Recap of Webinar by Julie Fraser, Vice President, Tech Clarity, Inc., October 15, 2020

One thing that has become certain over the last year: universally, irrespective of the geographic location or industry, agility – the ability to react to any situation – is an absolute necessity in a COVID-19 world. From an Industry 4.0 perspective, agility comes with the speed of decision making; the faster you are able to detect an event, gather and contextualize data related to the event, digest and make sense of it, the faster you can make a decision. The faster you are able to make said decision, the more agile you are; and the more agile you are, the more your chances are of making the best of any given situation.

For manufacturers around the world, being agile is underlined by the ability to collect data, enrich it through information from the manufacturing process and beyond, develop insight and perform analysis, which then leads to a decision which best suits the organization’s interests. Industry 4.0 brings an abundance of data from automation, equipment, IoT, Quality, Historian, MES, Maintenance and SPC, but an abundance of data doesn’t necessarily mean great business results, unless the available data is utilized in the most effective manner.

In order to address the challenges related to the management of manufacturing data and to develop an understanding of what incumbents in organizations pursuant to Industry 4.0 need to do in order to develop capabilities akin to global leaders, Critical Manufacturing did a webinar with Julie Fraser of Tech Clarity Inc. Julie explains the results from a Tech Clarity survey of over 300 executives from around the world, from varied industry segments and diverse backgrounds, highlighting how best to handle data management in manufacturing and what should be the priorities related to data management. She details how the leaders are pursuing data management and what can one do to get on the right track from a data management standpoint. 


This webinar explores the findings of the new Tech-Clarity research report, The Manufacturing Data Challenge: Lessons from Top Performers. In this webinar, you will learn what the latest research says Top Performers are doing differently than others to improve dramatically on both operational and business key performance indicators (KPIs).

One thing that is very evident is that there is a looming uncertainty and no ‘business as usual’ scenario. Large scale disruptions and curbs due to COVID-19 means that organizations need to evolve and adapt, faster than ever before; ‘survival of the fastest’ is now the name of the game.

Faster decisions = beating the competition

Agile operations are fast to make decisions and the ability to make faster decisions after an event occurs directly translates to improved business outcomes. However, having data and being able to utilize it in a manner that translates to fast decision making is quite different. In many organizations, there already is an abundance of data; it is being generated constantly and from every facet of the operation, but it exists in silos and varies in granularity, units, time periods, intended recipients, owners, formats and standards.

The Tech Clarity survey reveals a not-so-surprising coherence among respondents on the need for data integration, consistency and contextualization:

  • A majority of respondents believed that integration of equipment, plant and enterprise IT is needed for harnessing coherent and consistent data which can then be useful for Industry 4.0 initiatives.
  • Most respondents believed that consistent management of all plant data, IT and Operational Technology (OT) should be a priority.
  • Respondents felt that it is necessary to put OT or equipment data in the right context with both plant and operational data in order to successfully pursue Industry 4.0.
  • Other key aspects were the need to present timely and complete data for factory and company staff.

What these initial findings reveal is that while there may be data available in organizations, the need to make it consistent and coherent exists and therein lays the challenge. What data to use and where? How does one ensure from an agility and speed perspective that the right data is collected, contextualized and subsequently reaches the right stakeholders to enable decision making at an enhanced speed?

While the convergence of IT and OT is perhaps one the hottest talking points around Industry 4.0, the survey also reveals a majority:

  • feel it is hard to align OT and IT data
  • believe that it is challenging to analyze IT and OT data together
  • believe that IT and OT have data at odds with one another
  • point out that they can’t put available data in context to aid Continuous Improvement efforts

The challenges being faced by the respondents do not point out any lack of data – rather the inability to take operational and shop floor data, contextualize it and make it relevant enough for stakeholders to actually use it for decision making and continuous improvements. So, what are the leaders doing differently; how are they overcoming these universal data management challenges? Let’s find out.

Survey Leaders use data differently

About a third of the respondents rated their organizations high on both agility and continuous improvement, which means there are operations which are doing things differently, which in turn allows them to lead their industries and dictate their business outcomes even in the face of complete uncertainty. The survey points out that these top performer organizations and leaders made significant gains in major KPIs over a period of last three years, and have improved both Time to Market (TTM) and Quality in comparison with organizations lagging behind. Faster TTM directly affects the agility of any operation; the faster you can change or adapt your products to market pressures, the better the chances of them selling against a competitor who has failed to do so. Similarly, better quality indicates that the operation is well controlled and embodies the continuous improvement paradigm.

Nearly all of the top performing organizations believe integration of IT and OT is of top importance, with some claiming it needs to converge to the extent of becoming a singular entity and many advocating tight integration. Interestingly enough, over half of the top performing companies deploy MES in their operation and also use PLM (Product Lifecycle Management). These findings show a clear correlation: organizations which are successful have clearly understood that in order to be more agile and have better results on KPIs, integration between IT and OT is extremely important; and in order to do so, they have relied on applications like MES, which is foundational to the successful pursuit of Industry 4.0. Top performing organizations understand that in order to generate better business results, investments in the right platforms are required; the ones reaping the reward have done so and are dramatically outperforming their peers.

IT and OT integration is a challenging task and to be fully Industry 4.0 ready, integration is required beyond the organization’s own IT and OT; sometimes to the extent of their suppliers and customers. Nearly all of the respondents in the survey felt (irrespective of being a leader or not) that plant data integration requires significant effort. What’s important to understand is that while integration is challenging, the leaders and top performers have pursued it and are reaping the results. However, in order to truly overcome data management related challenges it has to be approached as a fundamental and strategic deliverable, which directly affects the organization’s agility and even business viability.

Strategy is key

The path towards an integrated IT and OT which involves employing key platforms like MES should begin with a clear and comprehensive strategy. Data management and integration should be one of the major deliverables, followed by projects reflecting the most important use cases; initiatives which focus on driving results; and finally analysis of results and retuning or reconfiguration of overall strategy.

The survey points out that many of the top performing organizations have significant progress and results in their data management and Industry 4.0 journey; may have many initiatives in place; and have several projects running. This indicates that industry leaders and top performers have made it their priority to change the way in which they use data. It clearly is their strategy to leverage Industry 4.0 technologies to become more agile and facilitate improvements faster than others. These leaders have invested in technology, personnel and are using applications like MES to drive better business results.


Overall, important takeaways from this webinar and the survey data presented are:

  • Data exists in an organization and throughout its shop floor, but unless that data is consistent and coherent, gathered, manipulated and presented with the right operations insight and context, the data itself holds little to no value.
  • IT and OT integration, as part of an Industry 4.0 initiative, should be the strategy to pursue for any manufacturing organization.
  • Unless there are the right investments made in people and applications foundational to integration and Industry 4.0 (such as MES) chances of success are slim.
  • The most important and critical point however, is to ACT NOW. Engage consultants and call in internal experts. It is not too late to become agile.

For more insight on how to tackle data management and integration challenges and to learn from the top performers, please read the Critical Manufacturing/Tech Clarity e-book, available here or view the webinar here.