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Too Often, the Right Data Isn’t Getting to the Right Person (Even within Their Own Team)

Aug. 5, 2021
Siloed data is a serious problem for manufacturers, a PTC survey finds.

Data accessibility is a pain point across and within companies, despite a recognition of the power it holds; 74% of manufacturing leaders in a PTC survey cite improving their ability to leverage data across the enterprise would be effective or highly effective at addressing disruption. Unfortunately, this data is seldomly widely available across critical sources including departments, the enterprise, customers and suppliers.

This has formed a “data gap”—a broken digital layer between the perceived value of data and the ability of companies to recognize that value.

 There are four critical area where data lives for companies, which create correlating gaps across departments, the enterprise, customers, and suppliers. A PTC survey revealed just how much manufacturers are struggling with this issue.

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1. Departments

Just over one-third of manufacturers claim, “data within my department is widely available.” This is a surprisingly low figure considering most would consider data at the departmental or team level to be seamlessly accessible to everyone. This would mean most functions in organizations are not even recognizing the value of their data internally. Engineering teams could be creating products on outdated design requirements or conflicting product iterations from multiple sources of truth.

If manufacturers are to make more use of their data, getting data management principles in order at the departmental level is a good place to begin.

2. Enterprise

Only 16% of data from across the enterprise is widely available, creating an enormous array of blind spots into potential insights across the company. Siloed enterprise systems are the driver of this departmental data blockade where different functions operate in isolation and confliction.

Factory operators can be making assembly decisions based on outdated customer product orders, or engineering teams may be blindly making assumptions of manufacturing processes for future products.

The list of miscommunication and misinformed assumptions is immense, and departmental siloes underpin most of these enterprise-wide data gaps. 93% of manufacturers cite collaboration across departments as important or very important to overcome these enterprise data gaps.

3. Customer

Manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to better engage with their customer, yet only 9% of customers/products in the field data is available to them. An inhibiting challenge lies with data privacy and perceived benefits for the customer to share product usage data with the manufacturer.

This creates a black box where manufacturers are unable to assess their products’ actual usage, performance and other key metrics. Engineering teams are unable to analyze product usage data for future iteration,s and service teams have minimal insight into downtime and how to rectify machine failures.

This inefficient ecosystem and lack of data insights points to the top pain point cited by manufacturers in the PTC survey being “poor ability to leverage data to deliver customer value and improve customer relationships.”

4. Suppliers

Manufacturers were immediately forced to look more diligently upstream towards suppliers during the COVID-19 pandemic, issuing frequent and massive disruptions from facility closures, worker safety constrictions, and other complications to the supply chain.

Unfortunately, the lack of unified systems between manufacturers and their suppliers magnified and multiplied these disruptions. Data is again at the common root of the issue with only 8% of supplier data being widely available to manufacturers.

Insights into suppliers’ operations data can provide better alignment on demand forecasting, optimizing inventory, and other strategic planning.

The supply chain will be increasingly in manufacturers purview to fend off current and future disruptions and the better usage of data across systems is a promising path to do so.

Three Phases to Bridge the Data Gap

Each of these components of data gaps provide unique challenges based on your industry and company. However, there are a few common phases manufacturers take to begin bridging these gaps and creating a digital thread , a closed loop between digital and physical worlds that optimizes products, people, processes, and places-  across them.

1. Break down silos with cleaned data

A typical starting place is assessing the existing silos of information across the value chain. Cleaning and standardizing relevant data across these silos to make them available for sourcing creates greater visibility into the data and expands its breadth of applicability to other departments.

This could include connecting factory assets or deployed products in the field via IoT and making its data contextualized to different teams and roles.  Greater visibility into data deemed lucrative will establish momentum towards its broadened usage across the enterprise.

2. Make strategic connections and links

Next, organizations can start to make strategic connections and links between functional and departmental intersection points to democratize information and enable collaboration. In this sense, “strategic” means create connections where high value can be recognized immediately versus making extraneous point-to-point connections without a use case in mind.

Linking work instructions across engineering, manufacturing, and service departments ensures each function has up-to-date information enabling continuity of operations. This could be work orders and assembly information for operators and service history and procedural guidance for service technicians. The foundation of a digital thread fitted across the enterprise will begin to take form.

3. Close the loop & bridge the data gap

Closing the loop means establishing a system where the data is embedded into a continuous feedback process across the formerly siloed teams. Establishing this seamless data continuity fosters a data-driven culture where employees make decisions on a common set of accurate and up-to-date information. This begins to bridge ‘data gaps’ across departments, the enterprise and increasingly with customers and suppliers.

Digital thread success will require internal organization of resources under a formalized digital transformation strategy. Aligning with a digital-native partner can be a necessary investment in this area. Manufacturers in the survey said they value digital thread partners with a breadth of solution portfolio relevant to their organization and the ability to integrate with other vendor solutions.

Lucrative data to capitalize on resides in troves across your organization’s data fields today. Take these considerations and apply them to your company’s unique circumstances to bridge the data gap between perception and recognition of value across your departments, enterprise, customers, and supply chain. 

David Immerman is a business analyst on PTC’s corporate marketing team, providing thought leadership on technologies, trends, markets, and other topics.

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