The Top 4 Big Data Myths for the Manufacturing Industry

June 09, 2014

In such a highly fragmented industry, Big Data analytics is the key to competitive advantages

Big Data means different things for different companies. For manufacturing and supply chain companies, it's a relatively new area of focus. But it's growing rapidly. Put simply, Big Data is huge volumes of hard-to-process data. The data can be highly complex or unstructured, it can be accumulated at high speed via the web, or it requires heavy analysis. Indeed, the faster you want to analyze data, the "bigger" it becomes. Companies are increasingly looking to harness Big Data for many reasons. Managing this challenge can improve supply chain efficiency, reduce costs, and ultimately move your company to a fully data-driven organization with the ability to make real-time decisions.

Logistics and transportation providers in particular are operating on increasingly thinning margins. Every detail matters. Inefficiencies and mistakes can end up severely hurting profitability, customer relationships, and competitiveness. In such a highly fragmented industry, Big Data analytics is the key to competitive advantages

For many though, this seems like a daunting task. The stream of information is never-ending, the complexities are many, and the majority of manufacturing and supply chain professionals still lack a sound understanding of the Big Data concepts, tools, processes, and overall importance. So let's take a look at four of the most common myths of Big Data and why this is a wave you need to be riding.

Myth #1: Big data is only useful for the Marketing Department.

Big Data Truth: This myth is wrong on two levels. First, as I mentioned above, Big Data isn't just external data, such as social media sentiment. It can be any other type of differently shaped data, including your own internal data being processed in real-time. That includes your RFID sensors, upstream and downstream data, PLCs and other production line data, digital inputs, location and supply sensing transmissions, and any other data that needs to be tracked, analyzed, and archived at increasing frequencies. The ability to use live data from your warehouse management system (WMS) and sensors throughout the transportation chain combined with external information from customers and suppliers can make capacity management and allocation of resources more agile and aid in real-time decision making.

Myth #2: I don't have the budget for the hardware necessary to process Big Data.

Big Data Truth: You used to be right, but not anymore. Of course today's Fortune 500 companies have the power to process and analyze Big Data through the thousands of servers at their disposal. But the right business intelligence and analytics tool will make ad-hoc analytics accessible for everyone, without a hardware overhaul. There are revolutionary tools available within business intelligence software that can be added to your current system quickly and easily. The ability to make ad-hoc analyses saves you the time and effort of re-organizing your data cubes every time you want to process data currently outside of your data warehouse. Incidentally, this also eliminates the need for IT.

With TARGIT Xbone, for example, you can instantly add external elements, such as an Excel spreadsheet, into your analysis with simple drag-and-drop technology. This deals with the challenge of Big Data by plucking only the external data that you want and analyzing it fast. It's made to be an agile, easy, and rapid way to grab data and figure out what works and what doesn't for your current data discovery and analytical purposes.

Ad-hoc analytics with external data and sampling from huge data sets will not only provide the insights needed for strategic planning, but also in a day-to-day setting with everything from the point-of-origin to the point-of-consumption. Using business intelligence as an inner compass and Big Data analytics to explore the landscape will have substantial benefits.

This is how the rest of us "do" Big Data. The ability to run ad-hoc analyses makes your current hardware infinitely more valuable by introducing new software. Because when you don't have the brute force of thousands of servers behind you, you can still get agility you need to get the job done.

Myth #3: Integrating a Big Data solution into my current system would be a lengthy, complex process.

Big Data Truth: Adopting a robust analytical system could be complicated, but it doesn't have to be. The first step is to evaluate your Big Data needs and how they fit within a business intelligence solution. You likely already have a powerful ERP or MRP system in place. The right business intelligence platform can be up and running on top of this in as little as a day by relying on accelerated integration platforms with a variety of data sources, with standard cubes, ready-to-use analyses, and reports that will provide the instant value of business intelligence.

A package like this can be expanded and redeployed as your data requirements evolve over time. The key is finding the right solution that integrates all of your data sources, including real world Big Data changes. Make sure you have the ability to integrate everything from budgets to CRM data with your ERP data. You should be able to merge data from data sources such as Excel, Microsoft SQL Server, and external data to your data warehouse. Now you're cooking with Big Data gas.

Myth #4: With so many moving pieces in the manufacturing and supply chain process, only IT can interpret complex Big Data.

Big Data Truth: You have a variety of systems keeping your business running. Pulling data from each is complicated and time consuming. Not only is system complexity high, but the amount of data being generated and stored has never been higher. That doesn't mean it can't be processed and digested quickly and easily by business experts.

TARGIT delivers all of your analytics needs in a single platform. You'll find data discovery tools, self-service analytics, reporting, and dashboards in one, integrated solution. And we pride ourselves on delivering all of that in the most-user friendly way possible. That means you can go from a dashboard overview to a comprehensive analysis in just a few clicks. Instantly reveal details about the challenge at hand, and have the answers you need to take action faster than ever before.

So no matter where you're pulling your data from or what you're doing with it, it will be delivered to you in a consistent, easily digestible format you can customize to fit your needs. Various features -- such as icons, colors, and gauges -- ensure you always know exactly what you're looking at within an analysis and what it means for the health of your company. These tools were designed to take the IT department out of the Big Data process and put it in the hands of the everyday business user. 

To simplify even further, you can set parameters so that if a KPI falls outside a predicted range, you're automatically notified when the company has achieved a goal or deviated from the norm. There's never a need to page through reports when the system does all the work for you. You can even access your analyses on your mobile device at the push of a button.

Understanding Big Data will make operations more efficient, lower costs, and help streamline innovation. Time that was spent on pulling reports and monitoring data can be dedicated to putting analyses to work more accurately and strategically. It will free business leaders to plan for the future and pioneer new improvements. Your supply chain will never be the same.