Manufacturing is a growing sector in many world economies according to the World Bank. With manufacturing growth in some areas reaching very high levels, competition is fierce. The challenge is what can be done to stay ahead of competition? How can you better prepare your company to succeed and lead in your field of manufacturing?

Automation, Lean Manufacturing techniques, and Just-in-Time (JIT) delivery of raw material and finished goods are all positive things that can boost your competitive edge. Can more be done? I believe so and I have noticed a lot the of the talk shift to Business Intelligence (BI) and what it can do for the manufacturing industry.

What is location-enabled manufacturing intelligence?

Within most manufacturing enterprises there are many systems that need to be synchronized in order to produce goods and services. Manufacturing intelligence (MI) is the key to making it all work and for the leaders in the field, it’s all about location-enabled MI. I believe location-enabled MI is a game changer in the manufacturing sector and, thankfully, it’s not just for the big manufacturers anymore. This technology has made great improvements making it affordable to manufacturing companies of just about any size. Location-enabled MI allows companies to understand their business better and in ways more in tune with how they really work…in the real world.

Location Information exists within the manufacturing enterprise-turn it into Manufacturing Intelligence

Successful manufacturing enterprises balance these four areas:

  • The needs of their customers
  • The ability to control the actual manufacturing process
  • The ability to control their raw materials
  • The ability to drive marketing distribution appropriate to the lifecycle of their products

Each of these portions of the manufacturing enterprise contains critical location information that, if leveraged and understood, provides key intelligence to the business and provides a competitive edge. That information is often resident in the business systems that directly support the enterprise. But often those systems have not been optimized to leverage the location information contained within them. If I’m a key decision maker, and I wanted to stomp my competition, I would want to leverage that location information so that I would have the insight needed to make important business decisions.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. Let’s look at the location information in your ERP/SCM systems. The ERP system takes demand and turns it into raw material requirements to support manufacturing. The orders themselves tell us where the demands for our products exist. We can use that information to better determine which of our plants should make that product, or if we are expanding, it helps inform the decision of where to put the new plant and what exactly should be made there. We already know energy costs are no longer insignificant to the manufacturing ecosystem. By making the right kind of decisions on where to house our manufacturing operations, it helps us drive down raw material and shipping distribution costs, meaning greater profitability. And what if we can do a better job understanding where our Tier 1, 2, and 3 suppliers are? By having visibility of where those suppliers are in relation to seasonal or recurring weather events, we can not only reduce cost but also mitigate risk to our manufacturing.

Building the bridge from geospatially enabled Manufacturing Intelligence to the real world

I think geospatially enabled Manufacturing Intelligence is the next generation of business information systems. Current generation systems have done a great job advancing the use of dashboards and metrics to improve business performance. But those metrics exist within the business system and help describe relationships of different processes within the business. Geospatially enabled or location enabled business systems build the bridge back to what is going on outside the enterprise. The goods produced are consumed by real people or real businesses that are located someplace and are affected by things outside of that manufacturing enterprise. These tools establish that connection linking the world back to the manufacturing process in real time. I believe that those companies that are most tightly in tune with the desires and concerns of their customers, know where their customers are and are not, will be at a huge advantage over their competition. They can be more agile to their markets, provide better service and achieve higher growth targets.

Location enabled data preserves the power of the current dashboard metric solutions and adds the more intuitive location based data to provide a richer and faster way to visualize the business. These visualizations of business information are bringing the ways people think and act in their private life to their business life.

A recent study found that greater than 41% of the people using the internet are using mapping services in their daily life and PEW Research found that 74% of smartphone users have used location based services and mapping applications which was up nearly 20% from the previous year.

The point is the proliferation of location-based data in daily personal life is crossing over to work life. Companies that can leverage location information integral to their Manufacturing Intelligence will be in a better position to compete in high-competition areas.

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by jurvetson

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