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Manufacturing Tomorrow

Manufacturing Tomorrow


Do Your Manufacturing Process Workflows Stifle Human Genius?

Apr 26, 2016
By: Mark Stevens

In developing workflows for your manufacturing process, the usual goal is to improve efficiency or effectiveness. Today’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions help manufacturers improve outcomes through automated workflows that reduce the need for human intervention.

While these ERP systems collect and store massive amounts of data essential in measuring performance, the complexity and rigidity of the systems tends to drive out a critical element of manufacturing innovation — natural human genius.

Quite simply, when automated workflows fail to align with how your employees actually think and work, it hinders effective decision-making. It also limits the true potential for efficiency in your manufacturing process.

Unlocking the full potential of data-driven workflows requires the application of natural human cognition. While people do think in linear processes that work well within an ERP environment, their most creative, breakthrough thinking often takes a more fluid, associative route, driven by curiosity.

Although a traditional manufacturing ERP system derives tremendous power from analyzing data within established routines and parameters, the people in your organization have the ability to glimpse patterns or connections outside the ERP’s universe. That’s why it’s important to provide advanced analytics that allow people to easily validate their theories about correlations between different data sets.

Certain people in your organization combine multidimensional thinking and tribal knowledge to understand what products should be distributed to different groups of people in different geographies. They sense connections that other people — and traditional ERP systems — are unable to see.

For example, let’s say you’re running a bicycle manufacturing company. One day, you have a hunch that there’s a connection between weather patterns and the kinds of cycling apparel you sell in a given region. If that’s true, the information could help streamline your operations and marketing efforts, increasing profitability.

With a user-friendly analytics platform, you could leverage the Big Data collected by your manufacturing ERP system and customer relationship management (CRM) software, and compare zip codes and buying patterns from customer demographics against external data on weather patterns. Identifying a strong correlation between the two, you now have the ability to tailor promotions and production patterns so that you’re anticipating customer needs.

Too often, however, automated workflows and manufacturing process effectively shut out this human intuition. If you can’t standardize or replicate how gifted people approach data, you’ll never be able to truly leverage their ability to produce exceptional results.

That’s why today’s most advanced analytics platforms need ways to discover the human cognitive patterns that yield exceptional results, uncovering best practices and incorporating them into automated workflows. If you want to take multidimensional thinking and leverage it across a company, you need some combination of software and human ingenuity.

One example of this advanced approach is the “task recorder” tool in the Microsoft Dynamics AX system. This technology tracks your company’s users as they go through a specific business or manufacturing process, and then uses this data to automatically create workflows tailored to your company. These workflows chart the decisions made and steps taken along the way, formatting them into a document that outlines best practices and procedures for selected processes.

Tools like the “task recorder” help externalize the human cognition patterns of your most effective employees and subject matter experts. If you wanted to document the best process for entering a new customer into your ERP system, for instance, the task recorder would record an expert completing the task and produce a step-by-step guide for completing the routine.

The whole point of automated workflows is to improve your manufacturing process, and that requires combining the data-crunching power of ERP systems and human cognition to drive manufacturing innovation. Bringing more natural cognitive patterns into analytics is an important way to take your manufacturing to the next level.


Mark Stevens
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