July 16, 2013

5 Key IT Enablers for Enterprise Product Traceability and Containment

Here are five key IT enablers to achieve enterprise product traceability
Avatar Matthew Littlefield

The level of product, process, and supply chain complexity in discrete manufacturing is putting the ability to track and trace parts and components throughout the product lifecycle under the spotlight. Today’s companies have no choice but to build out robust and seamless IT architectures to prevent adverse quality events from happening and also to quickly contain those that sneak through before they become a larger issue.

We recently wrote a research spotlight on this topic. The report discusses best practices for building an enterprise traceability framework that addresses the traditional information and process gaps. Within that framework, we discuss several key IT enablers that are instrumental to a seamless solution for responding to and preventing quality issues at the speed of business.

business team meeting on enterprise product traceability

This post intends to provide an overview of each of these enablers, discussing how discrete manufacturers can leverage them to get the most out of the global traceability and containment solution.

  1. Business Process Management: It’s become common in modern manufacturing facilities for there to be hundreds (if not thousands across the enterprise) of applications and solutions implemented to target a specific problem or a series of problems. Organizations could benefit from removing redundant applications to provide a clearer picture of end-to-end processes. However, the decision to streamline this redundancy may be difficult or time consuming. As many of these applications weren’t necessarily implemented to interoperate with one another in the first place, companies find difficulty in connecting the gaps. This is where BPM for manufacturing can help by delivering the ability to visualize the process roadmap, facilitating integration with the use of both a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Web-based integration.
  2. Business Intelligence/Big Data: The amount of data that can be compiled across modern value chains has been both a blessing and a curse for organizations. On one hand, the data provides very granular process information needed to identify areas for improvement and effectively trace product quality issues back to their source. Though, on the other hand, the amount of data coming from across an enterprise can be overwhelming.BI and big data tools are enabling discrete manufacturers to quickly rifle through massive amounts of information, providing an impressive and unprecedented level of visibility into end-to-end processes. By using these tools, companies can more easily visualize data, convert it into intelligence for improved decision support, and even pair up product genealogy information with predictive analytics to recognize and prevent adverse events that cause product recalls.
  3. Cloud-Based Technologies: The discrete manufacturing space is only becoming more global and intricate as time passes. The ability to scale your global traceability and containment solution beyond the four walls will likely act as a competitive advantage down the road. Emerging cloud-based technologies are delivering the capability to easily rollout the solution’s important components across the value chain.Fortunately, many cloud-based technologies are flexible enough to fit within an existing IT architecture, which is particularly beneficial when discussing integration with upstream and downstream partners. The acquisition of data from source through disposal can be greatly facilitated by introducing solutions delivered over the cloud.
  4. Collaboration/Social Business: To build a truly impactful global traceability and containment strategy, there needs to be the ability to communicate and collaborate across the value chain. Both upstream and downstream, suppliers and customers must have a two-way platform for discussion, feedback, and sharing of critical process information. This type of environment helps to reduce adverse event response time, and also enables proactive monitoring.
  5. Mobility: Already surfacing in some discrete manufacturing industries, mobility helps to bridge traditional gaps in process data from distributed suppliers and customers. Companies are using handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets for difficult-to-acquire data to portray a better picture of a product’s genealogy. While this capability is still emerging, it’s important to note that the market will likely only continue to move in this direction.

Building Your Own Product Traceability and Containment Solution

While building your global traceability and containment solution, it’s important to identify solutions providers that are investing in these capabilities. We expect to see rapid advancements in many of the emerging IT enablers described above, and consequently vast improvements to the ability to capture and consume process data and content that’s imperative for preventing and containing adverse events.

For a more detailed view of the global traceability and containment solution, read LNS Research’s Global Traceability and Containment Strategies for Discrete Manufacturing research spotlight. The report goes in depth on each of these topics, and helps executives and senior leaders understand how to build these strategies into the broader operational excellence framework.

Matthew can be found on Google+.

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