Achieving a Unified View of Data
There is a joke about a man who is working his way down the street, digging holes, while a colleague follows him, filling them in immediately. A passer-by asks why they’re doing that. “We always do this,” says the first man. “Except, Barry’s off today. He usually plants the tree in the hole.”
The joke seems ridiculous, and then after a moment’s thought it seems like an oddly familiar story. People often work like this, highly focused on their own tasks with limited visibility of the bigger picture, and how their work should relate to other departments.
Often, this results from having fragmented information systems, which emerge when change management is not well handled. People can start doing things in different ways in different parts of the business, and end up modifying spreadsheets independently to meet their goals. That can make it difficult to manage the business as a whole, in particular when you need to match external demands (such as orders) with internal resourcing (including factory floor staff). Planning can be a highly manual process, involving many spreadsheets and sticky notes.
For example, we worked with a company that manufactures glue used to seal wounds in hospitals. Their products are perishable, so it was important to be able to scale manufacturing to demand, to ensure stock did not sit in the warehouse too long but that there was enough to deliver on customer orders. The company was using two spreadsheets: one to track orders, and another to manage the resourcing on the shop floor. Spreadsheets are just grids of boxes unless they’re well documented, and in this case there were only a couple of people in the company who understood them. It was hard for the company to match resourcing to demand, and difficult for decision makers to scrutinise the data, or use it to make smarter decisions.
We developed a solution for the company that collects order data from their Oracle database, and enables the team to enter the staff details, including their skills and their shift patterns. The solution manages scheduling, quickly highlights any staffing shortfalls, and generates Gantt charts showing what everyone is working on. For the first time, the company could see at a glance what was happening on the shop floor, and could understand how the team is performing, and how quickly orders are being fulfilled.
The key to success here (and in every similar project) is that it’s not just about the tools. The most important thing, in fact, is to understand the processes and how people use data, so that their needs can continue to be met with the new database solution. To ensure a successful implementation, it’s important to work with a company that can not only develop the software, but also has experience analysing complex processes and mapping them into the new solution. We find that analysing the processes typically leads to improvements, as people come together to discuss their processes and data needs, often for the first time. Sometimes there will be duplicated effort, unnecessary rekeying, or workarounds that can be eliminated with a better process design.
The end result is a powerful decision making tool, based on consistent data, automatic data capture (where available) and near-universal accessibility using the web.
Whether you’re making glue, planting trees, or doing anything else, make sure your processes and tools are helping you to be as effective as you can be. If you’d like to find out how Argenta can help, feel free to contact us through our website at www.argentaconsult.com or give us a call on 0121 318 6363.
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