people working at a large car manufacturing plant

How manufacturers can drive innovation with structured data

by Arvind Agarwal
In today's quickly changing digital world, the benefits of manufacturing data are no longer limited to basic forecasting, financial reporting or inventory analysis. On their manufacturing blog, IQMS notes that information is revolutionizing manufacturing in many ways, including enabling manufacturers to "continually improve product quality by using real-time data."1 However, many manufacturing companies are still limiting their use of this information — rather than using it to help improve their designs, shape products to better meet customer expectations, and save time and money by reducing iterations.

In “Manufacturing CIOs: Don't Ignore SMAC for Innovation," Ralph Billington notes, “The problem is that the process of researching, soliciting input, gathering and analyzing information and then applying the analysis to develop new and better products is time-consuming and unwieldy."2 Fortunately, with structured data, analytics tools and automated processes, you can gain the product insights you need from your data with little effort.
man wearing hardhat looking at tablet in warehouse

Drive innovation with actionable insights from your IoT data

IoT-connected devices enable you to utilize highly valuable analytics by collecting information via sensors and chips — giving your designs the ability to directly tell you how to make them better. With refrigerators, automobiles, washing machines, intelligent lockers and a variety of other products connected to the internet, manufacturers can get instant visibility into how their products are working in the real world.

Your IoT devices can also act as triggers to notify you when designs are problematic. Just as a computer in an automobile can connect its owner to a dealership to schedule an appointment when service is needed, it can also report an electrical problem to the parts manufacturer — saving engineers valuable time they may have spent running simulations without considering this important information.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers are missing out on key innovation opportunities based on their IoT data because they can't easily turn that information into the insights they need with structured data. In “What To Do With Your IoT Data in 2018," Katherine Lazarevich notes, “Despite the proven benefits of applying IoT data, many entities don't intend to derive value from their data assets simply because they don't recognize the opportunities."3 Of course, manufacturers understand that this information is valuable, but it's only as valuable as the insights they can glean from it. Driving your IoT data into intelligence is the key to quickly recognizing information that can help you improve your products. A good place to start is to build a central repository that provides visibility into structured IoT data and makes it easy for everyone on your team to access and share that information.

Once you have high visibility and easy access to this data, find an analytics solution that can aggregate and model statistical information, helping you to identify which IoT data is relevant to your designs and apply ongoing analysis to identify product improvement opportunities.

The bottom line is that to stay ahead of customer expectations, you can't afford to let your IoT data go to waste. By using this information to help prioritize insights and processes, manufacturers can devote much more time to innovations and strategic business initiatives.
woman in a warehouse looking frustrated at laptop

Turn unruly social media content into useful structured data

IoT data is by no means the only information that can provide insights to help you improve your designs. With social media, manufacturers have quick access to information that can help them make their products more customer-centric, and there's a lot of this content at your fingertips. In "61 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark for 2018," Alex York notes, "Social media and messaging accounts for roughly 1 in every 3 minutes users spend on the internet."4

Although social media platforms offer consistent, valuable content directly from customers, the mere number of platforms today — such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram — amounts to a high volume of data coming in from a variety of directions. This makes measuring and managing this information key to leveraging it for insights that can help you increase customer satisfaction with design innovations, product upgrades and more.

Billington notes, “Social media, analytics and other technologies can provide manufacturers immediate insights into customers' needs and speed up innovation." The variety of social media content available can lead you to useful insights on a daily basis. For example:

  • Customer feedback can generate ideas for new products.
  • Demographics and social media trends can help you develop better sales strategies.
  • Conversations around pricing and features can help you improve how your products are situated in the marketplace.

When you have easy access and high visibility into your social media information, these and many more insights gleaned from it can lead to innovations that keep you a step ahead of the competition.

Maximize actionable insights by bringing all of your important data together

Mapping all statistics, analytics, data, content and other information across your organization — including IoT and social media data — will make this information more valuable, enabling you to:
  • Cross-reference social media content with IoT data to better understand current issues in light of customer feedback.
  • Collaborate with customers to design new products that can add brand value by meeting customer expectations and building a strong community of people who feel a sense of ownership in your company.
  • Create targeted messages to customers that are geared to getting more information about design concerns and/or ideas — giving your marketing department an edge on the competition.

By implementing a system that structures data and categorizes information, employees in every department can make quicker, more informed decisions — helping you to surpass customer expectations.

Get the insights you need to stay ahead of the competition.

Don't struggle to bring your manufacturing operations into the digital age. Let our consulting team help you get the most out of your data with a digital transformation.
Arvind Agarwal
Arvind Agarwal

Digital Consultative Client Partner and Sales Leader

Ricoh USA, Inc.

Arvind Agarwal brings 20+ years of experience in new business acquisition, CXO level relationships, transformational outsourcing deal negotiation, strategic alliance partnerships and team building. He has acquired extensive market intelligence in IT services, domain knowledge, business trends, business planning, service delivery and technologies to build go-to-market (GTM) strategies for the manufacturing vertical.

Agarwal has a master 's degree in Manufacturing and Industrial Management with a focus in MIS from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. As a graduate student, his research included refinement of non-traditional manufacturing methods. He has also completed the management executive program at Ross School of Business, Michigan, and has earned PMP and ITIL certification.
1 "10 Ways Real Time Data Is Revolutionizing Manufacturing." IQMS. August 29, 2017.
2 Billington, Ralph. “Manufacturing CIOs: Don't Ignore SMAC for Innovation." IndustryWeek. December 22, 2015.
3 Lazarevich, Katherine. “What To Do With Your IoT Data in 2018." IoT For All. January 24, 2018.
4 York, Alex. "61 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark for 2018." Sprout Social, Inc. February 19, 2018.
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