Big data, the internet of things, and how ERP can make good on the promise of real-time actionable intelligence.

Author:Gill, Sabby

Mobile, social, anal/tics, cloud, the Internet of Things, nanotechnology, 3D printing and more ... manufacturers are facing a barrage of information about how new disruptive technologies will change the face of their industry. But for manufacturers to embrace these technologies, they must have a clear understanding of the technology value-add within the context of today's business environment--what I like to call "purposeful innovation."

Big data and the IoT as technology concepts are exciting, but what do they mean to manufacturers from a practical application perspective? As digitization becomes defacto on the manufacturing floor, there is great potential to improve responsiveness and agility, and adapt more quickly to customers' changing needs. As more digitally controlled technologies are introduced, we build more connections. As we become more connected, building the IoT, we generate big data. And as the volume of data grows, we need new and faster ways to drive insight and actions, and easier ways to arrive at decisions.

So while these disruptive technologies are expected to improve responsiveness, they create new challenges in managing an increasingly overwhelming volume of data that must be converted into actionable intelligence. Manufacturers can't afford to allow these technologies to inadvertently slow them down, as this would be contrary to the afore-mentioned goal.

When it comes to the IoT, it's not about the data perse, it's about what you can do with that data. As Industry Analyst Nigel Fenwick at Forrester Research has said, "It's important to note that digital isn't just about gathering new external connections; it's about having the operational agility to act on them ..."

Some of the manufacturing purists may argue that IoT isn't new to them--after all, machines have had sensors for a long time reporting back information to the user--like the ubiquitous laser jet printer that tells you exactly how much ink is left and even where to order replacement cartridges. However, what's new is we now have the technology capabilities to enable the integration of information across the entire product lifecycle--from design, through engineering, manufacturing, delivery, and service--to deliver immediate and actionable information to the necessary departments and functions with greater speed, accuracy...

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