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by Ergin Tuganay, Head of Data & IoT

Actionable Data – Accelerating the Speed of Innovation in Manufacturing

If increasing the uptime of your manufacturing equipment was easy and fast, would you do it?

In our customer enterprises, we at Nortal often encounter situations where the customer has invested significant time and resources in building a “data gold mine.” This is a system or storage where masses of critical data from, e.g., manufacturing operations systems, financial records, sources of market intelligence, and other origins are gathered. However, the shortcoming of such systems often is that it is difficult, sometimes even impossible, to get actionable insights from them. 

Go fast when you must, and be thorough when you can 

At their best, systems related to data utilization should be agile and speedy, allowing a “try fast, fail fast” culture. Too often, however, they fall into a category where tools are monolithic, and every modification requires a specialized developer.  

A so-called “Pace-layered Application Strategy” means, in Gartner’s terms, simplistically, that you should go fast when you must and be thorough when you can.  

The Pace-layered Application Strategy classifies an organization’s IT systems into three layers. Systems of Innovation are the highest and “fastest” layer of the three. This layer includes fast-paced systems that enable new ideas and typically allow organizations to find the next competitive advantage in the market. This is where we at Nortal want to place the systems that feed insights from data to your manufacturing processes and facilities. Low-code tools and platforms like Microsoft Power Platform are essential to our toolkit to do just that.

Organizations nowadays require the capability to react to production failures swifter. They need more transparent, real-time visibility of their production processes and even want to foresee and prevent possible outages. For years already, it has, of course, been possible to build applications that break data silos and make insights more accessible and actionable. By using only custom applications, however, they often require extensive projects and become very tied to the programmer(s) who implemented them. 

Another widely utilized tool for gathering data is naturally Excel. Nevertheless, there are often challenges related to “Master Excels” that circle around the organization and live on shared disc space: data collection is burdensome, version management virtually impossible, manual work extensive, and the timeliness of data questionable. 

Real-life examples speak for themselves 

By leveraging cutting-edge hybrid cloud technologies and modern low-code tools like Microsoft Power Platform, it is now possible to get actionable insights on data without massive projects, steep investments, or writing custom applications whose maintenance and updates might prove problematic.  

At its simplest, an example could be a solution detecting that a component in the system is vibrating differently than previously. This data and the conclusion automatically made from it could result in an automated service request to the maintenance supplier of the factory. In another scenario, we could gather data from past months and analyze, e.g., the top five outage reasons. This would allow us to target the maintenance activities to parts of the manufacturing process that is most likely to fail. 

In time-sensitive industries like food manufacturing, the output of a modern organization’s production line is no more manually fed to an Excel sheet the next day or the following week, anymore. Instead, the factory supervisor will see in real-time whether production is at speed with the daily targets. Corrective measures can start immediately if the system detects deviations or sends an automated notification. Such solutions allow much more proactive communication with external stakeholders like customers, too. From a user experience point of view, if the customer prefers, all activities and communications related to data and insights can be concentrated in the Microsoft Teams user interface as Teams, nowadays, is the number 1 tool for most white-collar workers.

Cloud – a threat or an opportunity? 

Microsoft Power Platform is a 100% cloud-based solution. We at Nortal often hear concerns from customers about “the Internet being broken”, e.g., what will we do if our production systems rely on the cloud? While this is a valid question and a worthwhile discussion, we still encourage our customers to think of the big picture: there are ways to mitigate the risks, and maybe most business- and time-critical applications are not the ones to “cloudify” first.  

In today’s digitizing business environment, however, it is almost impossible to stay competitive without some confidence in a working network. And simultaneously, at this moment, many of the customers who ponder these questions are moving their production or ERP systems like SAP to the cloud because the benefits of it have been concluded overpowering.  

So, while healthy caution is advisable, the fear of relying on ultra-safe, backed-up “hyper cloud environments” of reliable players like Microsoft should not hinder the development of applications and tools that enable data-based innovation and competitive advantage. 

Enabling data-based innovation and competitive advantage

Modern low-code tools like Microsoft Power Platform are at their best in business challenges where the output is not apparent, and trialing is needed to come up with the best possible approach. With shallow barriers to entry, many of our customers have started their first Power Platform pilots with minimal licensing costs and commitments to consulting work. With a tested and coherent platform that includes tools for application security and life cycle management, the maintenance and updating of these new systems and tools are also pleasantly cost-efficient. 

If you’re tired of struggling with data silos and inefficient processes, it’s time to explore the benefits of modern low-code tools like Microsoft Power Platform. With Nortal as your partner, you can increase the uptime of your manufacturing equipment and gain real-time visibility into your production processes. Our cutting-edge hybrid cloud technologies and proven Pace-layered Application Strategy allow you to go fast when you must and be thorough when you can, delivering actionable insights and competitive advantage with minimal investment and risk. So ask yourself: If increasing the uptime of your manufacturing equipment was easy and fast, would you do it? The answer should be a resounding yes, with Nortal.

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