ManufacturingJune 12, 2018

Digital Manufacturing: What Would FC Barcelona Do?

You’re modeling a digital manufacturing strategy around a use case of new…
Avatar John Martin

You’re modeling a digital manufacturing strategy around a use case of new product introductions (NPI), because the corporate emphasis is organic growth through a constant stream of new offerings. You want to understand demand as early as possible in the product life cycle, to continuously adapt your manufacturing and supply chain response for timely replenishment. You want digital enablement of production and sourcing, to track products through the chain and take needed actions.

What would FC Barcelona do?

The soccer powerhouse is one of many sports organizations that have committed themselves to a digital makeover, and they offer compelling lessons for digital manufacturing—leverage digitization to get near-real-time information on every corner of the business, then turn loose machine learning to predict what is likely to happen and prescribe the right strategy.

This leads to improving what EdjSports calls GWC—Game Winning Chance. The company worked with the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, analyzing and simulating play data to help the team make decisions that increased its odds of winning. For business, that could be renamed CWC—Customer Winning Chance, doing the things that are most likely to gain market share and revenue growth.

For NPI, machine learning can crunch data on clusters of previous items with similar characteristics, then look at sales profiles of products grouped by shared attributes to inform the launch forecast calculation—not unlike analyzing and recommending in-game, down-and-yardage play calls in football.

Sports has also discovered the Internet of Things. Raúl Peláez at FC Barcelona worked in R&D at HP; now he heads Sports Technology, Innovation & Analysis at Barça, where he oversees a group of data scientists, game analysts, and engineers. They strap wearables to players during practice to track position on the pitch; machine learning assesses how their spatial decision-making affects the game.

Player field position is akin to inventory staging in business—placing the right goods at the right place at the right time to meet shifting channel demand and capitalize on each opportunity to move forward. Sometimes sports even dips directly into digital manufacturing: McLaren Racing brought a portable 3D printer to an F1 race. Digitized sports, like business, also wants to deliver an experience—capturing and analyzing a 360° view of fans for stronger engagement and a window into what customers want.

The changing face of the people sports are hiring points to the need for new competencies in digital manufacturing. The Houston Astros, last year’s World Series champs, feature a former NASA engineer as director of decision sciences; his analytics group works in an office nicknamed the “Nerd Cave.” One focal point for the team is using analytics to help players stay healthy—like analytics-driven predictive maintenance in digital manufacturing anticipates equipment needs to keep production humming.

In sports and business, it’s all about doing the right thing, fast. Digitization helps each advance toward the net—through an emphasis on data capture, data understanding, and data-driven prescriptions for a higher win probability.

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