Utilising data is the future of manufacturing innovation

Learning to use data successfully is becoming pivotal to the manufacturing industry, but just how quickly is the need to learn?

Data and connectivity now play a vital role in increasing the efficiency of production lines - image courtesy of <a href="https://depositphotos.com/home.html">Depositphotos</a>.s.
Data and connectivity now play a vital role in increasing the efficiency of production lines – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Data and connectivity now play a vital role in increasing the efficiency of production lines.

Data offers businesses the ability to learn more about their customers and their behaviours – insights which will ultimately enable manufacturers to produce more personalised, tailored products.

If businesses do not adopt the readily available digital tools of today, they risk losing their competitive advantage, market share, flagship clients, or possibly even all three. Thankfully, even simple applications can be harnessed to assist manufacturing and production lines.

One person who firmly believes in the need for data, speed and efficiency is Alison Beard-Gunter.

Alison is continuous improvement manager for Accolade Wines, the fifth largest wine company in the world. It’s world-leading UK facility in Bristol is Europe’s largest bonded warehouse and produces more than 90% of all the wine the firm sells across the UK and Europe.

Alison has been named as one of The Manufacturer’s Top100 most influential people working in the industry, and is a discussion leader at the upcoming Manufacturing Innovation Summit (20 June).

The Manufacturing Innovation Summit 2018 

The Manufacturing Innovation Summit brings together directors, executive managers and heads of business units in an interactive format that sits delegates alongside some of the UK’s most experienced directors and experts from world class solution providers – with an emphasis on expertly-led small group discussions.

When: 20 June 2018

Where: Exhibition Centre Liverpool

For more information and to secure your place, please click here.

The Manufacturer caught up with Alison ahead of the event, with the ensuing conversation taking in everything from Call of Duty to social systems.

We are hearing the terms such as ‘innovation’, ‘data’ and ‘digitalisation’ a lot in manufacturing these days; what are your current projects surrounding these buzzwords?

Alison Beard-Gunter: At Accolade, we are currently looking at socio-technical systems and how people interact with tasks, and how these manual tasks are increasingly migrating to digital tasks – which generates a lot of additional data.

An important aspect how access to this information and data – what I refer to as ‘accurate, relevant and timely’ – will drive a behaviour change. If you can utilise this access successfully in the company, you will create accountability which can then help drive continuous improvement and root cause analysis.

The more accurate, relevant and timely we can get that data, at every level of the organisation, the more we can align that with our overall strategy.

How do you record the success of this accurate, relevant and timely data?

Alison Beard-Gunter, continuous improvement manager, Accolade Wines.
Alison Beard-Gunter, continuous improvement manager, Accolade Wines.

We have something in place called ‘review and direction setting’, which is exactly that. It is a cascade of everything through all levels of the business.

We look at data on platforms and information on production flows over 24 hours, then everyone gets together and looks at the data on a 24-hour basis.

We haven’t got platforms to measure everything, but we certainly have a lot more scope to adopt and integrate digital tools now. What you need to do first is work out what your challenges are and what people need. You can see there is a problem and you have a platform [to collect data], but you if haven’t understood what people need, then it’s not really going to deliver anything.

I have also been exploring social systems such as social media platforms and applications. Society is very tech-savvy, we can all use apps and you don’t have to teach people how to use intuitive interfaces, most people pick them up and run with them quite quickly. How does that apply to an industrial environment; how can we take advantage of and leverage that?

How important do you think digital innovation is in manufacturing?

It is going to be absolutely critical and it will be a game changer, because the person who has the data and technology and is able to use it efficiently will have the advantage.

Speed is becoming increasingly vital. If you can get customer feedback faster and clearer then anybody else and you can respond to it, I think that that will be a massive advantage.

Where do you see the industry going; do you see it completely being digitalised?

We will still need to look at system flows, I don’t think that will change or people will be go. Rather, the future will take people away from transactional work and put them into real problem solving.

Accolade Wines' world-leading UK facility in Bristol is Europe’s largest bonded warehouse and produces more than 90% of all the wine the firm sells across the UK and Europe.
Accolade Wines’ world-leading UK facility in Bristol is Europe’s largest bonded warehouse and produces more than 90% of all the wine the firm sells across the UK and Europe.

Instead of tying people up with tasks that they don’t need to do, such as logging data, digital tools will perform that task, freeing people up to problem solve on what the data is actually telling us.

Is this your strategy going forward?

Absolutely yes. It is the freedom to think within a framework.

I have a diagram that I use which I call the ‘whirlwind’, essentially it uses the idea the people are either working ‘in’ the process or ‘on’ the process. Digitalisation takes people from working in the process – typing in data, repetitive tasks – to working on the process, taking a step back, analysing data and problem solving. In that sense, I really see the digital landscape clearing headspace for continuous improvement.

And what other opportunities is data bringing?

One of the really interesting things is measuring how much time people spend on social systems and how easy social systems are to use. I think this is a really neglected area in industry.

Businesses have a very digitally-minded workforce made up of people who weren’t trained to use Facebook, or buy things on Amazon, or play Call of Duty, but can just do it. If you can replicate that in industry then there are enormous possibilities, and no doubt opportunities that we haven’t realised yet or can’t.

What is your advice?

Take all the apps you have on your smartphone, tablet or laptop, the apps which facilitate your day-to-day activities and relationships, and switch all of them off for a week, starting now.

That is how you are running your business. If you can’t see the benefit that digital tools and data bring, if you can’t monetise the advantages, then you will struggle to embrace what’s readily-available and get your digital projects off the ground.


Reporting by Maddy White.