Complex manufacturing processes involve hundreds or even thousands of steps to make a finished product. Along the way, there are a wealth of opportunities to use automation to save time and reduce errors.
But how do you find those opportunities? What processes should you digitalize first? Where are the biggest opportunities? Answering these questions is what “process mining” is all about. It’s the science of analyzing data patterns to discover opportunities for optimizing manufacturing processes.
Companies just starting out on the digital transformation journey have to rely on paper files and staff knowledge to inform process mining and guide where to automate. But once you have a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and other digital applications, process mining opens up a host of new capabilities. The value of process mining depends on the quality of data available, so the more you have digitalized your company, the more you can do with process mining.
When combined with a Digital Thread, process mining could be one of your most powerful business tools.
Better data means better mining
A Digital Thread is the ideal complement to a process mining project because it provides a single, complete source of product (and process) data in digital form. It’s a communication framework that integrates all data from design, production, inspection, testing, and maintenance to create a continuous thread of digital information across a product’s entire engineering and manufacturing lifecycle. It is both a snapshot of a product at any given moment and a moving picture of how that product was designed, produced, and maintained.
When Digital Threads are based on an extended digital platform, such as iBASEt’s Solumina MES, SQM, and MRO, they become a particularly rich source of data for process mining. Here are some of the ways that a Digital Thread can be used with process mining to create business value.
What-if modeling for the enterprise. The Digital Thread provides the ability to ask what-if questions for executives, and process mining with a Digital Thread lets you apply that tool to everything associated with your manufacturing processes. Process mining with data from a Digital Thread lets you apply a what-if modeling tool to everything associated with your manufacturing processes. You now have the data to explore alternatives, predict outcomes, and simulate different choices for your company—all without impacting day-to-day operations. For example, you can see which KPIs are met, and using what-if tools, simulate various processes to discover how they measure up against your goals. The data from your Digital Thread allows you to use process mining to fine-tune your decision-making and ensure that improvement projects are implemented successfully.
Smoother product launches. Product launches are a key event for manufacturers, critical to revenue, growth, and reputation. Remember, with new product launches, we are often not just talking about cost, but about the success of the company. Process mining with a Digital Thread uses historical and real-time data to optimize every detail of the process before launch day. Instead of issuing updates or recalls after launch, enterprises can anticipate problems before they happen and roll out products smoothly with a minimum of surprises or disruptions.
Continuous process improvement. In complex, discrete manufacturing, processes are a web of activities that touch every operation in the company – even from your suppliers, directly or indirectly. There is always room for improvement. Even processes that are optimized at the start can drift as suppliers and other conditions change. Process mining with a Digital Thread provides a way to sift through all the complexities and discover better quality methods on a regular basis. It gives you the platform needed to make continuous improvement a key initiative for your company.
Better monitoring of quality. Quality is closely tied to processes, and process changes can carry unintended consequences. With Digital Thread data, you can directly model the impact of process changes on quality and avoid costly mistakes. Besides helping with project implementations, the Digital Thread provides comprehensive data to search for process improvements that could improve quality or reduce the cost of achieving required quality goals. For some manufacturers, especially those in critical and highly regulated industries, quality mining could be the most important benefit of a Digital Thread project.
One more reason to build the Digital Thread
There are many reasons why manufacturers are building Digital Thread capability, but process mining should be high on the list for every company. After all, processes are at the heart of manufacturing, and there’s no better way to optimize and continually improve than with process mining powered by the Digital Thread.
iBASEt solutions support Digital Thread capabilities including data from throughout manufacturing and even suppliers, partners, and customers. You can learn more about the Digital Thread here.
Before coming to iBASEt, Michel started his career in operations as Plant Superintendent of a chemical packaging facility. For a few years, he implemented several MRP II systems, and then joined a manufacturing management consulting group that specialized in productivity and quality improvements. After that, he became the Vice President of Manufacturing for Flow International. It was at Flow that Michel was exposed to advanced Scheduling Concepts and Paperless Manufacturing Technologies. While in Seattle, Michel became the Vice President of Commerce and Industry for the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the University of Washington’s Science Advisory Council.