signs. Thanks to smartphones and tablet devices, even frequently traveling executives can maintain connectivity and monitor dashboards whenever desired.
In fact, all users can track role-relevant critical numbers on an ongoing basis with workspaces that keep contextual data, forms and collaborative groups on the home screen. Goals can be set for critical numbers and automatic alert can be sent to the appropriate person when action should be taken.
Utilizing these types of warning systems helps companies stay alert to potential problems, such as low parts inventory or declines in a particular line’s daily production. Most importantly – further research can be conducted to find the cause of the problem so it can be prevented from occurring on a repeat basis.
By incorporating role-based analytics, personnel can monitor the critical drivers to success. Potential issues can be identified and remedied before they cascade into profit-affecting issues or the inability to meet a customer delivery.
Processes for capturing data, generating reports and alerting individuals can be largely automated. Today’s advanced software solutions with flexible workflow design allow reports to be automatically generated and delivered to personnel at predetermined intervals. C-level executives can have key critical numbers sent to their smart phone every morning. Automating data capture processes, whenever possible, increases consistency and removes much of the risk associated with human error, distraction or noncompliance. Automating simple tasks also frees up employees’ time so they can be working on more high-level tasks – such as building relationships with customers.
Three Benefits of Analytics
Attaining New Business
Today’s highly flexible and advanced business intelligence tools also allow data to help drive all critical decisions. Facts can provide the powerful ammunition to allow the manufacturer to make well-calculated strategic moves. Confidence in decision-making abilities will allow chief officers to be aggressive and bold in capturing new opportunities. New target markets can be identified for sales growth, and managers can also look internally for new techniques for streamlining operations and conserving resources.
Deploying an advanced business intelligence strategy, therefore, is one of the most critical actions a forward-thinking manufacturer can take, one that will certainly lead to increases in profitability, improved customer satisfaction and claims on merging market opportunities.
Using performance management tools also allows annual goal-setting to be fact-based and tied to realistic abilities. Gone are the vague generalities that were more hope and dream than policy. Now, a step-by-step battle plan for improvement can lead the troops forward. One of the most subtle, but significant areas of transformation is the change of attitude that is seen in a company that embraces proactive strategies.
Access to shared, integrated data reinforces a company culture of cooperation and common objectives. It empowers individuals – no matter their role – to see beyond a singular workstation or primary job description. Each person, from the contact center representative to the schedule/dispatch manager, plays a role in the big-picture profitability of the manufacturer.
Employees can make confident contributions to an initiative for process improvement. Armed with report-writing tools and access to relevant data, personnel, no matter their department, can help spot impending issues with long-range repercussions. For example, the billing manager can use analytics to research the cause of declining cash flow. Engineering can use warranty data to identify design flaws, and the inventory manager can use metrics to track trends in parts usage and predict purchasing needs. Social media and community groups can be monitored to track buyer trends and forecast needs.
Data makes it easier for employees to do their job effectively. Personnel can monitor relevant critical numbers and performance status with vested interest. Employees WANT to improve and achieve goals. Rather than vague dictates from the corner office to “succeed” — now goals can be expressed in concrete numbers which can be reached. Most importantly, data can be monitored by the people who have the most potential to take hands-on corrective steps AND preemptive actions. The business intelligence data is actually used, rather than sitting in reports collecting dust on the corner of desk.
Giving personnel access to decision making tools, contextual data and strategic planning resources also builds the company culture that supports being proactive-rather than reactive. Personnel learn to make decisions independently, thoroughly researching cause-and-effect data and making fact-based decisions. Employees learn that slow response is no longer acceptable. Teams understand that there is no longer an excuse for guessing at historical data, demand trends of taking blain guesses at what customer are wanting. Accuracy, demand planning and forecasting improve, company-wide.
Access to data through the use of technology allows personnel to take an active part in ongoing process improvement. Recent surveys indicate that engaged employees are the most productive and make the greatest contribution.
Sharing information with employees also encourages participation and ownership of role-related data. Access to performance management data gives employees the responsibility of applying the information in order to improve outcomes. The employee becomes motivated to influence key issues and sees the results of such actions. Performance data gives critical ongoing feedback to the employee, reinforcing positive actions.
An engaged employee will be alert to ways to improve efficiency, quality performance or customer satisfaction anywhere in the manufacturing process. Access to performance data helps the employee recognize opportunities, research cause-and effect theories and uncover opportunities where changes can be made to streamline activities, speed delivery time, conserve use of resources or anticipate a customer need.
Personnel must be trained to look for such opportunities, feel motivated to utilize the software capabilities to their fullest advantage and receive positive feedback for taking “above and beyond” actions. Again, access to strategic business intelligence data makes this possible—enabling management to monitor workforce productivity and track trends in performance improvements by individuals or departments.
When it is now possible to maximize productivity, optimize the use of the workforce and be keenly attuned to customer needs and customer expectations through performance management systems, decision making tools, collaborative environments and enhanced workspaces, a new attitude is fueled within companies ̶one that is not willing to settle for ho-hum performance. Technology enables a proactive mindset for the company and fosters a sense of priority on fast, agile attention to NEW ideas.
Mark Humphlett is the director of Industry Marketing responsible for Infor's manufacturing industry strategy.