How to use business intelligence to drive operational efficiency in manufacturing

Business Intelligence projects aren’t a picnic in a park. Rather they are like trying to have a picnic on a minefield.

There are many pitfalls and issues that you need to negotiate throughout implementation, and contrary to popular belief, the process doesn’t end with the installation. Rather adoption is an ongoing undertaking, where you ensure that the change you’ve spearheaded continues to achieves its aims.

Given the obstacles in your way, the reluctance of the workforce to embrace change, the failure rate of BI projects and the fear that the hype outweighs the outcomes, the question has to be asked, what value is there in adopting a BI system?

The problem lies not with the technology itself, but the approach. The projects that didn’t succeed are usually the ones that relied too heavily on the technology and ignored the business strategy that needs to go along with it. Organisations that can foster change in a careful and thoughtful way will find that BI systems add tremendous value to the business. But firstly, what should that value look like?

Gain insight into your business



Manufacturing organisations produce a lot of data. One of the key challenges of the industry has been establishing the relationship of the data to its real-world applications.

BI systems can overcome this by harnessing that data in order to highlight relationships that may not be immediately obvious.

For example, in coffee roasting production there might be many aspects of production that could affect the final outcome:

  • Temperature
  • Flow-rates
  • Speed through all of the bits of equipment that produce coffee

These three elements alone would produce tens of thousands of different variables. If you relied only on human capabilities, it would be impossible to discover all the results of these combinations and to understand how that affects the outcome.

BI systems allow you to uncover how the interplay between these variables, ensuring that your product meets your quality standards every time.


BI systems allow you to create data sets that shed light on how to improve efficiencies within your organisation in order to be more agile and dynamic.

There are a many ways BI systems can do this. According to Manufacturing Moneyball BI helps you uncover:

  • How to mitigate risk
  • Where double-up is occurring (both in a personnel and technological sense)
  • Ascertaining where you achieve margin recovery
  • A more nuanced analysis on your ROI
  • More flexible processes to get your product to market

Having consistent, accurate information also allows you to understand  the bigger picture of the business which leads to the next point:

BI systems can unify business objectives and transform culture

BI systems can play a vital part in transforming a company’s culture by breaking down silos. In siloed organisations, there is a lack of trust that is the result of having a various sets of data that various departments work off. They all have their own values and their own set of KPIs to describe how things are performing. BI breaks down these walls by creating a consistency in performance reporting — it provides a single source of truth.

If everybody is looking at the same set of numbers then the conversation changes from what is the correct number to why is this the number and what can we do as a business to better it?

Is installing a BI system worth it?

Perhaps a better way of phrasing that question is, what are the consequences of not adopting one? To paraphrase the McKinsey Report Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity:

'Leading users of Big Data will grow at the expense of laggards. Seeing the real value of the technology will take some time, but its capabilities will undoubtedly give adopters the competitive edge in the long term.'

In the near future, the consequences of not implementing BI software won’t just make a  difference to an organisation’s bottom line, it could be the difference between a company that is an industry leader and one that no longer operates.

Would you like tips on how to get your BI project green-lit. Then download our ebook to Managing BI Projects in Manufacturing - The Ultimate Guide to Drive Effective Change today.

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Topics: Manufacturing