Are You a Leader or a Follower: Driving Toward Operational Excellence

Looking Over Your Shoulder

We’ve all had it. That feeling of getting ahead in your business strategy just far enough only to stop and think – what’s everybody else doing?

It’s not a great place to be in. We’re taught to innovate and keep our eyes straight-ahead, focusing on our own work. But imagine how invaluable it would be to know what all the other food and beverage manufacturers are thinking, specifically how the best of the best operate.

How Leaders Get it Done

A recent study from The Aberdeen Group gives an inside look into what true leaders in the food and beverage industry focus on to achieve operational excellence. It’s centered on three key areas to achieve business success – production efficiency, product quality and safety and sustainability costs. Among the 170 food and beverage manufacturers surveyed, there were multiple key findings:

  • Leaders in the food and beverage industry reported a 20% higher Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), 47% fewer delayed shipments as a result of quality issues, and 5% reduction in waste to landfill.
  • Followers experienced an increase in energy consumption and zero change to wastewater costs, while leaders saw double digit improvements.

The gaps between the leaders and followers are pretty impressive—creating an opportunity to learn what the leaders are doing to stay ahead. What are the key factors that drive operational excellence? Download the full report here to discover more examples of the four key performance criteria to distinguish leaders from followers.

Download the Report

How They Do It

Executives in the food and beverage industry are generally managing enterprises that are asset-intensive, at the mercy of global commodity market and face both low margins and high demand visibility. Given these industry characteristics, companies must find new ways to achieve operational excellence.

A key finding in the study distinguishing leaders from followers has to do with decision making.

The Aberdeen Group found that not only are followers less efficient and less likely to meet delivery targets, but they also take almost a full day to respond to shipments with quality issues. This greatly limits their ability to minimize disruption and identify a root cause. Without the ability to track and trace shipments quickly, the risk and impact of recalls can be substantial.

According to the study, leaders are also 48% more likely to use analysis to improve operator productivity. By monitoring the data they can assign operators to complete tasks in real time as changes occur within their operations. This has a real impact on production efficiency.

Become a Leader

The report concludes with seven strategies to execute on your quest to leadership. The first step is to improve the flow of manufacturing data across the enterprise to increase visibility and optimize performance.

The bottom line is that the leaders surveyed are employing operational excellence initiatives with modern technology solutions. They’re digitizing their production processes to turn information into actionable insight—combining people, process and technology to move the operational excellence needle in the right direction.

In order to get there, however, it takes time and discussion. At our solution-focused annual user group, PIB 2016, we spotlight challenges and host breakout sessions to inspire conversation. The event includes success stories and presentations from a wide array of industries including manufacturing, food and beverage and many more.

Check out our operational excellence track of the PIB 2016 agenda today.

Learn More about PIB 2016

Oil Insider: Top Three Issues in the Boardroom

Oil Insider: Top 3 Issues in the Boardroom from Gray Matter Systems on Vimeo.

It’s Go Time

Pricing in the oil and gas industry is extremely volatile.

It’s leaving industry decision makers with little time to lose. They need the right technology, in the right place, immediately. Their people have to be better at their jobs today than they were yesterday. Every decision counts and if one move is a few days late, it could cost millions.

Unlocking Dollars

Gray Matter Systems CEO, Jim Gillespie is familiar with helping oil and gas executives to solve the biggest problems facing their companies. He says the first issue circulating in oil and gas boardrooms everywhere is getting data from many different sources all on one display. It’s commonly referred to as the “single pane of glass.” boardroom

The information matrix is so complex now that in order to monitor performance, you have to connect streams from clouds, data centers and mobile users.

Finding the money “that’s locked up in there” is key according to Gillespie.

When the data from all systems is integrated, operators and engineers are empowered to see everything at once. The single view allows them to make better decisions, increase response time to problems and improve the overall workflow.

This shift ultimately leads to big savings on operational costs because companies are no longer wasting time operating in silos. The knowledge management tools to bring data together give key players in the oil industry the ability to know which assets are stronger, which alarms are false and the best practices moving forward.

The idea behind the single pane of glass is simply to make the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) easier for people to manage.

Want to know more about single pane of glass?

Join Kemell Kassim, VP of Energy at Gray Matter Systems, as he details creating a single pane of glass view into operations at our Oil & Gas Seminars in Dallas, Houston and Pittsburgh this month. Dr. Steven Fleischmann, a global expert in risk across a broad range of industries including energy and advanced technology, will also be on hand to discuss reducing operational costs.

Protecting the Underbelly

Effective cyber security is no longer a choice. It’s required.

That’s why it’s in the top three priorities of oil and gas executives. Surprisingly, the risks here are not always technology or equipment, in many cases they’re people.

Knowing what to do when attacks happen and the making the right, immediate decision is half the battle.

The other challenge is keeping networks up to date. The network may be safe one day and then six months later, new configurations have exposed the system to different threats.

Figuring out how to protect the soft underbelly of their (oils and gas companies) operations systems – the threat detection, the bad actors, cloaking those devices from malware and other threats – it’s a big issue today.

James Gillespie

Operational technology security has advanced to cater to customers unique needs and operating environments. It’s different than information technology security. Protecting OT control systems involves special care to make sure production isn’t disrupted by the shields put in place.

Industrial process control systems, remote assets and remote means of communication are three areas where risk protection is needed. Improving firewall policies, securing operating equipment and making sure operators know how to manage attacks are all ways companies are looking to protect themselves.

Predicting the Future

The final hot topic is optimization and predictive maintenance in all of those data issues, according to Gillespie.

The discussion around predictive analytics has become more intense recently. As the workforce tightens and efficiencies become more important, using a company’s data streams to help predict future outcomes becomes vital to success.

The ability to understand the health of an asset or machine is huge. When you have advanced warning about a problem, you can act and avoid disruption to production. Knowing when maintenance is needed reduces cost by allowing the fix before the failure.

Real time data and analytics tools are plugging into the industrial internet to create smart machines. Predictive maintenance cuts costs in several ways. First, overall maintenance costs go down when trouble is stopped before it grows. Then, the smoother flow allows delivery times to become much more predictable. Ultimately, leading to maximized oil and gas production.

The oil and gas industry is going through a transformative period. Smart, strategic judgement is needed. Making sense of the information you have, protecting the system from threats and effectively predicting roadblocks will all help to reduce costs and increase productivity during this dramatically changing time.

The trends we see in the marketplace right now are the proliferation of all the connected assets and the information overload that this creates.

James Gillespie

Taming the Complexity of a Digital Era

There are now more computing devices in the world than there are people.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the world’s population is made up of 7.3 billion people, and growing steadily. In fact, their online population clock tracks each new addition like a live, ticking scoreboard. But the bureau isn’t the only organization counting new life.

The mobile analysis firm GSMA Intelligence has a similar, real-time dashboard that tracks new mobile connections.

With close to 7.8 billion SIM cards operating in the world right now, mobile devices are coming online faster than people are being born.

But what actually pushes this figure past the world population is the growing number of active machine-to-machine connections– M2M connections like cars, medical appliances and industrial infrastructure.

This is a staggering piece of information and it’s only a bite-sized example of the digital world we live in.

After all, data is now being measured in terabytes, petabytes, zettabytes, etc. These prefixes can leave one feeling dizzy.

We’re currently on the path to a complex, digital age. It may lead to many opportunities, or it may bring challenges. It’s up to us to make our choice. Can we harness that complexity to build a safer, more profitable, better world?

Mickey McManus, the keynote speaker for our annual user group conference PIB 2016, is trying to help answer that question. A pioneer in the field of pervasive computing and human-centered innovation, he’s passionate about taming the complexity of our digital world.


Mickey is the chairman and principal of MAYA Design and a co-author of the book, Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology. TrillionsBook

Trillions is a field guide to the future, taking the previous example of billions of computing devices to the next level. Mickey asserts that one day soon this number will be closer to trillions.

“We are about to be faced with – not a trillion isolated devices – but with a trillion-node network: a network whose scale and complexity will dwarf that of today’s Internet,” said authors of Trillions, McManus, Lucas and Ballay. “And, unlike the Internet, this will be a network not of computation that we use, but of a computation that we live in.

Mickey is a frequent speaker on innovation and pervasive computing, whether it’s at GE’s Minds + Machines last year, Techonomy, Aspen Ideas Festival or during his two TEDx talks.

Taming the Complexity

 According to Trillions, humans are inherently bad at dealing directly with all things complex. By sorting through and organizing complicated concepts though, we stand a chance at making sense of it.

“Invented systems like calculus and the periodic table help us describe abstract math and the nuanced properties of the natural world without too much trouble, and can be relied upon to work every time,” said Mickey.

To tame the complexity that exists when you’re dealing with a sea of operational data, it’s crucial to keep people at the intersection of technology and business.

Twenty years ago, there were industrial professionals that thought the idea of a PC on a plant floor was outlandish. Now we know that applying modern technology practices like HMI/SCADA, data analytics, and mobile solutions are key to operational excellence across industries.

To Innovate is to Collaborate

Trillions reminds us that while we’re making our way through a new era, we must step back, regroup and discuss what it could mean for not only our business but also our lives. We must collaborate to get there.

This is what our annual user group meeting in Put-in-Bay, Ohio has always meant to us. For more than 20 years, we’vemickeymailer hosted professionals from manufacturing, water/wastewater, energy and more to inspire conversation, spotlight challenges and propose innovative solutions.

Join us this year at PIB 2016 to collaborate with folks who have some of the same problems you experience daily and hear first-hand Mickey McManus tame the complexity of the digital age.

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