Are You Following These 6 Best Practices for Data-First Manufacturing? - Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on UnsplashAre you fully leveraging the data your company generates to improve your manufacturing? Or are you letting precious insights slip away because the investment seems too high?

Today, companies wanting to stay relevant and competitive look to new technology and innovation to improve operations, costs, and workforce engagement. It should be the same in the manufacturing industry, where technology can revolutionize processes and workflows. All that technology means a lot of data is generated about your company. Manufacturing leaders can use that data to gain insights into what’s working, and can make data-informed improvements around what’s not.

Getting a handle on all your data and applying it to the business is no doubt a challenging initiative, but the insights promise to be highly rewarding. As you are charting your data-first manufacturing strategy, consider some lessons learned from other manufacturers.

Benefits of Data-First Manufacturing

There are several benefits that having a data-first approach to your manufacturing can bring to your workforce, your operations, and your bottom line. First, by using data to make operations and workflows more streamlined, you can create a more empowered, engaged workforce. More streamlined operations also means quicker time to value — upwards of 30% more productivity and 50% less downtime — which can improve relationships with customers.

Data analysis can also give you insights into where you’re wasting materials and time, which can improve your profitability, sustainability, and efficiency. These insights can also direct you where to implement automation. Finally, tracking operations and materials usage across your organization can help you manage and monitor your sustainability efforts as well.

Here are six best practices for leveraging the data your company generates so that you can begin improving operations today.

Six Best Practices for a Data-First Approach

Implementing a data-first strategy in your organization can improve your operations and your competitive edge. Here are six best practices manufacturing leaders can follow today.

1: Incorporate external data for a comprehensive view

As you ramp up your data-first strategy, you’ll likely focus on collecting data from various sources across your business, including sales data, production information, and even outputs from IoT devices. By doing so, you’re gaining a comprehensive picture of how your organization works, and how different business units are functioning together — or if they need improvements.

But while this type of data collection and integration can foster an ecosystem that can help you improve operations, customer relationships, and innovation, it’s important not to limit gathering data to just inside your company. Look to external sources, especially to market and industry data. It will help you better anticipate changes coming down the line and improve your predictive analysis. This practice can help you benchmark your organization against the industry as well.

2: Prioritize security and privacy

As you begin to adopt more data-first and technology-forward practices, make sure that security and privacy are a priority. Build security into your initiatives, including the platforms you use and how you collect data. Today’s increase in data privacy regulations such as GDPR and CCPA place restrictions on what data you can collect, how it is collected, and what you can do with it. Make sure that you’re aware of the regulations and follow them accordingly.

As you integrate more technology into your organization and expand your resources into the cloud, build a robust approach to security to ensure that your assets and your data stay safe. This can include multi-factor authentication (MFA) for logins, making sure that your cloud applications and access points are protected. In addition, ramp up your threat intelligence to anticipate attacks.

3: Create trusted advisors in legal, technology, and business

Next, build a team of trusted advisors to help guide your data-first initiatives. This should include individuals who are knowledgeable about:

  • Data privacy regulations
  • Relevant legislation and cybersecurity
  • Tech implementation
  • Business analytics tools
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Change management

4: Utilize a technology platform for your data

Implement a process for collecting data across your organization, ingesting it, and analyzing it for insights. If you’re committed to creating a data-first organization, you’ll need a robust and reliable technology platform that can help you do so.

An enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution can be that robust software solution that can gather and analyze your data in order to help you make decisions on the future of your operations. Upwards of 96% of organizations have found that their ERP has improved their business processes.

5: Establish a governance and guidance process

Committing to being a data-first company needs a strategy beyond just collecting whatever data you have handy. Massive data volumes can pose challenges, especially when the majority of enterprises today are managing at least 5 petabytes of data, 80% of which is unstructured.

Having a process for data governance will guide you in which data to collect. It will also ensure that data is consistent, clean, and accurate. A data governance team can oversee what data is collected and how it’s managed. Organized and accurate data will allow for better analysis and more precise insights.

6: Ensure everyone across the organization has the right access to the data they need

Finally, having a data-first organization means empowering everyone to use data to inform their business decisions. If you’re just starting out on a data-first strategy, this may involve getting everyone on board and driving a culture shift. According to our recent “Voice of the Essential Manufacturing Worker” report, 60% of workers would take a pay cut to go work for a more technology-driven factory, which suggests a strong desire and readiness among employees for this shift toward a more data-informed approach. 

Wherever you are in your strategy implementation, your workers will likely need training and upskilling in order to know how to use digital tools and apply data insights to their work. 

If you’re using a platform that centralizes your data and analysis, make sure that the right people have access to the right data. However, be mindful not to overwhelm individuals with too much data. Data overload can be just as detrimental as too little data. Technology platforms with prebuilt, role-based dashboards can be a great start.

Data-First Going Forward

To stay relevant and competitive in the industry, manufacturing leaders should adopt a data-first strategy to improve operations, costs, and workforce engagement. Continuous technological and digital adoption, using the data gathered from various sources, can better influence decision-making and prepare your company for the future of manufacturing.

You don’t have to navigate your digital transformation alone. For 50 years, customers have trusted Epicor to help them do business better, including guiding them in adopting a data-first strategy in order to optimize and automate business flows and drive time-to-value. Learn more at today.

Epicor Epicor Software Corporation equips hard-working businesses with enterprise solutions that keep the world turning. For nearly 50 years, Epicor customers in the automotive, building supply, distribution, manufacturing, and retail industries have trusted Epicor to help them do business better. Innovative Epicor solution sets are carefully curated to fit customer needs and built to flexibly respond to their fast-changing reality. With deep industry knowledge and experience, Epicor accelerates its customers’ ambitions, whether to grow and transform, or simply become more productive and effective. Visit for more information.


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