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How Data May be the Most Valuable Thing You’re Throwing Away

If you found out today that your team was throwing away raw materials, would you be upset? Of course you would. It’s unthinkable in business to take assets and discard them if there’s value to be extracted from them.

But for some reason, data is treated differently.

There’s a wealth of data in many wood manufacturing facilities that is simply not being captured, and therefore can’t be analyzed. Insights into how to optimize production and improve profitability are missed as opportunities pass companies by with every tick of the clock. Those that gather data and analyze it with modern tools, however, are gaining new information that is allowing them to improve continuously and rise above the competition.

“Why do I need data to tell me about my own factory?”

Okay, some folks look at their factories and think, “I know what’s going on here. I don’t need data analysis to tell me where my bottlenecks are and how to schedule production.” The thing is, we sometimes don’t know what we don’t know. Over time, habitual ways of doing things become ingrained and it becomes harder and harder to see ways to improve that might be staring us right in the face.

For example?

Data analysis showed that the way one company was using a CNC nesting machine was eating up precious seconds. Over thousands and thousands of repetitions, this was wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in lost productivity. It also revealed that the time spent cleaning up the mess made by their edge bander was far more significant than everyone thought. A cleaner modification paid for itself in just months, and created substantial time savings every single product run after that.

But without data collection, improvements like that might be missed, along with a wealth of others. As they say, data is the new oil, which can be taken to mean a number of things. Obviously, the worldwide market opportunity in data is quite massive. Oil also transformed our productive capacity by allowing us to leverage stored energy to do incredible things. In the wood manufacturing context, however, there’s a flow of data traveling right through your factory, with stored insights that could significantly increase your efficiency, use of labor, and profitability.

Data is as good as oil, running right under your shop floor.

If you’re not capturing or analyzing it, it’s slipping right through your grasp.

“How do I collect data?”

RFID technology. Advancements have made it possible to insert RFID tags into your parts, avoiding the problems with surface labels in an industry where we constantly are sanding, polishing, and painting surfaces. The cost has also decreased over the years to the point where it’s no longer an issue worth considering. Once parts are trackable, you completely reveal all the metrics behind their journey through your facility. This is the raw data needed for analysis that generates highly valuable insights.

Projections based in reality

Powered by data gathering, one advanced MES system can compare the upcoming orders and capacity needed against what you actually produced at the same time in the past. This gives you a realistic assessment of your operational reality. It can make planning a lot easier to see that you’re going to need to add some shifts to handle demand, even when it looks on the surface like you’ve got enough manpower in place.

Without this advancement, traditional systems can be based on standards of production that are divorced from reality. Allowing your system to understand actual operations can provide planning guidance that is far more accurate, in real time, to guide your decisions.

Reveal the invisible

Data also enables powerful dashboards. Being able to look over at your monitor (even remotely) and see how many parts you processed in the last 30 minutes keeps your finger on the pulse of your facility even when you’re not there. You also get a preview of your financial picture ahead of time, with the ability to intervene if necessary. Gathering information and data puts you closer to the reality of your business than ever before, allowing you to eliminate nasty surprises – for yourself, your team, and your customers.

No one like nasty surprises.

So, when you ask questions like these:
. How many parts are we processing per minute?
. What will this adjustment do my flow of product?
. Which customer orders should be scheduled next, and in what order?

Data can provide meaningful answers to support smart decisions. And no, you don’t need a data geek to analyze this stuff. Your manufacturing execution system will show you straightforward dashboards and reports. The data is trying to talk, we just need to listen.

A point about long term strategy

Next-level facilities are leveraging AI tools to provide incredibly optimized guidance and production orchestration. But without data input, it’s impossible to make use of these tools. Again, this is the raw material they need to function, and the best time to start gathering it is now. That way, you avoid situations when competitors have been soaking up information for years and are several major insights ahead.

Knowledge is power, and data is the robust knowledge resource that you’re sitting on an invisible mountain of.

Contact us today if you’re curious about how data analysis could make your shop smarter, more productive, and more profitable.

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