In this article, we are going to discuss what are the main challenges in product data management that need to be solved and why it’s crucial for organizations to make better use of their available data in order to significantly boost performance. Today we live in a world that is continually being transformed by data. There is a real data explosion and the right tools are needed to effectively leverage the hugely valuable opportunity that data can present and also what data can unlock. The right product data management tools collect and transform data and the output is meaningful content that enables you to make smarter and faster decisions that can directly impact the bottom line.
At Actify we’re more than just a viewing tool. We’ve developed several software solutions for the discrete manufacturing industry to help companies better manage and make better use of their product data. We believe that software tools can provide tremendous benefits especially for manufacturing companies through the intelligent use of their available data and through automating mundane processes.
Key trends in the nowadays manufacturing industry are data connectivity, integration, merging of data between business systems and connectivity with the shop floor through sensors and connected devices. So, the challenge for manufacturing companies today is not necessarily about creating more data but about unlocking and leveraging the potential value that data represents and unlocking the data that is currently trapped within their business systems.
The next generation of technologies seeks to overcome communication barriers and to improve collaboration while focusing on increasing data accessibility and overcoming the traditional data access barrier. The barrier could be the lack of right applications to view the information, or that from certain geographic locations it is not possible to see the information that’s held at different company sites.
The next generation of technologies is focusing on liberating the data that is held captive within your line of business systems and it is focusing on data visibility, data accessibility and ultimately supports the communication and collaboration across the entire value chain and across the entire enterprise. This way product data management will gain new meanings in the era of connected manufacturing.
Gathering product data
Gathering the needed product data is one of the biggest challenges in manufacturing today because most companies record incredible amounts of data at every stage of a product’s lifecycle but unfortunately, most of it is generally inaccessible. Relevant data is usually spread across the enterprise or sits on individual’s hard drives and are held within multiple business systems. As a result, the average worker spends approximately 36% of their time searching for and consolidating information. With our tool, Actify Centro, we can unlock valuable product data and we can make it accessible and universally consumable for the entire enterprise.
Tracking initial development activities
Traditional business systems focus on providing support at the production end of a product’s development cycle and as a result, the initial development phases are not effectively documented. At Actify we focus on tracking initial concepts and development phases because ultimately that is where at least 80% of project costs are defined.
Manage and communicate engineering data
Many departments across the organization need access to the valuable information that is contained within CAD files. Historically it has been very expensive to provide CAD tools to non-engineers and in some cases the return on investment of providing CAD tools to engineers who are not using CAD systems on a daily basis is questionable.
With Actify Centro we can provide cost-effective tools that have web-based CAD viewing capabilities and can be accessible by the entire enterprise.
Visibility and access to enterprise data
80% of enterprise information is either unstructured or is held within business silos and generally inaccessible. This is why we focus on unifying all of your business systems, gathering data from across the enterprise and putting it into a central, neutral repository that delivers visibility to your product data. This way we overcome the barriers of dispersed company locations and allow you to manage your product data without geographical restrictions.
Self-service data discovery
46% of users are currently dissatisfied with the existing search capabilities or the search applications that are held within their organizations. Our Centro solution enables business users to analyze or interrogate CAD data and get access to information associated with CAD files. The tools available within the Centro application allows users to organically navigate their way around information, do comparisons and discover product data on their own.
Keeping product data in sync
The costs of producing from the wrong Bill of Materials or the wrong file versions can potentially be very high. In order to mitigate/eliminate these risks, Centro synchronizes enterprise data in an automated and orchestrated fashion to ensure that everyone is working on the latest file version. In Centro, the different revisions are archived when using our check-in and check-out functionalities and ultimately, we can ensure that concurrent file management is in place in order to prevent data being lost or overwritten when teams collaborate.
People are becoming a lot smarter about how they use data both in their workplaces and in their private life. Within manufacturing environments, people use data constantly. But it’s not just engineers or skilled workers that need access to information. Today almost everyone in a company relies on data to complete their jobs. People expect these data in real time because consumer technologies such as smartphones and various phone apps have made people used to receiving and consuming large amounts of information in order to organize and track aspects of their personal life. So why can’t they receive the same tools and capabilities within their workplace?
The main challenge that organizations are facing today is how to leverage and integrate their data. The question is how do they gain and provide access to the data, to the wider enterprise and how do they compress or summarize information to get the right balance between useful information and data overload.
This simple graphic illustrates the magnitude of data held inside a manufacturing environment. Traditional means of extracting information from these systems are tedious meetings, manual reporting or manual data collection. The illustration on the right shows how through software application such as Actify Centro, we connect business applications and provide you with synced, easy-to-understand views and with aggregated data to provide you with a complete, holistic picture of your projects across the enterprise.
Communication and collaboration
Today we are creating more data than we have in any other previous year. The main question is what can we do with all that data and how we are going to be able to get intelligence from it. Just imagine if you could unlock or release the business value that is trapped within all your applications or even other key sources such as static Excel spreadsheets. This is where we see technology within the manufacturing industry really starting to gain traction because continual improvement to achieve greater efficiencies with tighter control over processes remains year after year a top priority for senior executives. Therefore, considerable investments in such enterprise product data management systems can be expected, especially within the manufacturing industry to come. The enterprise product data management systems of the future will unite the enterprise data, provide data accessibility and visibility to the wider enterprise users, but ultimately will leverage data to unlock valuable business insights.