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Manufacturing BI Solution Requirements

To be truly useful in Manufacturing, BI must be fully imbedded into operational applications and processes.

The first attempts at business intelligence in manufacturing were simple standard reports that acted as hard copy dashboards for the organization. Since these were not customizable, the demand of ‘Export to Excel’ function became a top requirement in applications. This spurned the spreadmart chaos which plagues most corporations today.

Formal Business Intelligence applications provided broader and more complex insight to help companies understand their current environment and to predict the future impact of current decisions. BI functionality included packaged analytics, independent business intelligence processes, data mining decision support and analytic technologies.

BI programs use tools such as neural networks and decision trees to seek out correlations and patterns in corporate databases, well beyond what humans could detect.
Most traditional BI systems operate independent of the underlying domains, relying on business users to correctly interpret the output.

Bottom Up BI

Thus, BI largely depends on the technological skill of users, limiting execution where this is not sufficient. This has lead to a new wave of more user friendly BI tools, many with familiar Excel look and feel, and using the same filter, pivot table type functionality as MS Excel. Microsoft has gone one step further to provide tight integration of BI capability with its standard desktop programs. Whilst this increases the usability and adoption of BI tools, it does not resolve the issue of ‘correct interpretation of analysis results’. This bottom up approach to BI is likely to be the future path of many BI solutions.

Business Relevance

To provide a measure of domain relevance in analytic programs, BI vendors have either packaged their solutions into Industry vertical offerings or concentrate on point solutions.
These BI solutions provide not only the BI technology, but also underlying data models and query configurations and reports pertaining to the industry vertical. Such tools are aimed at operational, not strategic or power users.

Operational BI

At the highest level, BI tools are integrated into business process solutions, isolating the need for human interaction or interpretation at key points along the process chain. This has lead to automated decision making and process control.

Key vendors offering such solutions include: Cognos, Business Objects, SAS and Teradata.


Point Solutions

Other vendors targeting point solutions include:

Purchasing - Informatica and CombineNet. These tools support decisions around rapid increases in materials costs, greater deviations in lead times, and supplier base growth and instability.

Informatica's PowerAnalyzer analyzes purchasing data to ensure that buyers are fully leveraging negotiated deals by automatically alerts buyers when they exceed spending thresholds that entitle the company to discounts.

CombineNet is an electronic expressive bidding tool that gives suppliers the power to change economic order quantities, product bundling, delivery routes and timing or other variables to optimize efficiency.

Broader ‘point solutions’ are being approached from a configuration perspective. For instance SAS 9, promises "fit to task" intelligence, with total enterprise data focused to supporting one functional area of the business.


Typical Manufacturing Info Cubes

  • Production Plan-Actual Analysis Views
  • Plan/Actual Comparison Order/Material
  • Plan/Actual Comparison Operation/Work Center
  • Plan/Actual Comparison Material Consumption

These views provide information on:

  • Lead time production
  • Order release deviations in detail
  • Negative and positive schedule deviation order
  • Operation time in detail
  • Schedule and quantity deviations work center
  • Activity deviation target/actual

Periodic-Specific Analysis Views

  • Period-Specific Order/Material
  • Period-Specific Operation/Work Center
  • Period-Specific Material Consumption

These views provide information on:

  • Goods receipts quantity and scrap
  • Work in process
  • Actual activities
  • Actual quantity at the work center
  • Material consumption analysis

Next: Manufacturing BI Solution Vendors

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