Smart Manufacturing is all about Real-Time Data Analytics

Business Intelligence Business Operations Data culture Automation Industry 4.0 Manufacturing AI

Est. reading time: 4 minutes
Author: Steph Locke

Manufacturers are spending far too much time on data entry or looking at stale data which is hindering growth. Here are seven ways real-time data can turn things around.

Steph Locke

Technologist and consultant with a track record of delivering transformation of businesses into data science and AI companies.


Manufacturers are only achieving about 40% of their production capacity as they are too busy with data entry, according to research conducted by Forbes. The solution to much of this is using real-time data analytics to provide instantly reachable sharable data that is received instantaneously via web and mobile apps.  

This basically means that your data can be immediately adjusted or improved helping with better decision making and supporting increased productivity. Here, I share seven key ways that real-time data can save manufacturers time and money. 

1. Inventory management

Real-time monitoring helps you to optimize your products by eliminating overstock while stocking up with your most popular products. Real-time data can help you manage orders of mass customisation that are normally a slow and arduous process to fill. Customers want maximum customisation with maximum quality at maximum speed. Real-time data provides information about supplier inventory positions and order performance helping to make better decisions. 

2. Predictive maintenance

The combination of real-time data, predictive analytics, and machine learning can tell you ahead of time when a given machine will need maintenance or repair. This can seriously prolong the life of your equipment and machinery or just give you a bit more insight into how to improve them. Research conducted by LNS Research interviewed 400 manufacturing and industrial executives found that companies with real-time visibility of quality metrics in manufacturing outperform others by 6% in overall equipment effectiveness.

These manufacturers gained quicker insights and determined which areas of availability, performance, and quality were impacting performance most. The research found that manufacturers who rely on real-time data gain a significant competitive advantage over their peers.

3. Quality control

Using real-time data analytics to improve quality control could make or break manufacturers in today’s ultra-competitive market. Getting real-time data from any machine on the factory floor whenever you want gives you any amount of KPIs or metrics you could possibly need right at your fingertips improving traceability and performance.   

4. Troubleshooting

Real-time data does a much better job at troubleshooting and solving any process, batch, or machinery issues, so cycle times are optimised, while scrapped parts are reduced. Knowing where the issues are and how to solve them can give you better cycle times.  It’s much easier to troubleshoot basic issues through monitoring giving you better systems and quality control. Statistical Process Control (SPC) techniques are commonly used to help reduce costs or sort out quality problems with batch-based products.

5. Scheduling

Inaccurate and out-of-date schedules can cause delays and wreak havoc on production lines. This is completely avoidable with real-time data which can give you much more accurate fixed production times or machinery utilization rates. 

6. Supplier Management

Quick quotes win deals and manufacturers need real-time integration between pricing and quoting (CPQ) as well as selling and manufacturing systems to speed up pricing requests. Buyers are under immense pressure to make quick decisions and need fast quotes, competitive pricing, and up-to-date production. Real-time integration reduces the amount of time on manual data entry and improves accuracy. 

7. Compliance

Real-time data reduces the time it takes to do internal quality audits. This is particularly useful for manufacturers with stricter compliance requirements, like those involved in the production of medical devices. Faster, more frequent audits also let you know what you need to improve on to make your process better. 

Next steps

It can be daunting moving over to a new way of doing things but manufacturers have a lot to gain from moving to real-time analytics. Opportunities and relevant data are getting lost in a deluge of spreadsheets, reports, and schedules. In short, real-time data will save you time and money all while making you more competitive.

Depending on whether you are pursuing radical transformation as a matter of urgency or are looking at continuous improvement, you may want to build your data strategy to include real-time data, or pick a priority use case from the seven above and let it act as a demonstrator of the value real-time data can bring. 

Further Reading