The Transparent Production

How to Achieve Total Information Visibility

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Figure 3: Navigating historical data should be graphical and intuitive so that minor edits and changes to analytics can be put into the hands of the people who need the data.
Figure 3: Navigating historical data should be graphical and intuitive so that minor edits and changes to analytics can be put into the hands of the people who need the data.
(Images: Aegis Software)

As well as those reports that are generated on demand, the system should have the ability to provide automated scheduled reports. Many of those in the enterprise who need or are able to make use of data do not have the time or the inclination to go into a system and generate a report. Systems should auto-generate reports on a regular basis and distribute that report to the parties who will obtain value from it. These auto-generated reports might be for a single shift, daily, weekly or even monthly, highlighting key data as well as trends that allow better decisions to be made. Some users might even play an entirely passive role in the ecosystem while benefiting from the reported data.

Again: this user configuration and flexibility must apply regardless of the display device. Most important: the same data and same customizable nature should apply to mobile devices. Being able to build a dashboard for the smartphone or tablet as well as the desktop or shop-floor based display is essential to allow the on-the-move user to access the data they need, particularly when emergency analysis and reaction is required. As mentioned above, auto-generated reports should be made available on mobile devices and notifications sent when necessary.

As well as considering a mobile workforce it is also important to consider a data ecosystem that operates beyond a single facility and a single geography. With businesses and supply chains operating on an increasingly global basis, reporting tools must have the means for groups of staff to interrogate and traverse large data sets across multiple facilities in multiple geographies and perhaps through multiple vendors when a partially or fully outsourced model is deployed.

Collaborative data mining can be extremely valuable in a team meeting where the root cause of problem is not fully understood. Flat static reports are rarely conclusive in themselves and the ability to drill into data in real-time can quickly reveal causes inevitably leading to solutions.

Two solutions, two outcomes

When it comes to resolving all the issues that the transparent factory generates, there are two opposite approaches. One solution is customization, the other is empowerment.

While the customization model may appeal at first, offering multiple solutions that deliver a unique dashboard or report for every eventuality perceived during the installation of the solution, it will clearly be the most rigid in the long term, and as a result the one that requires the most interaction with IT, the integrator and the vendor.

The approach of empowerment of the factory personnel to create their own data outputs and dashboards delivers more than the custom or tailored solutions. Firstly, it does not require a detailed plan that needs to be applied without deviation, which in itself takes time and resource to research and build. That plan can only reflect the demands of that moment, regardless of how detailed and complete it is.

Secondly, by empowering those using the system to configure the system buy in from the operator is obtained. They each have their own version of the system, on their own platform and they are invested into its successful deployment. Thirdly, the system is as dynamic as your business is, changing when business or customer demand dictates.

The latter, more empowered approach doesn’t make great demands on the IT team and does not expect coding or SQL skills from the user.

It is not reasonable to consider both options without weighing the costs of deployment. A custom solution may initially seem to offer the best value, but it is without doubt a path to endless costs of additional customization and update. This may mean the loss of time and agility to the business way beyond the basic cost of programing time.

The empowered solution delivers user-customizable dashboards and reports as well as intuitive data mining. It offers a system that is as flexible and agile as any enterprise and reacts to changes in the same way a successful enterprise does.

This article was first published in Elektronik Praxis

* Jason Spera is the CEO of Aegis Software (www.aiscorp.com).

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