The Age of the Algorithm: Why Manufacturers Should Embrace Big Data

In this competitive globalized marketplace, I don’t think any manufacturer can really afford to not embrace Big Data.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Manufacturers across the industry are feeling the weight of digital disruption. Moreover, this struggle to remain relevant is compounded by the need to meet the evolving expectations of consumers in a globalized marketplace.

When combined, these challenges can seem overwhelming, especially to manufacturers who built thriving companies decades ago around more traditional business models. However, although distressing, this disruption offers manufacturers the opportunity to rethink and modernize within their operations to ensure long-term growth and stability.

And let’s face it, innovation is the cornerstone of manufacturing.

By using advanced analytics, manufacturers can gain incredible insights into their manufacturing environment. For instance, in the era of Big Data, operations managers can delve deep into historical process data and discover underlying relationships or patterns that might otherwise never been realized.

But, of course, it’s not the discovery of the data as much as what you do with it — which is where I think some manufacturers begin to go cross-eyed before doubt and confusion set in.

In November 2016, I attended Rockwell Automation’s massive annual fair in Atlanta. Thousands visited, and I spoke with scores of manufacturers from around the world during my two days there. Yet, as the conversations strayed toward Big Data, the same questions and concerns consistently emerged.

What does Big Data even mean? How do I make the business case to invest millions in a technology I don’t totally understand? What about the ROI?  

(Image credit: Shutterstock)(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The apprehension from big name industry experts and manufacturing companies was palpable, not to mention the anxiety among small or mid-size manufacturers. And, to be clear, all of these questions and worries are valid questions and worries.

It’s no small matter to restructure or even consider restructuring your operations environment. Plus, the price tag that comes along with it is never pretty.

But, before we all become cross-eyed, let’s quickly consider these other questions as well:

Could using advanced analytics make my operations more efficient? Could I reduce downtime and waste, while also improving product quality? Could this technology save me money in the long term?

If the answer is “yes” or even “maybe” to the aforementioned, then any industry veteran worth their salt knows it would be not only foolish but also irresponsible not to consider a tool with such potential.

And that’s exactly what Big Data is — a tool, one grounded in scientific application and mathematical research.

A growing number of manufacturers are choosing to embrace the era of Big Data and invest in smarter operations. I believe that’s because they’ve recognized the need for a more granular approach to diagnosing and correcting process flaws, and advanced analytics is just that approach.

Plus, in this competitive globalized marketplace, I don’t think any manufacturer can really afford to not embrace Big Data. And if they don’t, I’m willing to bet their competition will.