Taking small steps to leverage big data in your business

Big dataWhat can the life sciences, electronics and semiconductor industries teach us about manufacturing? Plenty, according to Doug Suerich, who has the enviable professional title of Product Evangelist at The PEER Group Inc., a supplier of factory automation software for smart manufacturing applications headquartered in Kitchener, ON, Canada. He will be bringing the good word to the co-located MD&M and PLASTEC East events in New York, NY, next month, but graciously agreed to share a preview of his talking points with PlasticsToday.

Advanced manufacturing operates under the dual imperatives of reducing costs while maintaining, if not increasing, quality and throughput. Smart manufacturing techniques can help to achieve those goals by leveraging big data and predictive analytics. Suerich will illustrate that at the event by referencing a couple of case studies during his presentation on June 13.

“One study involves an organization moving to a high-volume, high-mix application,” explained Suerich. “Every single product was going to be customized for each customer. That requires a whole different level of data and organization skills and processing, and that is one of the things we were able to implement,” said Suerich. The tools used in that smart manufacturing environment were similar to legacy tools,” he added, “but the way the data was handled and allowed to flow and be shared between systems is where a lot of the value and new capabilities were generated.”

The biggest takeaway from that project, said Suerich, is an understanding of the need to wrap your arms around available data. “You don’t have to have all the newest tools—there is data available and a lot of new technology can herd that data into a central location. Once you have it, you can do some reporting and really understand what’s going on in your facility,” said Suerich. Equally important, that process will provide you with information that can help you to justify any new investment into smart changes that you want to make. “But it all begins with data,” stressed Suerich.

The case study will be discussed in much greater detail at the event. In the process, Suerich will dispel some of the common misconceptions about smart manufacturing, to wit:

  • It’s just for the big guys. Not at all, Suerich told PlasticsToday. “We see a lot of value even for small and midsize manufacturers getting their arms around this.”
  • You have to do it all at once. “No one has the stomach or budget for that. Some of the best applications we have seen are companies taking baby steps,” said Suerich. “Let’s say you have three different tools at your facility. You can learn an awful lot by tracking a single item across those tools and doing a blended report on how those tools manipulate that product. People who have been working at a plant for years often discover things they had no idea about.”
  • The cost is not as onerous as people typically believe. “You can get started by making some very inexpensive adjustments,” said Suerich. “Open source technology is around now, and computing power and cloud storage are very inexpensive.”

Ready to dive in and, ahem, get smart? My best advice is to check out Suerich’s presentation, “Case Study: Smart Manufacturing Lessons Learned in Electronics, Life Sciences, and Semiconductor Industries," at 3 PM on June 13 at the co-located MD&M and PLASTEC East event at the Javits in New York. The show runs from June 13 to 15. For more information and to register to attend, go to the PLASTEC East website.

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