Three Ways Big Data Helps Manufacturers Think Bigger

Everyone is running around talking about Big Data — and yes, our databases are immense. A gigabyte used to sound like a lot. But today, we talk about terabytes without even blinking.

Big Data didn’t grow up overnight. Data volumes have grown steadily for many years. But today, the value we get from all those ones and zeroes is increasing exponentially.

This is as true in manufacturing as it is in any other industry. Here are three ways Big Data is helping manufacturers think bigger than ever before.

In a recent Plex survey of manufacturers, 66 percent of respondents said cloud technologies have already improved insights into their business. Some 31 percent are either evaluating their Big Data needs and opportunities or plan to do so in the coming year—and 35 percent believe data analysis is the most important skill set for the next generation of employees.

Cloud computing. Cloud data storage. The Internet of Things. All these factors have collided to create a golden opportunity for manufacturers, who can now use massive data volumes in unexpected new ways.

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Where are these developments taking the industry? Manufacturers will soon be able to eliminate statistical process control from their quality control process. Instead, they’ll use today’s increasingly affordable sensors to gather real-time data on every item that comes off the assembly line. I’m talking about dozens of measurements on each product. The bottom line will be greater accuracy with less human involvement.

#2: Seeing the Future—and Changing It

Operational analytics are great at telling us what just happened and why. Manufacturers have been doing that kind of analysis for years. But they’re now using the predictive aspects of Big Data to monitor their operations against their quality standards. That often means predicting when a machine or tool is about to break—before it starts churning out defective products.

Predictive analytics tell us what’s about to happen. Prescriptive analytics show us how to make machines do what we want. These disciplines are the crown jewels of business intelligence. Both require vast amounts of data—and the ability to analyze it effectively. That’s what Big Data delivers for today’s manufacturers.

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