Data is everywhere in the factory and throughout the electronics supply chain, but who owns that data, who should be able to access and benefit from it and who is responsible for its accuracy? All good questions that were addressed in a recent panel discussion (link provided below) organized by Instrumental and chaired by EMS industry expert Philip Stoten.
The fact is we could all use more insight to run our businesses better and to improve the service we provide customers. It’s all about the best outcome whether it’s better quality, faster new product introduction, quicker resolutions to disruptions as they arise or more supply chain visibility. Right now, the big challenge is the supply of parts, which could be helped by better data throughout the supply chain.
Nearly three-quarters of manufacturing managers worldwide are considering data sharing to improve their operations, according to a recent BCG global survey. Shared data not only improves existing applications of technology but also implements new applications not otherwise possible. BCG estimates the value companies can derive via data sharing is more than $100 billion, focusing on operational improvements alone.
I take a view that is pragmatic and utopian at the same time. I want everyone who can benefit from the data to have access to it, but I understand that the generation, verification and sharing of data is not free. I also understand that with ownership of data comes responsibility. If you’re providing data that people are basing real business decisions upon, you want to make sure that data is accurate and reliable.
Another question explored was that of data business models. Do people want to buy data-as-a-service, or insight-as-a-service? We are seeing more of these business models arise and data derived from other people’s equipment. Take an example where one provider is using a data stream from an inspection or placement machine to capture an image and then provide their own insight. This gets even more complex when that insight is generated at the request and cost to the brand but occurs on the production line of their contract manufacturer. There are a lot of moving parts here and many stakeholders that have to do their part but may not be gaining any value.
The panel also explored data-openness, again a utopian ideal. I fall on the side of sharing wherever we can add value, and we provide data streams to our customers whenever and however they are requested. Our culture is based around open and honest dialogue with our customers and the sharing of data fits hand in glove with that ideal.
The barriers to data-sharing are primarily trust-related and technical, according to BCG. Companies fear unintentionally giving away valuable or sensitive information about the business or losing negotiating power or a competitive advantage. OEMs, for example, provide design and procurement data to their electronics manufacturing services (EMS) partners which may also manufacture for competitors.
Companies also may want to maintain visibility into how shared data is used and analyzed. Technical concerns include the risk of data breaches and losses, accessibility and interoperability issues, different digital maturity levels among participants in the same solution, and the costs of switching technologies, according to BCG.
The panel took place as part of Instrumental’s Build Better 2022 online conference which can be seen in its entirety on their YouTube channel. My co-panelists were Dave Trail of Arch Systems and Rajeev Bhalla of Clip Automation, and Stoten was supported by his co-host Terry Arbaugh from Seacomp, a fellow EMS provider.