I spent a few days at a Users Conference for PMPA Technical Member Epicor, an ERP software solutions provider.
As I am just a manufacturing guy, among  4000 computer, software and systems experts, I was in a unique position to see what our world looks like from the IT side of things.
What I learned was that to the IT folks, devices are more than just devices.

Drivers of business change.
Drivers of business change.

Here are some of my gleanings about how we as manufacturing users are seen by the folks that deliver us our data:

  • C- Types  want data visualization;
  • Middle Managers want metrics;
  • Front line managers want conditional awareness;
  • The people doing the work want to know what to do.
  • Everyone has a mobile device, and want to access their data with it.
  • Mobile devices- Ipads, tablets, smart phones- mean our customers are no longer tied to their desk.

Including CUSTOMERS!
The internet expanded the demand for data availability to : Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere.
Mobile technology is now transforming that to Everyone, Everywhere, Everything, EVERYTIME!
An interesting fact that we need to be aware of as this mobile transformation continues to transform markets:
87% of Chief Marketing Officers are planning to integrate every customer touch point digitally within the next 5 years.
Every Customer Touchpoint.
Think about what that could mean for your business.
You have a website? Good start.
Is it mobile friendly?
What about all the information that your customer needs? Does it involve a phone call, and clerical work to assemble a report? Available only during business hours?
Or can they get that digitally? Anywhere, Anytime?
That is where the world is headed- actually, it is where the leading companies have been.

“I get my data in Real Time.”

What does that sentence mean to you?

These days Real time doesn't mean "by end of shift."
These days “Real Time” doesn’t mean “by end of shift” or ” tomorrow morning.”

When I ran a small cold finished mill, (years ago) it meant that I knew which jobs were on which machines.

It meant that I could hear the crane bridging to the scale with bundles, and I knew at the end of the shift how much production I had.

The next morning  in the office the production would be checked against the mill orders that had been issued, and the production then entered into inventory.

That was real time.

So  that next morning my inside sales team would see that the finished material was now in the system, and start to put together a truckload to get it shipped if it was “hot.”

If traffic could get a truck scheduled, it would probably be arranged for the next  shift, when material would be loaded and shipped.

Real time meant, that without heroic  efforts,  production was at least 2 shifts to maybe 4 shifts and 2 calendar days minimum away from the customer.

On hot expedites, we could use a  “sneaker net” as the production cleared the scale to rush production in to traffic and maybe shave a day off this cycle.

What if there was a delay at the machine, a crane breakdown, or unplanned maintenance?

That’s why you didn’t call in the trucks before you had material, right?

At the recent Epicor Insights 2013 conference, I had several conversations with representatives from Epicor Mattec MES regarding real time process monitoring.

In their world real time means I (and everyone on my team that needs to know) knows what the status of every job on every machine is at that moment.

In other words, “Faster time to value.”

That means that they are not waiting for a shift or two to verify production availability and scheduling. They know status as they need it.

So the production can be applied immediately upon completion, and needed steps to get it shipped can be staged with minimal risk.

What is your definition of Real Time?

I thought that knowing it was in the pipeline and when I expected it to be done was Real Time.

Today, technology and smart systems can give you back those extra days of material limbo.

What does real time mean to you? How many hours away from out the door is your system on a normal basis? Worst case basis?

More importantly, what will your customers tell you is their idea of your “real time” capability?

(Epicor is a technical member of the Precision Machined Products Association, an active particpant on our IT committee, and an active supporter and participant of PMPA mamagement and technical conferences. I was invited to speak to their attendees on  “Understanding Social Media and Web Search for Manufacturers.”)