From Data to Action: How Business Intelligence Transforms Manufacturing

Manufacturers generate and collect data from multiple sources such as machinery, end-user products, customers, IIoTs, transactions, business processes, and more. The phrase ‘Data is the new oil’ is commonly used, and just like the oil, data is not of much use in its ‘crude’, raw form. It needs to be stored and refined (transformed and “refined”) into forms that are more beneficial to the business users. Data is of value to businesses only when it gets transformed into meaningful information. This is where Business intelligence (BI) plays a key role by extracting timely, valuable information from the raw data. 

What is Business Intelligence (BI)? 

Business intelligence (BI) is the process of collecting, analyzing, and presenting business information to support decision-making. It involves diverse processes, tools, and technologies that enable organizations to extract insights from raw data and turn them into actionable information presented to business users. 

BI tools may be on-premises based or cloud-based. While on-prem tools offer greater control over data security and customization, cloud-based BI tools offer lower upfront costs, scalability, and faster deployment. The choice between the on-prem and cloud-based BI tools depends on factors such as the organization’s data security requirements, budget, and IT infrastructure. Depending on your requirements, you may choose from a wide collection of tools such as Tableau, Microsoft Power BI, Amazon QuickSight, Qlik, and more. 

Self-service BI is gaining popularity by empowering non-technical users to access and analyze data through user-friendly tools, without the need for extensive technical skills. This approach democratizes BI by enabling business users to perform data discovery, analysis, and reporting without relying on IT or data analysts. 

How does BI help with business growth? 

Using the historical and real-time data collected by systems such as ERP, CRM, POS, and HR Information Systems, BI tools can drive business growth by getting insights into current performance and making informed decisions. Here are some ways BI can help:

  • Identify revenue growth opportunities with insights into sales trends and patterns, customer segmentation, and new product offerings. 
  • Provide businesses with accurate, timely, and relevant information that helps leadership teams develop more effective go-to-market plans. 
  • Identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks in operations enabling the organizations to streamline processes and reduce costs. 
  • Enhance customer experience with a deeper understanding of the customer base, including their preferences, behaviors, and needs. 

How does BI help improve manufacturing operations? 

In addition to enterprise systems such as ERP, CRM, and POS, manufacturers use systems such as MES, SCADA, and SCM to collect large amounts of operational data. BI tools can assist management teams by extracting deep insights that can improve operational efficiency and lower costs. 

  • Quality Control: BI tools can monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) such as production rates, defect rates, and product quality in real time, enabling manufacturers to identify issues as they arise and take corrective actions in a timely manner.  
  • Asset Management: BI can monitor and analyze the performance of individual assets or entire fleets of equipment. This can help identify areas of improvement, achieving a reduction in energy consumption, lower downtime, and lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). 
  • Inventory Management: BI can improve inventory management by providing insights and actionable information that help optimize inventory levels, reduce carrying costs, and prevent stockouts. With the help of historical sales data and other factors, BI tools can predict future demand and needed inventory levels which can be used to achieve cost savings. 
  • Supply Chain Management: The supply chain plays a key role in upstream and downstream operations converting raw materials to final products and deliver to end users. BI tools can track inventory levels, production rates, and shipping status in real time, enabling companies to predict and address supply chain disruptions. 

How can BI be deployed within your organization? 

The selection of BI tools, their successful deployment, and organizational adoption requires some preparatory work in understanding its current state and the desired target state. The choice of the tools should be part of the overall data strategy of the organization. (For more on data strategy, please read the guide on ‘Building a High-Impact Data Strategy’). 

Here are some key steps to a successful BI implementation. 

  1. Identify your business needs and the goals and objectives of the project that the BI systems should address, such as improving manufacturing efficiency, increasing revenue, or reducing costs. 
  2. Identify the data and the sources needed for insights. The data collected should be accurate, relevant, and timely. 
  3. Analyze the data to gain insights into the business processes using appropriate analytics techniques. 
  4. Develop reports and dashboards that provide key performance indicators (KPIs) designed to be easily understood by stakeholders, enabling faster and more effective decision making. 
  5. Test and validate the system with a small subset of data to identify any issues. 
  6. Deploy to the entire organization, train the users, and provide ongoing support to ensure organization-wide adoption. 
  7. Continually monitor and enhance the system to ensure that organization’s changing needs are addressed.

Implementing a BI system requires careful planning and execution to realize its value. Small and mid-size organizations often work with partners such as QX Impact to assist with the development and deployment of self-service BI. QX Impact has deep expertise and experience in delivering business impact to manufacturing firms by converting your data into information that helps with decision-making. Click here to learn more about our solutions.