Average, Laggard Companies Need to Catch Up

April 1, 2006
Jane Biddle, vice president of Boston analyst firm AberdeenGroup Inc., has researched manufacturing companies’ use of visibility and integration software.

Analyzing the data and interviewing companies, she has been able to look at the differences among best-in-class, average and laggard companies.

She notes that many pressures are driving enterprises to develop capabilities that enable rapid response to demand and unexpected conditions, both externally and internally. Manufacturers must be prepared to intelligently assess any number of conditions and deliver informed responses in as close to “real time” as possible.

For those that still rely on semi-automated or manual processes for data collection, acquiring accurate data on daily tasks can be error-prone and slow. Although all sectors report the lack of a holistic view into manufacturing, Biddle says, further analysis of the data shows variations between industries.

For more than half (63 percent) of discrete manufacturers, collecting, normalizing and managing data from across manufacturing—from inventory records, data historians and other factory floor devices—remains the top challenge.

Consumer products companies report that their top challenge is a lack of visibility into Lean operations (67 percent). Today, most Lean initiatives are still operated manually. But to deploy these programs into other plants and facilities, specific processes should be automated and integrated into other areas of manufacturing, the enterprise, and to customers and suppliers.

Process manufacturers report the gap between enterprise resource planning (ERP) and the factory floor as their top challenge. Normal production “glitches,” equipment operating below target performance or unplanned recipe adjustments, are not reported back to ERP but will impact resource availability for planned orders.

What are the best-in class doing differently? Best-in-class companies are achieving profitability and gaining market share in an increasingly competitive environment. According to this research study, more than half of the respondents representing best-in-class enterprises are capturing best practices and standardizing production processes.

While prudent investments in manufacturing technology have helped the best-in-class achieve this status, the time has come for average performers and laggards to consider similar investments. At one time, investments in automation, integration and MES seemed prohibitively expensive to many companies. However, times have changed. Today, the risk of not having the ability to “sense and respond” to customers, regulatory agencies, and unforeseen events is too high.

To read the story that goes with this sidebar, Building Blocks To Success, click here.

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