Business intelligence for manufacturing:
use cases, features, and top tools

Business intelligence for manufacturing: use cases, features, and top tools

August 31, 2023

11 manufacturing BI use cases

1

Production analytics

Manufacturers use BI tools to collect and analyze current and historical plant floor data to:

  • Identify production process constraints, inefficiencies, and bottlenecks as well as generate improvement recommendations
  • Get an insight into employee, machine, workstation, and department capacity to allocate resources more efficiently and optimize production schedules
  • Measure overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) across the plant and track machine KPIs to identify patterns and causes of performance loss and OEE decrease

Manufacturing BI software functionality

Manufacturing BI solutions come with a collection of tools that integrate, manage, and analyze production data coming from various data sources and heterogenous data structures. Here, we outline the key features of BI solutions manufacturing enterprises would benefit from.

Manufacturing BI software functionality

Data integration and management

Manufacturing data is scattered across different devices and systems involved in a plant’s production processes. That is why BI software has to enable data integration with various systems (via pre-built connectors, open APIs, SDKs) as well as provide ETL capabilities to cleanse, reformat, and structure data for easier use.

Data storage

Consolidated data ready for analysis and reporting should be kept in a structured storage - an enterprise data warehouse. The data warehouse is the best option to store aggregated historical data in a highly-structured format. This central data storage can also be complemented with an operational data store that contains current data for ad-hoc reporting and dimensional data marts built specifically for particular user groups.

Data analysis

Analytics capabilities of the BI solution are dictated by the specific business needs and objectives of a manufacturing company. Traditionally, BI software supports descriptive and diagnostic analysis. However, as the analytics maturity among companies is increasing, modern BI solutions can provide ML-driven predictive analytics and recommendations, real-time production data analysis down to the IoT-generated data level, augmented data analytics for non-tech users, and much more.

Data delivery

There are multiple choices for delivering BI content to end-users. These can include standard reports published on a schedule, a highly interactive interface of a self-service BI tool that empowers end users to query data, build reports, and share dashboards, or web portals and corporate applications with embedded BI content.

Data governance and security

To ensure the high quality and accessibility of business information as well as its proper usage and storage, a BI solution should offer robust data governance and security capabilities. Key functionality that enables data security and the BI solution’s regulatory compliance are end-to-end data encryption, dynamic data masking, granular access control, multifactor authentication options, and user activity auditing. 

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Key integrations for manufacturing BI

To import and analyze data and deliver actionable business insights, manufacturing BI software can be integrated with the whole manufacturing operations management ecosystem as well as other corporate applications and data sources. Among the most common integration are:

ERP
MES
SCADA system
Product lifecycle management software
Quality management software
Advanced planning and scheduling
Key integrations
Specification
management software
Supply chain management
EAM software
CMMS
CRM software

  • Production planning and scheduling data
  • Inventory data
  • Supply chain data
  • Regulatory data

Top BI tools for the manufacturing sector

Key features
  • Pre-built connectors for 150+ data sources, including relational and non-relational databases, data warehouses, big data software, local files, and spreadsheets Native integration with the Microsoft Azure ecosystem  Native support for DAX, Power Query, SQL, R, and Python Self-service data preparation, analysis, reporting and visualization NLP capabilities Real-time data streaming 
  • Pre-built customizable visuals Data storytelling capabilities  Team commenting and content subscriptions Row-level security, bring-your-own key support, and data encryption Mobile-ready  Embedded BI Available as a SaaS option running in the Azure cloud or as an on-premises option in Power BI Report Server
Pricing
Power BI Desktop free Power BI Pro $9.99 per user/month  Power BI Premium $20 per user/month or $4,995 per capacity/month with an annual subscription and an unlimited number of users Power BI Embedded from $1.0081/hour   Free trial for 2 months
      Product differentiation
      Augmented analytics capabilities, including intelligent narratives and anomaly detection capabilities
          Limitations
          Limited functionality of the on-premises version

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              Top 5 benefits of manufacturing BI

              Business intelligence enables complete transparency of the company’s operations and performance, advancing data-driven decision-making. As a result, BI implementation brings multiple benefits across all functional areas of the manufacturing company. 

              Streamlined supply chain management

              Manufacturing companies usually work with multiple vendors, suppliers, carriers, and distributors, so managing the supply chain can be a challenge. With BI software at hand, manufacturers can measure supplier performance and choose the most reliable one, get a deep insight into product delivery and distribution costs to devise an optimization strategy, and analyze supply chain disruptions to prevent production delays.

              Manufacturing BI challenges and their potential solutions

              Analytics insights derived with the BI software are not trustworthy and reliable because of the poor data quality.

              • For BI to become a valuable resource and provide trustworthy data, manufacturers should set up a robust data quality management program, which includes:
              • Data quality management software that automates the processes of data quality assessment, cleansing, standardization, transformation, metadata management, and quality control
              • Data quality management committee who are responsible for managing and enforcing data quality initiatives
              • Comprehensive data quality management strategies, policies, and procedures

              End users continue using familiar tools, neglecting the rich functionality of manufacturing BI software.

              • To mitigate BI adoption issues, manufacturers should:
              • Give preference to self-service BI software with intuitive user interface and NLP capabilities
              • Deliver role-based user training and onboarding to promote data culture and encourage continuous learning  
              • Demonstrating tangible benefits of the newly-implemented BI software and how it addresses their pain points
              • Identify potential adoption problems and issues by continuously monitoring user activity logs and support requests

              Manufacturers connect and share BI content with many external stakeholders as well as access data from mobile devices, which can compromise data security.

              • To protect corporate data from data breaches and unauthorized access, manufacturers should apply solid data governance and security practices when introducing a BI solution. Manufacturing BI software offers capabilities for:
              • Automatic discovery, labeling, and masking of sensitive data
              • End-to-end data encryption
              • Restricting access to data according to user roles and multi-factor user authentication
              • 24/7 user activity monitoring and regular risk assessment
              • Screen capture blocking and clipboard access control for mobile devices

              Transform manufacturing processes with smart insights

              Manufacturers generate enormous volumes of data, and business intelligence is one of the few tools able to quickly and accurately process it, helping companies make informed business decisions that lead to tangible improvements. Besides helping manufacturers with persistent problems, business intelligence solutions also uncover previously unknown issues, such as product families yielding lower margins or suppliers disrupting production.  If you want to achieve complete analytics and reporting transparency and understand how to improve your bottom line, feel free to reach out to Itransition’s BI consultants for advisory and development support.