How can I get rid of data silos in manufacturing?

How can you identify the best move for your business? Your knowledge of the market, the competition, and your customers’ expectations are all invaluable assets.

However, while intuition is useful, data is crucial, especially when selecting the optimal investment. Here, we investigate the potential negative effects of data silos on your company and discuss strategies for removing them.

What is data silos?

Data silos occur when valuable information from raw data is accessible to only one department. It is kept isolated from the rest of the team rather than being shared at a company level. This prevents C-level executives from having full visibility over the plant’s operations. Therefore, over time, it will lead to a general lack of transparency and efficiency in the company.

Data silos are the norm, not the exception. On some level, they can even be beneficial. By having access to data that pertains to their department, different teams can focus on the specific issues at hand. They are capable of doing this without becoming overloaded with information that is unrelated to their tasks.

Why are data silos problematic?

When data silos become the norm, however, they can impede decision-making and slow down processes. This is because they restrict communication between different teams. Who, could otherwise collaborate on addressing comparable issues.

For instance, if you’re tasked with deciding when it’s time to invest in a new piece of equipment, you’ll probably have access to data about the machine’s life expectancy. As well as, the risk of their components becoming obsolete.

However, you may lack access to the data used for predictive maintenance. A practice that can considerably extend the machine’s lifespan.

Likewise, you might lack information on deadlines to fulfil orders. Alongside being unaware of times when a piece of equipment is under stress from working at full capacity for extended periods. This will eventually impact its functionality.

Causes and consequences of data silos

Data silos happen when different datasets can’t communicate with each other. For example, your method of choice may be to collect data with pen and paper, or an Excel spreadsheet. However, it’s unlikely that the process of transferring data from one department to another will be smooth.

Even when specific software for data collection and analysis is used, teams might use different platforms. Which, makes it difficult to pass information.

The pace at which a company grows can also impact the presence of data silos. For large corporations, getting access to data may require several steps. By the time these are completed, the data might be outdated or no longer needed.

The solution to data silos

Plant managers might think that the solution to data silos is exporting and sharing different databases where information is stored. However, because data is not static, employees would have to download and share databases multiple times a day. Even though, this would be incredibly time-consuming and unproductive.

The real solution lies in data integration. The ideal option is to integrate the many technologies used to collect and store data with a cloud-based solution. Companies can also consider connecting their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) applications, MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems), and core automation systems to a smart factory analytics platform. This is done so that centralised access may be provided to the many streams of data.

Finally, it is necessary to have the most suitable technology in place. However, it is equally important to cultivate a culture of collaboration within the firm. Plant managers should try to create business practices that encourage employees to share valuable information outside their teams.

Companies that decide to break down data silos once and for all will have valuable information to support decision-making. As well as, supporting the transparency of the organisation in the long run.

To learn more about how to get the most value out of your manufacturing data, visit our knowledge hub today!