Dashboards and Data Viz | Manufacturing

Manufacturing is a major player in the U.S. economy with industries like steel, automobile, telecommunications, electronics and consumer goods taking center stage. As digital products like cellphones and tablets influence consumers’ lives, a new player is on deck to join the modern manufacturing ballgame – something we like to call metrics-based manufacturing.

Metrics Put the “Modern” in Modern Manufacturing

What is metrics-based manufacturing? Simply put, data and information (and the way companies use them) is what makes modern manufacturers “modern.” The key is having the right information available on every level of the manufacturing process, from the plant floor to product owners and beyond.

But gathering – even giving – information isn’t enough. True data-driven manufacturing happens when manufacturers provide the right data to the right people with the right tools.

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In a recent chat with iDashboards, Norman Rankis of McWane Ductile posed the following question: “When you’re driving, do you ever get a call from your boss asking a business question that requires performance numbers? How about being able to pull over to the side of the road to use your dashboard on the iPhone to answer that question?”

A simple example like this can sell a big idea, and if you’re in the manufacturing business, a metrics-based game plan might be the big idea you need.

Making the Change to Data-Driven Manufacturing

If it’s time for your company to join the metrics-based manufacturing game, remember this: The first pitch may not be a home run, and that’s okay. In fact, the first pitch should be a sales pitch. Set up your teams for success by showing them how dashboards and data visualization will make their lives easier.

Like any good investment, dashboards pay off in the long run but also have immediate benefits. Once your team members understand the direct benefits (or even better – experience them), then you’re ready to become a data-based manufacturer.

How to Build a Data-Driven Modern Manufacturing System from the Floor Up

The manufacturing game is changing, and your company can change with it. The process looks different for every business, but the ideas are the same. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Analyze each phase of the manufacturing process and determine what information teams need to complete their phases.
  • Figure out how you’re going to display the information. Will employees access dashboards on their phones? Tablets? Display monitors?
  • Implement your dashboards and gather data. Once you have a baseline of information, you can fine-tune the system and make it more efficient.

Read next: Going Paperless with Digital Technology

Paper or Plastic?

You’ve probably answered this question before, but we aren’t talking about groceries. Believe it or not, some (if not many) companies use hard copies of their reports to share information. That’s right – paper reporting. The problem with this method is simple: printed reports aren’t instant. You can’t distribute them with the same ease and efficiency as a dashboard. Other factors include:

  • Dashboards are accessible at any time and in any location. Additionally, the data is available to every team.
  • They take the guesswork out of spontaneous meetings. All the data you need is ready and waiting.
  • Digitized information is easy to adjust and interpret, without wasting time re-printing updated reports.

Take a moment to think about the last news story you heard (or read, or watched). In the first half of the 20th century, people got their information from newspapers. In the wake of a newsworthy event, they waited until the next day to read about what happened. Only a few decades later, faithful newspaper readers were tuning into the evening news instead.

Today, most consumers don’t wait for the 5:00 p.m. news hour; they get stories from their computers or phones. In the modern, metrics-based manufacturing world, dashboards offer the same advantage: immediate, relevant, and continuous data.

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Jim Niles Enterprise Account Manager @iDashboards

Jim Niles is an Enterprise Account Manager here at iDashboards who specializes in manufacturing.  Jim has 30 years of experience delivering data center solutions and business improvement software to some of the largest multinational manufacturers in the world as well as smaller manufacturers including Tier 3 companies. 


  1. Hey there,

    Do you have any examples of companies to which you have delivered this technology, and the quantifiable outcomes/improvements brought about by these dashboards?

    1. Hi Alec, Thanks for reaching out! We work with many industries, including manufacturers, who have seen quantifiable results like Sleep Innovations who saved a million dollars annually in waste (www.idashboards.com/success-stories/sleep-innovations/), Precoat Metals saved 16 hours per month in each facility by automating their reporting (www.idashboards.com/wp-content/themes/idashboards/pdf/archive/Precoat_Case%20Study.pdf) and much more. We’d love to talk more about your needs and how we can help you.

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