Building your Smart Factory

Improving operational efficiency in manufacturing

The key to realizing your smart factory

In the quest to achieve operational excellence, plant managers are becoming increasingly challenged to control business outcomes by democratizing analytics. But how do you put data in the hands of many without losing grip on operational efficiency in manufacturing? Or without needing a team of data scientists?

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Facing everyday challenges

As a plant manager, you have a multitude of responsibilities. Industry 4.0 has had a major disruptive impact on how these goals can be reached. Plant managers have to be resourceful at all times to enhance operational efficiency, while at the same time:

  • Reduce maintenance costs
  • Increase process & asset reliability
  • Minimize carbon footprint
  • Reach production targets
  • Increase yield without CAPEX
  • Deliver quality on demand

You’re looking for answers to questions like “Why did equipment fail?“, “Why is yield lower than expected?“, and “Why aren’t products meeting quality standards?” To face these challenges while staying efficient, you need smart insights, so you can make quick decisions.

Manufacturing companies have vast amounts of data generated by the thousands of assets and millions of sensors on its sites, so the ability to become a data-driven plant is already in place. 

Do you fully leverage your production data to optimize processes and profit from digitalization?

Learn how Ashland is using advanced analytics to build their “Factory of The Future” and increase on-target production of GMP products from 70% to 95%.

Data-driven decision making

Manufacturing companies have vast amounts of data generated by the thousands of assets and millions of sensors on its sites, so the ability to become a data-driven plant is already in place. However, generating and storing the data and making it accessible to engineers and data scientists (democratization of data) is not enough. Organizations that are truly data-driven focus on turning use cases into insights and utilizing them for data-driven decision making.

Characteristics of a data-driven plant:

  • Integrated data sources / no data silos
  • Clear data governance model
  • No gatekeepers or manual interaction
  • Full access to the right resources

Three building blocks for data-driven decision making

What do you truly need to make insights-driven decisions? People, management and technology. These form the three essential building blocks for operational efficiency in manufacturing:


The end users are the crucial knowledge holders of your processes and hold the keys to unlock the hidden value that your data can provide. Much time is spent stretching the limits of Excel. Instead, give them training to adjust to new technology and help them utilize their skills in the best way possible.


Let existing management become the driver for success. If a central group becomes the facilitator for digitalization, commitment from management is indispensable. They acknowledge a Management of Change and adopt new ways of working to continuously improve operational efficiency with relevant use cases.


Embrace technology that breaks data silos. You need the right data present at the right time and of the right quality. Although these requirements sound basic, in reality the data landscape can be quite complex. Software platforms should work together.

Who should be responsible for digitalization?

To be able to make analytics-driven decisions, clear data governance is essential. Many organizations choose to address digitalization of industrial plants either in a completely centralized or decentralized way. When centralized, they put complex tooling in the hands of data scientists. When decentralized, there is a lack of overall data strategy and analytics knowledge. Experience has taught us that the sweet spot of digitalization and operational efficiency is in the middle: federated, with a central group as facilitator of digitalization. This set up helps managers empower people at the site and invites not only the central group but also the entire organization to engage in data-driven decision making.

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Traditional control room monitors can’t tell the full story

Smart use of data is inevitable if you want to continuously improve process performance and maintain competitive costs. We believe that the key to operational efficiency in manufacturing is to strive for a plant that is as “data-driven” as possible. As a plant manager, you want to keep an eye on the ball (i.e. the long term goals) but also celebrate early and intermediate successes. With a 360 degree image in plant performance, you can monitor how business outcomes are reached and if not, decide on further actions for your team.


Reaching Your Goals – Stop thinking, start doing

There is really just one true mistake that can be made when working towards your Smart Factory, and that is to not start at all. Learn how you start working towards your goals with a single platform.

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