Why Business Intelligence Platforms aren’t Enough for Manufacturers Moving to
Industry 4.0

  • Magic Software
  • June 24, 2020

Industry 4.0 is a must for mid-sized manufacturers in the precarious 2020 global economy. One of the main competitive advantages is the ability to move quickly while eliminating guesswork from decision-making by using accurate manufacturing data. Some manufacturers have begun turning to Business Intelligence (BI) platforms as the backbone of their Industry 4.0 implementation. On the surface, this makes sense. BI platforms are designed to analyze data, which is definitely something manufacturers are looking for in their Industry 4.0 solution. However, there are a number of issues with this approach. In this blog we’ll break down three reasons you don’t want to solely rely on BI platforms when it comes to transitioning to Industry 4.0.

Problem 1: BI Tools Can’t Move Data Effectively

A typical problem when using BI tools as an Industry 4.0 solution, is that most BI platforms aren’t necessarily capable of moving the correct data from one platform to the next. For example, if you’re using a SAP or Oracle ERP, connecting them directly to your database just isn’t possible without significant development work. You need to use the specific API for your ERP, and unless you have in house experts to develop connections for you, this can be very time consuming. 

So in many cases, you’re losing any benefit from your BI platform just because it’s hard to connect all your disparate systems together. 

Problem 2: BI Can’t Make Predictions 

One of the main advantages of a strong Industry 4.0 solution is that it’s able to take existing factory floor and business data and offer predictive, actionable insights. This is made possible by taking a snapshot of data at any given time, and then comparing it to relevant periods in the past. Unfortunately, BI platforms are limited when it comes to using data to predict changes. They might be good at collecting data, but in order to get more out of the data, you need some more advanced analytic tools. They simply lack the capabilities to try to predict what’s about to happen and to try to give you some more insights into the data other than visualizing the current data. So if you want your Industry 4.0 solution to offer predictive analytics, predictive maintenance, or predictive delivery times, BI is just not going to cut it. 

Problem 3: BI Can’t Feed Insights Back into Your Systems

Let’s say you’ve run an analysis of last month’s production run. You might want to enter the results of this analysis into your CRM or ERP system. But if you’re only working off a BI system, you’re out of luck again. Most BI systems are read-only;  It’s simply not a functionality that BI provides. 

On the other hand, the right Industry 4.0 solution can actually automate updates with data that would otherwise be trapped in an excel spreadsheet. For example, if you have a factory with 10,000 SKUs no one is going to manually update the lead time for each and every item. Industry 4.0 solutions can, making your factory far more efficient. 

Problem 4: BI Uses One Type of Data Structure

Most BI platforms collect and store data in the same data structure as the information in the source system. But what if you want to run an analysis from more than one type of data source? Or if you want to capture the status of your ERP at a specific point in time to compare it with your projections? You guessed it – this is basically impossible with BI systems.

However, a powerful Industry 4.0 solution can change the structure of the data that is saved in the system, and then offer levels of analysis that are impossible when using a normal BI tool. 

Problem 5: Limited Machine Learning and Anomaly Detection Capabilities

BI systems can flag anomalies, it’s true, but there’s a major limitation: you need to define anomalies in advance. It can’t understand by itself from looking at the data what is an outlier and what isn’t. Essentially, it lacks basic Machine Learning (ML) capabilities.

But a proper Industry 4.0 solution, will be able to notice a dip in a specific customer’s order – even if it’s not a major anomali- and flag it for an account manager’s attention. This is obviously of major value for manufacturers: you can call up the customer and ensure there wasn’t a mistake. 

Get The Ultimate Guide to Choosing an Industry 4.0 Solution

By now, you might be convinced that a BI platform isn’t the way forward for Industry 4.0 -minded enterprises. But Industry 4.0 comprises a wide array of technological offerings: from Artificial intelligence to the  Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). It’s too easy manufacturing decision-makers to get sidetracked by the vast array of choices.

In our latest whitepaper, we drill down to the fundamentals of the most relevant and prevalent Industry 4.0 platforms driving digital transformation in manufacturing and examine some key differences between the options of IIoT, BI, and I4.0 solutions.

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