clock icon
min read

Cloud-Based Manufacturing Analytics Will Help Your Job Shop Grow

The manufacturing industry is facing intense headwinds, but the right cloud-based analytics software provides the insights yo

A decade ago, some of the best manufacturing systems available too often left shops with disjointed documentation. Sales might have used one system for generating quotes, while engineers used another for work definition, and the operators on the shop floor used yet another for tracking their scheduled tasks. Legacy on-premise software suffered from information silos with limited integrations and a poor ability to hand off data from one place to the next.

Today’s cloud-based manufacturing solutions are evolving the workflow of machine shops and small to mid-sized manufacturers. More connected and integrated systems not only improve the sales → production planning → execution baton-pass, but create a real opportunity to drive efficiency improvements and growth with robust manufacturing analytics.

Facing Industry Headwinds, Shops Need to Stay Competitive

This is an important time to take advantage of a rich source of manufacturing data analytics. Labor and skill shortages, supply chain disruptions, inflation… These challenges represent a “perfect storm” of counter-forces to the recent resurgence in the American manufacturing industry. 

Job shops are having trouble finding skilled workers as it is, and the shortage is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Deloitte predicts that up to 2.1 million manufacturing jobs will remain unfilled between 2020 and 2030 due to a skill gap in available talent, “impacting everything from productivity to innovation and competitiveness to GDP.” At the same time, the challenges of costing, scheduling, and tracking concerns remain as important today as they have for the last few decades. 

Shop owners can turn to manufacturing analytics software to help navigate the shifting waters of the market and adapt to changes in customer and employee expectations. Accenture has found that cloud-based analytics can help manufacturers to dramatically improve production performance, including:

  • Boosting asset utilization by 5-15%
  • Increasing yield by 15-25%
  • Improving worker productivity by 30-40%
  • Reducing inventory holding costs by 20-30%
  • Accelerating time to market by 30-50%

By using data-driven insights from cloud-based MES and ERP systems, small manufacturers can gain a vital competitive edge and ensure sustainable growth.

How Cloud-Based Manufacturing Analytics Can Help

High tech manufacturers today face a wide range of significant, persistent challenges—from infusing more agility to deal with current disruptions, to boosting efficiency and throughput, to ensuring consistently high quality. Yet most manufacturers are hamstrung in their attempts to address these challenges because they lack the visibility into their shop floor operations—

The persistent challenges facing manufacturers don’t end in the economy at large. There are plenty of obstacles to growth right in the shop that prevent businesses from achieving clear, data-driven visibility into shop floor operations. A cloud-based system for analytics can help.

Common Job Shop Problem

Cloud-Based Analytics Solution

How It Helps you Grow

  1. Poor data visibility
Real-time data collection More data-driven decisions
  1. Operational innovation is slow
Easy to trace, share, and collaborate on knowledge throughout the operation Continuous production and service improvements through feedback loops
  1. Data security concerns
Encryption, access controls, and IP protection Prevents breaches and simplifies compliance with industry data regulations
  1. High initial cost of on-premise systems
Minimal upfront expenses for software installation and infrastructure Low financial risk with high upside for your business
  1. Hard to maintain analytics as shop grows
Flexible, easily scalable platform  Scale operations quickly without losing sight of data
  1. Geographic limitations
Unified data and analytics, even across a global network of locations Easy to expand to new locations

Without a system that solves these problems, your business may find it difficult to track performance at the machine level. You may only discover you’re behind schedule through anecdotal operator comments, and by that time, you it could take weeks (or even months) to catch back up to the timelines you’ve promised your customers. 

Real-time analytics for manufacturing, facilitated by a cloud-based ERP or MES, offer the visibility you need to identify and fix issues that are undermining production efficiency and performance — and to take responsive action quickly, before any issues are out of control. The right system will help you grow and expand. However, if you’re noticing that your current solutions don’t solve the six problems above, this could be a good time to re-evaluate your systems.

Barriers to Cloud-Based Analytics & How to Overcome Them

According to Accenture, the most common barriers to adoption of cloud-based manufacturing analytics systems are:

  • Proof of value
  • Security concerns
  • Disconnected systems
  • Lack of skills to use analytics tools

The analytics platform alone cannot solve these problems. There may, for example, be little data available to feed the system because older equipment that doesn’t record data (or does, but has no easy way to share it) is still in use on the shop floor. Other times your workforce doesn’t yet have the skills needed to draw insights from or even operate their new analytics tools. It would be hard to see a return on investment for your manufacturing analytics software in such a case.  

Breaking through these roadblocks is possible, but it will require:

  1. Buy-in from the top

Leadership sets the tone from the beginning of any major organizational change. Make sure you’re planning ahead and committing the financial and operational support and time for this to succeed, and that every leader connected to the effort is “all in.”

  1. A focused game plan for the analytics

There are hundreds of ways you might use analytics in manufacturing to give you the insights you need to grow. Focus on a few that are of the most potential value to avoid a scattershot implementation that ultimately makes the impact of the new system unclear or spreads results too thin to make a difference. The long-term plan can still be to look for innovative use cases and business opportunities opened up by the move to the cloud.

  1. Tech support

A cloud-based software has innate technology advantages. For one thing, your provider can jump in quickly to help you resolve any questions or issues, provide software updates, and manage data security — and at much less expense than problems with an on-premise system. 

However, you’ll also need to take time to consider how you’re going to make a smooth flow of data accessible to the cloud manufacturing analytics system. Certain changes and tech support will likely be needed to connect disparate systems and equipment. Consider your intended use cases for analytics, and put your efforts where they’re likely to make the most difference.

  1. Employee engagement & training

Workers who are set in their ways or lack the skills to use the new technology can doom any shift to analytics-rich cloud-based software before it starts. Back up your analytics push with concerted efforts to engage the workforce, communicate early about what’s changing, and amass enthusiasm for the operational improvements this will lead to on the production floor. Time for training is essential so that everyone who touches the process can do their part properly.

Achieve Continuous Improvement & Growth With StartProto

To transform your manufacturing business into a sustainable and growing operation, you need to build from the bottom to the top of the manufacturing hierarchy of needs. The right software platform should make it easier to monitor and improve every stage of production. 

If you want to get away from paperwork orders or need a replacement for legacy systems, StartProto would love to help. Our cloud-based manufacturing software seamlessly connects your shop floor operations, real-time data, and inventory management on a platform that grows with your business. Get in touch with our team today to book a free demonstration and see for yourself how it frees up the time and resources needed to analyze your progress, continuously improve, and grow.