Understanding Intelligent Data Platforms and Their Role in Manufacturing

Jul 27, 2022 10:45:00 AM . Julia Walsh

For manufacturing organizations, perhaps the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to their digital transformation journey is the digitization of the frontline workforce through a comprehensive platform.

The platform should have the ability to connect the workforce to the enterprise while enabling data collection and facilitating real-time decision-making. That said, until recently most organizations were focused on providing better digital tools to their knowledge workers and office staff, not the frontline workforce. Leaders in manufacturing through hard-learned lessons; realized during the pandemic that frontline workforce digitization brings with it a golden opportunity for improvements in overall process efficiency and operational effectiveness. Most importantly, previously untapped treasure troves of data, right from the shop floor, which has the largest impact value if collected, viewed, and acted upon with the right context and in the right timeframe.

Intelligent Platforms that enable frontline workforce digitization and offer a way to quickly digitize the whole operation have become essential for manufacturers, but, numerous challenges exist when it comes to choosing and using an available off-the-shelf platform. Building a bespoke solution seems to be an outdated approach. Let’s briefly understand the challenges which exist and possible ways to address them. A word of caution, the choice of the platform itself and the team behind it can make a vast difference in the benefits obtained and ROI accomplished after incorporating said platform.

Challenges Explained

Accenture in a recent post explains the challenges organizations face when it comes to the endeavor of being more data-driven and using AI-based tools to improve their business and move forward with their transformation efforts.

Challenges come down to the prevalence of siloed data existing with disparate sources, making it extremely difficult to get access to all operational data in a single place with the right context. When there are too many applications and IT solutions deployed across the operation, either with a functional focus or task-based, the ability to extract data, and align and standardize it becomes a major challenge. Unless people get data that they can use for their specific needs, in the right context and at the right time, simply having the data does not help or add value.

The use of legacy applications which can at times be critical from an operational perspective are extremely hard to modify and align with modern cloud or plant applications, either because the people who designed and implemented them are no longer around, or simply because modifying them is too much of an effort from a cost and time perspective. Legacy applications, coupled with data sources that are disparate and difficult to integrate in the absence of an overarching platform, make it extremely difficult to leverage valuable data being generated within the process.

Finally, and most importantly, there needs to be resources within the organization that can create and maintain solutions to ensure data lineage issues do not arise. They need to ensure that data can be collected and presented in the right context, and select applications which enable modern architectures and data management.

 How to begin your data platform journey

Get the right platform in place. For manufacturers, going for a ready-to-use, modern, customizable, cloud-based, off-the-shelf platform is a ‘no brainer.’ With a platform like Webalo in place, you can address all the challenges highlighted by Accenture. The platform becomes the single comprehensive application to remove paper from the shop floor, connect to enterprise and automation applications, and allow workers and supervisors to interact with a well-defined feedback loop facilitated on the platform itself. Webalo eliminates the need to use multiple systems or other applications for the frontline workforce. The platform provides multiple options when it comes to architecture and database management, from fully cloud-based to on-premises and hybrid. This flexibility allows companies to both leverage real-time and massive volumes of data, while still being able to protect it.

With the right platform, frontline workforce digitization can yield results that are truly transformative in nature. It is imperative that the platform augments existing applications rather than needing to eliminate them; the goal is to access the data and contextualize it without causing massive disruptions in the process execution. Webalo does this; it integrates with and augments applications so that data from disparate sources can be consumed based on user preferences.

Put People First.

With a frontline workforce digitization platform, manufacturers can focus on what they do best, which is the creation of value through better products or gaining more value delivered through the efficient management of internal resources. Webalo is a platform that puts people first and allows users to create everything from workflows to their own apps, without having to write a single line of code.

When workers have the power of not only being able to view the data as they prefer but use it to execute tasks, share feedback, trigger maintenance requests and collaborate with other users, all on the same platform, with a GUI they have designed/configured themselves, not only does the acceptability of such a platform skyrockets, the value generated is enhanced. The easy capture and reporting of real-time data also improves exponentially.

With highly advanced platforms like Webalo on the market, it is imperative that leaders in manufacturing organizations put their frontline workforce first, and provide them with this highly intuitive, easy-to-use platform to truly achieve an end-to-end digital transformation of their process. When personnel design their own applications within the platform, data generated is of higher quality as the users always and invariably select parameters and KPIs that most affect the product and process quality. Data is the key and the most important driver of continuous improvement. With Webalo, data collection is made digital, availability is real-time, and protection is guaranteed.

When it comes to IT teams within the organization, Webalo allows them to be champions of solutions crafted for end-users. This collaboration between platform experts, internal IT, and end-users delivers the best data products, which help in generating maximum value when used and improved over a period of time across the enterprise. So by putting the frontline workforce and their data needs first and allowing internal IT to collaborate and implement the right platform, leaders can address the ‘build or buy’ question, while delivering value at the fastest possible speeds.

Addressing Intelligent IT platforms, manufacturing leaders must choose a platform that not only meets the challenges highlighted by Accenture but goes beyond initial needs. Webalo is one such platform, which will help digitize the entire process and each individual function for any manufacturing plant. Webalo is a platform that offers the ability to build focused apps to digitize the entire workflow, capture, and report on all data generated, using a single platform. Webalo covers the entire breadth of the operational processes, providing the empowerment of the workforce to optimize the enterprise.