Decision making is an important activity at the centre of every industrial processing plant, whether it’s deciding on how to optimise manufacturing efficiencies in the face of supply chain fragility or how many engineers to safely deploy in the field to maintain operations 24/7 – it all helps to power efficiencies, compliance, sustainability and competitiveness, explains Intoware’s CEO Keith Tilley.
According to the Made UK/PWC Executive Survey 2022, UK manufacturers felt positive about growth in the beginning of this year having survived the pandemic. This is despite the fact that processing plants face a number of threats, from supply chain disruption, labour shortages and rising material costs and since then, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine causing energy prices to surge impacting heavy industries.
In the face of these challenges, being able to respond quickly and accurately is critical not only to competitiveness, but survival. Having an effective digital strategy in place that delivers actionable insights is the key to mitigating many of these issues.
Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology, facilitates the access to data in ‘real-time’, without the need to take the assets being monitored out of service. This allows access to critical data that supports asset managers, supervisors and frontline workers so corrective action can be taken to minimise downtime to ensure that production targets and compliance standards are met.
To better understand how data informed businesses are post-pandemic, workflowautomation specialist Intoware commissioned an independent survey of 1,030decision industrial businesses on the 28th February to the March 2022.
It included manufacturing, utilities, oil and gas, civil engineering and rail transport and logistics sectors. Everyone from senior decisions makers, managers, supervisors to frontline workers were asked key questions to discover how they use data and their attitudes towards it for business decision making.
Intoware found that 74% of manufacturers post-pandemic, are relying on legacy systems and spreadsheets to get tasks done, believing this inflexible, often out-of-date, disconnected data is sufficient to support corporate decision making.
The survey showed that most manufacturers,86% claimed to be data-informed and 76% trusted data enough to complete tasks, this is despite most of them relying still on disparate legacy systems.
Intoware’s CEO, Keith Tilley, comments: “The research revealed that most of those surveyed believe they are data-driven, when in reality they could be relying on old, out-of-date data. This disconnected data acts like a ball and chain, tying down your staff as they spend a huge amount of time trying to unlock data trapped in spreadsheets and legacy systems to meet the demands of businesses, customers and regulators.”
With 77% of decision makers having access to data and over three quarters, 82%, believe that data is an asset, which is very good news. However, just under half of those surveyed, 47%use data only occasionally to help get the job done - as the reality is that their data is siloed.
While over half of those surveyed,64% are interested in using digital software ‘tools’ to support their role, it seems that a significant minority simply don’t have the skills to use the new data these systems provide, with 21% feeling overwhelmed and another 24% feel only slightly confident when using data to back decision making, that is almost half, 45% of those surveyed.
Despite this, when it comes to passing on critical skills and expertise from ageing workers to help plug the skills ‘gap’ for the next generation, 74% see digital ‘tools’ as playing a valuable part in sharing knowledge. So, it’s no surprise that over half of companies, 60% intend to invest in data skills, training and development in 2022 to help meet this challenge.
A culture of un-informed decision-making
While it seems that a culture of un-informed decision making still persists for many, with 26% having made decisions based on ‘gut-feel’ during their careers and over a third, 21% doing this on a monthly basis and a worrying 16% each week.
This culture goes right to the very top of businesses, with just under a third, 28% of senior decision makers and 27% of managers relying on ‘gut-feel’. This can have serious implications, such as when managers need to introduce engineering changes without assessing the impact on current works for example, which is detrimental to business performance.
So why isn’t it yet working, with most businesses relying on siloed data that risks flawed decision making and low productivity? A simple answer to this challenge lies with smart digital workflow technology, Intoware developed its digital work-instruction platform WorkfloPlus using mobile and assisted reality (AR) wearable devices from RealWear.
WorkfloPlus converts out-of-date paper-based and legacy processes into easy to follow, step-by-step digital work-instructions. It gives frontline engineers access to the data resources, information and support they need to complete critical procedures. But most importantly, it provides the data analytics needed to help streamline asset maintenance and compliance, delivering a proven 200% gain in productivity.
Manufacturer Bayer Pharmaceuticals digitises batch change-overs
A forward-thinking client, Bayer Pharmaceuticals is deploying WorkfloPlus combined with RealWear ‘hands-free’ AR headsets to streamline and manage its critical production change over process and improve accuracy, in what is a highly regulated market.
Drug manufacturing operations require regular cleaning and change overs between each batch, by using digital work-instruction platform WorkfloPlus it allows this procedure to be taken in a constant and timely manner, to help minimise “down-time” for greater cost efficiency, while at the same time it provides thorough audit checks that satisfy rigorous GxP (good practice) compliance standards, preventing the risk of fines - better than any paper ‘tick-list’ could deliver.