How can manufacturers use data to secure their future?
As post-Brexit predictions for the UK manufacturing sector painted a woeful picture, new figures from the Markit/CIPS manufacturing survey reveal a very different story.
The survey, which measures activity in factories, jumped from a 41-month low of 48.3 in July immediately following the referendum vote, to a 10-month high of 53.3 in August, sparking a huge jump in the pound. Rather than July’s reports that British businesses expected economic growth to grind to a half over the next three months, the weaker pound following the vote to leave the European Union (EU) has shown to have boosted new export business and helped to increase manufacturing output to its highest level since November 2015.
So what’s happened? Are the figures, as some economists have argued, simply an “overreaction the other way” following July’s sharp drop in manufacturing activity? Or have British manufacturers in fact demonstrated impressive agility to turn Brexit into an opportunity? And if so, what has been the key to their adaptability?
If the observations in our recent manufacturing white paper are correct, it appears that those gaining visibility of their operations’ effectiveness could ensure they are best placed to gain a competitive edge and not only survive, but prosper during this testing period.
A streamlined supply chain is complex and dynamic. There are numerous workflows to monitor the different suppliers involved at each stage of the process, from production line to stock availability. Effective process management ensures the final product is delivered to the customer on time and to order.
Along with the Internet of Things (IoT) which is already being embraced by many to – in theory – drive greater efficiencies, it results in a significant data trail. This ‘information’ can potentially provide incredible insight to the way manufacturers run their processes, but only if they can unlock the insights from this data.
Our white paper has identified this as the ‘Data Conundrum’ for manufacturers. It throws out a question to manufacturers as to where they sit in this situation, in control of their data or muddled under a mass of data which isn’t being managed and does not provide any useful insight from which to make informed decisions.
To assess where you’re placed in this data conundrum, we’ve put together some questions for you to self-assess your current situation, depending on your responses, you may find that business intelligence tools such as dashboards could play an important part in gaining back control of your data. Analytics dashboards help to visualise your data into trends and derive learnings based on real-time information. This is an important part in making the shift to data-driven decision-making and increasing productivity by bringing greater transparency to each stage of the manufacturing process.
Here is a list of eight questions that British manufacturers should ask themselves to see if they are in a data conundrum:
- Is your existing infrastructure fully integrated and easy to access by employees?
- Are your employees guilty of reverting to their own spreadsheets (such as Excel) because of (various) IT issues, causing you concern about pockets of data silos holding valuable information, not stored centrally?
- Are you able to track and measure productivity gains or indeed, problem areas from the data you hold?
- Do you get reports which allow you to have one consolidated view of different departments and operations?
- Do you have real-time reporting methods that mean business decision makers are confidence they are acting on up-to-date data?
- Do your reports provide you with the information you need to make decisions e.g. spot problems, identify trends and opportunities?
- Are you concerned that you are missing opportunities for efficiencies and where to drive automation?
- Do you believe you spend too much time analysing data?
Despite Theresa May announcing that she would be taking a message to last weekend's G20 summit in China that the UK is "open for business around the world,” the fact is we’re all operating in a significant period of economic uncertainty, which is further exacerbated by the changes demanded by the digital era. Making sure employees have the right tools to do their jobs well and overcome inefficiencies, will ensure ultimate productivity and business success.
By having access to real-time data, business leaders quickly gain the insight to spot problems and threats and can help British manufacturers gain a competitive edge, without a doubt. If you want to get into the driving seat with data-driven decision making, and find out how dashboards can help put you in a position to grow, compete and prosper, why not read our White Paper.
Robert Dagge is Managing Director at Dynistics
Follow @ManufacturingGL and @NellWalkerMG
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.