Where to Start an Analytics Investment

July 24, 2017
Start with a site assessment, and align yourself with a vendor that can help you understand how to get a project going and what to expect in the long run.

Much has been written about which technologies and tools should be considered when evaluating data and reporting needs. Analytics, dashboards, data mining and machine learning are emerging buzzwords throughout the manufacturing industry. At Interstates, we partner with clients during their process of an analytics investment, and can help them understand where to start and what to expect.

One recent example of this partnership is our site assessment of a chemical manufacturing client. Interstates worked with the client to assess the current state of its operations technology and provide guidance for updates to be made over the next three to seven years, as well as quick wins to implement within the next few years. The site was reviewed area by area with a guided tour, and personnel were interviewed at various levels of the operation to understand process flow, known issues and bottlenecks. This assessment allowed the customer to get an objective view of its plant’s operations relative to industry standards, and it provided a long-term roadmap for projects.

The customer was facing growth in demand while working with outdated and difficult-to-maintain control systems. To scale up production, they knew updates would be needed. The site assessment allowed the customer to become educated about how its plant could use analytics, helped Interstates learn about the customer’s production process, and provided a path forward after the assessment. As an experienced system integrator, Interstates also laid out strengths and weaknesses of various software packages and how to prioritize updates. The recommendations provided will help reduce costly mistakes and provide alignment on upgrades to avoid rework or incompatible systems.

If you are exploring analytics solutions and have more questions than answers, look for a vendor that is willing to invest the time in learning about your company’s goals and operations. With more and more solutions coming out every year, and with expenses harder to justify compared with traditional investments, partnering with an engaged vendor eases some of the uncertainty. Managing your data and enabling it to provide insights can transform your decision-making. Align yourself with a vendor who seeks to know your business.

Daniel Riley is division manager at Interstates Control Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Interstates Control Systems, visit its profile onthe Industrial Exchange.

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