The future of decision making: Data analytics

The challenges facing UK manufacturers in order to create a solid data analytics framework were explored at an exclusive roundtable event hosted by The Manufacturer and BOARD International, as part of The Manufacturer Directors Forum. Thomas Chapell reports.

Real-time Reporting Supply Chain ERP Digital Data - image courtesy of Datawright
One of the core tenets of this new age of manufacturing is the adoption of data analytics.

The fourth industrial revolution is taking the UK and propelling it into a world of smarter design making and digital, data analytics – driven manufacturing.

The world of manufacturing is undergoing a pervasive and substantial evolution. Not since the first industrial revolution has the change been as expansive as that being seeing today.

One of the core tenets of this new age of manufacturing is the adoption of data analytics and a more wide scale use of business intelligence (BI).

Rapidly, data is becoming the core of modern success. However utilising data analytics for business growth is challenging, particularly in the world of manufacturing.

These issues are particularly common across the sector and special guest for the evening, Steve Whittle, head of business intelligence at Rolls-Royce, offered some insight into the best approach when implementing and utilising a strong data analytics system.

He explained: “You need to look at things holistically, not a single point; what you want to know is; where have I been, where am I now, where am I going to go, how will I know when I have achieved what I set out to achieve, and now can I measure that?”

Data Analytics - Steve Whittle, head of business intelligence, Rolls-Royce.
Steve Whittle, head of business intelligence, Rolls-Royce.

For Whittle: “BI is a combination of lean, six sigma, and information; it’s imperative that you are aware of the external factors that may knock things off course – effects, climate, unforeseen events, and so on – and realise whether or not this was the cause of deviation, or failure to achieve planned activities.”

Predicative data analytics

Business intelligence has traditionally been seen as a way to visualise data from a historical standpoint; what were we doing and what are the results?  However, with increased levels of data coming in from various sources throughout the manufacturing process, today it’s more important to utilise data to see what is around the corner.

Prediction is an increasingly vital component of data analytics, enabling new and innovative business models and processes, providing a stronger outlook and a more robust business strategy.

Whittle also took issues with the latest BI buzzword, ‘data lakes’, which he described as huge collections of unstructured data in which multiple users can access the reservoir of information however they want, and gain insight from it as and when required. The reality is, he continued, no real world examples follow this model; dumping data from multiple systems isn’t what is needed.

Analytical agility

Manufacturers are urged to consider the ways in which data can help them remain innovative and ahead of a challenging marketplace. This could include predictive maintenance.
Utilising data analytics for business growth is challenging, particularly in the world of manufacturing.

As well as the predictive aspects, it’s increasingly the case that speed is key. Whittle concluded: “Today, what you want is something that enables you to do things in an agile and quick manner, within your sphere.

“It must allow you to pass very clear, structured high architecture and high data integrity between ‘information puddles’ – agile, flexible small systems or ‘Apps’.

“Each one can be independently, rapidly developed to meet the specific need, as long as there is a very structured and controlled data feed to each other.”

BOARD International

BOARD International has been instrumental in helping with the business intelligence journey; recognising when consultant assistance was required, forging a strong customer relationship and providing a solid system with long-term support and care.

To find out more about how BOARD can help your BI journey, visit the website

Tracey Hill, sales manager at BOARD, claimed: “We wanted to let Steve talk for BOARD this evening, purely because it is coming from someone who’s gone through a journey with data.”

Hill continued: “BOARD is a very different tool; with a number of different elements you can use.

“When you’re looking at operational data, financial data, etc., having one version of the truth across the whole company is absolutely vital.  In this world that we’re in, BI is becoming essential to a strong and modern manufacturing operation, so a system that makes for easy access, use and reading is key.”