Harnessing operational intelligence

Australian manufacturers face many obstacles, from rising costs to the tyranny of distance. As Denise Carson explains, operational intelligence has the potential to help them do things smarter and remain competitive. 

Operational intelligence (OI) refers to methods and technology that use machine data to deliver real-time visibility, as well as insight into IT and business operations.  

Manufacturing involves massive volumes of data, which come in a variety of formats and at high velocity. Though it may seem overwhelming, Australian manufacturers need to embrace its many uses in order to sustain and grow their businesses.  

According to the International Data Corporation, unstructured data, much of it generated by machines, accounts for more than 90 per cent of organisations' data. This is particularly true in manufacturing where machine-generated data is massive in scale and contains a definitive record of transaction activity, system behaviour, application performance, user actions, security threats and fraudulent activity.  

Traditional data management means significant investment in data warehouses and marts, expensive business intelligence platforms and the associated skills sets. Relational databases cannot handle the complexity or scale of machine data and don't provide the flexibility to ask any question or get answers in real time.  

OI still requires data management skills but lowers the bar significantly and puts the ability to gain highly valuable insights from big data into a broader set of hands. IT and operations, product development, sales and marketing staff can effectively use the data, and unlock the value within.  

Information Technology  

OI platforms like Splunk significantly reduce the number of tools and skills needed to maintain complex infrastructure and deliver integrated end-to-end operational visibility across IT and manufacturing control systems. 

OI allows rapid root cause analysis of issues up to 70 per cent faster than traditional methods without having to search through integrated, interdependent systems one by one.  

Security and compliance  

Compliance can include everything from product safety to IT security and fair competition. But when this crucial issue is overlooked, manufacturers deal with major consequences, such as reduced financial performance and brand impact.  

OI looks beyond traditional sources and lets security and compliance teams analyse raw data from right across the business. The most advanced security approaches rely on a single system to collect and analyse data across all IT and operational systems, avoiding the traditional problem of having multiple, disconnected security systems. 

Application development  

Getting applications into production faster through better insights and rapid issue identification is critical in manufacturing. Tracing transactions across the IT stack to find bugs quickly and improve code quality before it hits production can make an enormous difference to quality and profitability.  

OI improves this through real time insights gleaned from machine data and log files off both the applications and the associated IT systems. Once apps are in production, users can gain insights into application usage and how to adapt to new business trends and accelerate feature development.  

Marketing and supply chain  

Discrepancies in inventory are a big problem for manufacturers and aligning production to supply and demand is critical. A great use case for OI in supply chain is Coca-Cola. They extract data from vending machines, social media and loyalty programs which feed into their Splunk OI platform. Real-time OI dashboards give a better view of the data, for example to correlate spikes in sales to events.  

Coca Cola noticed increased sales from college campuses vending machines right before Walking Dead episodes. Now every time a consumer pushes a button on Coca-Cola's Freestyle Machines, data goes into their Splunk platform helping to optimise the supply chain.  

The Internet of Things  

Connected devices, sensors and industrial systems provide an ever growing set of unique touch-points to manufacturing operations and conditions. But collection, storage and insight into machine data generated by industrial systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) can be a challenge. However, if the data can be practically harnessed there are many advantages, for example:  

· Measurement, verification and constant commissioning. 

· Capacity planning. 

· Root-cause analysis and remote troubleshooting. 

· Anomaly and outlier detection. 

· Safety and compliance. 

· Cyber security.  

In today's disruptive world, big data and the IoT is only going to keep growing. Leveraging this data is the key to the factory of the future and to sustainable success for any manufacturer.  

OI can break down the silos of data across design, manufacturing, marketing, sales and supply chain, and provides a pragmatic approach for Australian manufacturers to optimise and innovate for sustainability and competitive advantage.  

[Denise Carson is Business Manager, Operational Intelligence & Enterprise Mobility, at UXC Connect]. 

UXC Connect 

02 9847 7100 



Image: http://www.uxcconnect.com.au/

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