The human impact on digital transformation in manufacturing

The recent ‘Digital Transformation in Manufacturing’ report from OpenText and Sapio Research revealed that 80% of respondents saw digital transformation as a key priority for their business. In fact, 56% had started to move towards digitization and 52% were already using Big Data Analytics to improve business insight. There was only one small drawback: us.

When it comes to managing and analyzing the data that underpins digital transformation, the ability of your people to use the insight provided is as important as your technology choices. I thought I’d look at how one company, North Star BlueScope Steel, worked with OpenText to address its analytics needs and prepare for Industry 4.0.

I’ll be covering this and the Sapio Research in greater depth at Enterprise World where North Star BlueScope Steel will also be presenting.

Making sense of data

Let’s start by looking at the research. The extraordinary pace of technological innovation is transforming manufacturing. From 3D Printing to the Internet of Things (IoT), AI and machine learning, the speed of change is driving opportunity but it’s creating vast volumes of data. And that’s a challenge. Over a quarter of respondents to our research stated that the volumes of data produced was a major barrier to adopting digital transformation – with a further 28% saying they found it difficult to analyze growing volumes of data.

The challenges around handling Big Data efficiently and gaining real insight from it come from all angles. Almost a quarter of respondents struggled to find a framework necessary to analyze the data and 26% struggle to find the right data analytics skills. More interestingly, over a quarter of manufacturing companies say they find it difficult to find individuals who can make decisions based on the analytics. What is that all about?

It seems to me, based on our research, that the full benefits of digital transformation will be difficult to achieve for manufacturing companies until they can capture data from all relevant sources, quickly analyze it and present it to the right people in a visual manner that’s easy to understand and facilitates decision-making.

Steeled for Change

analyticsImagine having an Excel spreadsheet that’s so large it takes 10 minutes just to open. Imagine that this is your main costing tool and it has to be manually completed by different areas of the business each month.

Now, imagine that if you want to do a half-year report, you have to open six of these spreadsheets and combine the information manually.

It’s clear why North Star BlueScope Steel wanted to change. Its Excel-based system was slow, costly, inefficient and, worst of all, could easily lead to inaccuracies in costing. It needed a more efficient way to help it more accurately understand its costing data and workflow, so the company could better engage with customers, conduct market-based analysis and build purchasing breakdowns.

The company needed be able to collect data automatically from a variety of sources – including Microsoft Access databases and the company’s electric arc furnaces (EAF) – and present it quickly to allow the team to make informed business decision that could drive profitability while better meeting customer demands.

Improved data visibility, improved profitability

Using OpenText™ Analytics Suite, North Star BlueScope Steel has been able to automate its monthly costing reports giving people the ability to drill down to a cost-per-minute understanding of its business dynamics and generate reports that delve into up to five years of data for big picture costing analysis.

More importantly, it has enabled the company to introduce new capabilities to improve business performance. It’s now able to analyze customer’s buying behaviour and provide detailed analytical information to the sales team. The companies knows which blends and mixes of steel bring the largest profit and the salespeople are armed with information on which customers are likely to switch.

An analytics platform for Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 – or the Fourth Industrial Revolution – is enabling fundamental process change by leveraging digital transformation to embrace product and market innovation to drive new revenue streams. As part of this, North Star BlueScope Steels is embracing the Internet of Things and is looking to Big Data analytics to help develop its business capabilities.

The company is keen to manage data coming directly from its instruments and IoT sensors so it can analyze all operational aspects such as electricity consumption, weather patterns, material usage and steel prices for a highly accurate idea of future needs and sales potential.

North Star BlueScope Steel is not alone. Our research showed that 42% of respondents adopting Digital Transformation have already implemented processes that filter internal data for better business insight – with another 47% planning to implement within the next 18 months.

Want to find out more about Digital Transformation in Manufacturing? You can download the full report from OpenText and Sapio Research here. And there are still places left at Enterprise World. Why not come and hear about the experiences of North Star BlueScope Steel and others in person?

Tom Leeson

Tom is Industry Marketing Strategist for the Manufacturing Sector globally. An Engineer by Trade, and Mathematician by Education, Tom’s entire career has been spent in Engineering, Manufacturing and IT helping customers digitally transform their business and their manufacturing sector. With Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things, Manufacturing lives in exciting times, so there is much to talk about.

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