A little over 15 years ago, British mathematician Clive Humbly declared “Data is the New Oil,” a statement that has sparked numerous subsequent discussions about the value of information. Various thought leaders have since expanded on the metaphor with points including:
• Just as crude oil has limited uses before it is refined, raw data doesn’t provide much useful information until it is analyzed and categorized.
• Data is now an extremely valuable resource, and businesses that collect and control it wield power comparable to oil companies at the beginning of the last century.
• Data lubricates the wheels of commerce just as oil lubricates machinery.
From a manufacturing perspective, all these positions have some merit. The bottom line is that in today’s business environment, success is dependent on an ever-increasing amount of data and our ability to use that data to make informed decisions.
The Value of Data
There is no arguing about the value of data in manufacturing. The Industry 4.0 paradigm has been proven out over the last decade with increases in plant reliability, higher quality, and products that better meet customer needs. With current regulatory requirements and customer demands, many products can’t even be sold unless the data about their content, quality, genealogy, or serialization information is associated with them (what is known as the cyber asset). And unlike oil, which breaks down and loses value after its initial use, data is infinite, recyclable, and highly reusable. Information can be shared and takes on more value the more it is used.
Modern manufacturing environments are awash in data. The challenge for manufacturers, then, is to determine how to capture and extract the maximum value from this raw resource flowing through their enterprise.
Your Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is the Oil Pump
When oil is refined into fuel, high-performance engines use pressurized fuel systems instead of gravity feed to maximize their power.
In manufacturing, the technology that provides the pressure that keeps your factory operating smoothly is your MES. Your MES collects the “oil,” or data, from various sources, moves it throughout the system, and provides it to all parts of the plant. Its role is to send the data where it is needed at the right time and in the most effective manner.
All this requires a modern, high-performance MES that is part of a tightly integrated manufacturing operations solution. Your MES must be able to efficiently collect information, both directly from your shop floor as well as from the rest of the manufacturing operations platform, including maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and supplier quality management (SQM) systems. It also needs the integration capabilities to capture data from key external systems, such as PLM and ERP solutions. All this information must then be “refined” into an easily understood format and made accessible to the right workers at the right time.
Just as oil is only useful if it can be pumped, refined, and distributed, the data flowing through your shopfloor is only valuable if it can be efficiently captured, translated into actionable intelligence, and distributed effectively throughout the enterprise. To get the most out of your manufacturing data, you need an MES designed with comprehensive connectivity, visibility, and traceability at its core.