5 Ways Spreadsheets and Data Visualization Tools Fall Short in Operations

| May 14, 2018 | 

Given the inherent complexity in manufacturing businesses, getting and keeping performance on track is a perpetual challenge. Of course, the challenges vary significantly, depending on the systems and processes your organization has in place to manage performance. Plenty of manufacturers still rely on manual data gathering processes and spreadsheets for tracking key performance indicators and other metrics. And while these manual processes may suffice for maintaining the status quo, gathering the data each week or month, consolidating it and running reports usually requires a sizable time investment from executives and managers. That means that by the time decision makers have data in front of them, it’s too late to troubleshoot issues and make course corrections that could have happened weeks ago.

On the other end of the spectrum, best-in-class companies are investing in operations management systems to automate data gathering and business process management software to replace paper-based systems. They are integrating data across key enterprise systems in support of robust reporting processes that enable them to manage manufacturing processes more effectively through one system versus many. For example, in a report on Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) systems, Aberdeen found that best-in-class companies were more than twice as likely as laggards to have integrated data with corporate level business intelligence. And they were at least 16% more likely to be able to easily drill down into KPIs for reporting.[1] These companies know that having the ability to view business performance data through a central portal via data visualization tools will help them more easily identify problems within the business and opportunities for creating value.

5 issues manufacturers struggle with to run their operations

Whether your organization is spreadsheet driven or approaching best in class, figuring out the right technologies that will help you make ongoing performance improvements isn’t easy given all of the choices available in the marketplace.

  1. Choosing an “observational” analytics solution that doesn’t enable ongoing execution improvements

    Data visualization tools that enables you to consolidate and analyze data are a dime a dozen. As a manufacturer, you also need capabilities that enable you to perform root cause analysis to quickly figure out what is causing a problem, act on it and track progress through resolution. Without these capabilities, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to find and fix issues and it’s much more difficult to hold people accountable.

  2. Failing to look at data in context to truly understand improvement opportunities

    Siloed data from different business functions, units and locations only tells you so much. To hit business goals, you need the ability to see the big picture of what’s happening across the entire organization and drill down into problem areas and know why the problem is occurring. The typical data visualization tools or business dashboards do not show you this level of detail.

  3. Not keeping workers at all levels on the same page about current performance

    The faster you and your teams learn about misses or issues and address them at their point of origin, the less they will cost. With many types of solutions, however, executives and managers are the only ones with access to performance information. It’s far more effective to keep everyone from front-line workers to executives in the loop and prioritize alerts based on who is best able to address them at any given time.

  4. Inability to hold people accountable on a daily and weekly basis, leading to ongoing misses

    This ties back to the first point, in that, if you lack effective problem-solving capabilities along with the ability to assign people action items, it’s much more difficult to realize ongoing operational performance gains. Empowering employees to make decisions and drive appropriate actions using real-time performance data and problem-solving tools is key to keeping operational goals on track on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

  5. Relying on myriad systems to track tasks and issues that are not linked to frontline performance

    Data visualization shows operational performance views

    There are plenty of good operations management tools available for KPI management, project management, task management and analytics. Working in these systems in isolation, however, makes it very difficult to understand how specific actions are positively or negatively impacting performance. A comprehensive solution that encompasses all essential business management capabilities is a much better option. It can give you end-to-end visibility at all levels and enable you to clearly link frontline performance details to higher level corporate initiatives.

When you’re ready to dig deeper into solution options, give us call. Dploy Solutions is the only business process management software that uses links between strategy, KPIs and actions to more efficiently provide deeper and broader views into what is truly going on in the business and determine where new technologies and/or processes could help lagging areas.

5-Step Process to Manufacturing Digital Transformation[1] Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM): A Guide To Business Process In The Factory, Aberdeen Group, July 2015.

[2] Ibid.