Machinery, supply chains, and raw materials have always been core concerns in manufacturing. Today, another asset is just as critical — data.

General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt said it well: “The industrial world is changing dramatically, and those companies that make the best use of data will be the most successful.”

I certainly agree. If manufacturers want to gain the agility, innovation, and hyper-awareness needed to compete and win, they must start thinking like technology companies. That means leveraging data — and the real-time insights derived through analytics — in impactful new ways.

At Cisco, we recently released a research study on key opportunities for manufacturing, In this survey of more than 600 global manufacturers in 13 countries, 79 percent of respondents said that digital disruption will drive a moderate to major impact at their companies in the next three years. Eighty-six percent are basing their future strategies on services, and 93 percent expect those services to become increasingly digital.

As each manufacturing operation becomes increasingly connected, all of those traditional physical assets — the industrial machines, trucks, conveyer belts, and raw materials — will also become digital assets…. generating reams of data.

Data, however, is useless without insight and action. Manufacturers need the technology and organizational foundation in place to process data in real time, anywhere in the network. Then they need to get the resulting insights to the people and machines that need them most to drive informed decision-making. Beyond that, those data-driven decisions must be turned into action. For example, using “predictive maintenance” to monitor a connected plant-floor machine for early signs of fatigue and take preventative action to avoid unplanned downtime.

All of this demands holistic, organization-wide digital business transformation. Piecemeal solutions will have limited impact, especially if data insights remain trapped within organizational silos. A fragmented organization cannot respond to rapidly evolving opportunities with agility and fast execution. Moreover, in the digital age, no one goes it alone. Data insights must be shared securely across an expanding ecosystem of partners, customers, and third-party vendors.

In short, manufacturers that adopt analytics as a core capability will thrive. This takes top-down leadership to lay the technology foundation and drive the organizational changes that will unlock new sources of value from evolving applications such as predictive maintenance and machine as a service.

In a data-empowered organization, business outcomes become the goal as digital manufacturers increase uptime, quality, energy efficiency, and customer engagement.

Today’s manufacturers face an array of challenges — everything from global market volatility to rapidly changing consumer demands. However, these challenges are dwarfed by the exciting opportunities available to manufacturers that embrace digital business transformation — and leverage analytics as a competitive advantage.

I’d love to hear how analytics is changing the way your organization is doing business.


Mala Anand

No Longer with Cisco