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As an operations manager, continuous improvement will be part of your DNA. Approaches like plan-do-check-act and six-sigma, a familiar part of your team’s ways of working. These are however, reactive methodologies which rely on you discovering a problem before you act to remedy it. Fine tuning operations, to squeeze the very last £££s of efficiency savings has been on the agenda within manufacturing operations for decades. But what if there were a way to pro-actively seek out improvement opportunities that lay hidden within the vast amount of data generated within a typical shop floor each and every day?

Artificial intelligence technologies offer such an approach. To be specific, statistical analyses of data sets using pre-defined algorithms that can highlight anomalies in process telemetry, whether recorded via connected sensors or from manual inputs by human operators.

The Mythical Magic Data Wand

Listening to industry press and digital transformation gurus, it might appear to some as though, some giant super-computer, hosted who knows where in a mysterious cloud is waiting to crunch your numbers and transform your business into the next Uber overnight. But let’s get real. The intelligence built into any “AI” system is far from artificial, it comes from human developers, you know those weird guys that hang upside down in the server room at work?

Without clean, complete and accurate data, you’ll be wasting their time and yours by asking for yet another report that slices falsehoods in some other way.

Get Clean – Stay Clean, before you do anything else

If you don’t have a single version of manufacturing truth, that you trust and understand the lineage of, then you should only read until the end of this paragraph before you pick up the phone and start dealing with the issue. The old adage of garbage-in, garbage-out applies to AI more than any other technology. So, if you need help in dealing with data quality and availability issues, contact Columbus today and we can assist you in putting this key step in place, before your drive to become a data driven operation moves to the next level of maturity.

Uncovering the hidden insights

Given that we have some good data, we can now start to ask some smart questions of it. Remember those weird guys from IT? Let them be the custodians of your data, while you take the reins and start to reap the benefits of sweating the information assets. Earlier in the post, we implied that there isn’t a magic wand that will show you the way to fortune and glory overnight, which is true, but there is an easy and cost-effective first step that you can take that will set you on the path. Asking a set of pre-defined initial questions on a trusted set of data, is what we would propose to accelerate your improvement agenda.

Microsoft’s analytics platform, gives unparalleled capabilities to ingest, process and visualize data at scale 24/7/365 at a monthly price point your CFO will love. But we don’t need to go quite that big to start with.

From tiny acorns…

Columbus has developed an approach, whereby, with a little data to play with, we can unlock the hidden value within your process telemetry and give a whole new perspective on day-to-day operations within your manufacturing facilities. Some of what we find may be spurious, but in our experience, hidden amongst the noise, we usually find some real golden nuggets. From those initial findings, expanding into a more detailed analysis, can bring big benefits, once you have the certainty of hard data to back you up.

If you'd like to find out more about this process, download our guide to Digital Six Sigma by clicking below.

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