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How the pandemic has highlighted the importance of data

09 July 2020

When people think of Industry 4.0, data isn’t often the first thing to come to mind. There’s robotics. Simulation. Virtual, augmented and mixed realities. Yet data is arguably the most important part of industrial digitalisation. Made Smarter Business Adviser Peter McOnie dives into the significance of data – in the current climate, in the post-COVID-19 future, and in the manufacturing businesses that Made Smarter has supported.

The current coronavirus outbreak has subjected us to a lot of data. Every day, the news brings us updated statistics. Medical and clinical experts talk us through charts. And the Downing Street daily briefings show us the type of data that informs our decision-making. In these extremely unique and critical times, it’s the effective communication of data that is underpinning the national strategy.

This data is equally critical to businesses. Leaders and decision-makers are using it to help them successfully manage their operations and navigate the challenges that COVID-19 has presented.

However, this data is not always easy to understand. I hear people asking the same or similar questions, trying to make sense of it in the context of their own world.

There have been a few key learnings from this. Who communicates the data, for example, is extremely important. How the data is tailored to its audience is just as crucial too. By homing in on the pertinent data, and using visualisation to display it in a digestible format, findings can be turned into something that’s relatable to us all.

And then the last – and perhaps most important – lesson is that data is extremely powerful… when used correctly.

Data to alleviate future fears

This brings me on to a key point: data is not always utilised in the right way. Many people are currently anxious about the future, and scare-mongering articles that blow the data out of proportion are doing little to allay these fears.

However, if the right people put it across in the right way, it can instead bring hope. Yes, returning to work won’t be easy. But with the right use of data, we can smooth out an otherwise bumpy transition.

At Made Smarter, we use data on a daily basis. We also discuss its value with manufacturers as we untangle the complexities of Industry 4.0. And by using our data expertise, we can support colleagues and employees through a potentially challenging time.

The government’s model is founded on the principles of sharing the data, defining what it means, and then communicating this clearly. It’s grounded on this idea of shared learning. And maybe this is what is key right now: if we share knowledge effectively, then we all have a better chance of succeeding.

We’ve taken this approach with the Made Smarter LinkedIn Group. This peer-to-peer forum has been designed so that we can share ideas and collaborate with each other. In this way, the manufacturing community can #ComeBackSmarter.

Data with Made Smarter’s support

Data is incredibly important to manufacturing SMEs – we knew this long before the pandemic. Their digital journey and growth plans rely on it. And this actually proves to be an advantage for the whole supply chain ecosystem.

Made Smarter provides support to these manufacturers. And we recognise the importance of using data correctly. Often, makers already collect data but aren’t yet using it to their advantage. Or their processes are currently too fragmented to allow for effective analysis. That’s why our support always starts with getting to know the business inside and out, to pinpoint where technology can be best placed.

Nearly 75% of those that we have helped put data and systems integration at the centre of their digitalisation strategy. They’ve chosen this route because they know that they can use data to identify production and labour trends, rectify maintenance and quality issues, minimise operational downtime, and reduce safety and business risks.

These businesses are using new technologies to capture and collate data so they can uncover opportunities, challenges and solutions. Many are even taking it one step further and successfully analysing it through artificial intelligence and machine learning.

One example is Plastic Card Services. With the funding and support of Made Smarter, they invested in a completely bespoke solution. This reads a plastic card, examines a data file in real time, and then encodes it. They’ve additionally implemented software to interrogate their database of customer card data, so that it can effectively manage the daily print jobs.

It has seen significant success too, winning them a new three-year contract worth £500,000 each year and boosting their turnover by 8%.

Want to reap the rewards of data? Speak to the advisers here at Made Smarter. We can tell you all about how it could work in your business – both now and in the future. On top of our technology advice, we also provide other support and funding to help you move along your digital journey. Get in touch today at https://www.madesmarter.uk/msregister

 
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