The manufacturing process generates a great deal of data. This data, in turn, can be quite useful in managing manufacturing operations and making any number of financial or strategic decisions. The challenging part, for so many manufacturers, involves getting the data off the shop floor and into meaningful form. This is where so many companies stumble, in our experience. It’s not anyone’s fault, really. Data capture and analytics are difficult, especially when multiple systems are each spitting out their own incompatible data streams.
Automated Data Capture (ADC) is a solution, but even here, there can be all sorts of issues in getting it up and running. We have worked with many manufacturers on data capture and analytics projects. Our experience has led us to see ADC as a spectrum of capabilities, with a range of possible maturity levels. We have also seen the value of working with a cloud ERP like Acumatica as a foundation for a viable, economical ADC capability.
Automated Data Capture (ADC) Overview
ADC stands in contrast to manual or semi-manual forms of manufacturing data collection. Consider what happens as raw materials arrive in receiving and make their way from the warehouse to the shop floor. As they are unpacked, shelved, picked and put into manufacturing processes, the materials are tracked in various ways. These might include something as simple as a paper-based form, a barcode scan or an RFID chip scan.
The more automated the process is, the less work people have to do and the more quickly managers will have access to the data—how much material was used, where it went and so forth. An ADC solution seeks to pull together the different data inputs coming out of those barcode scans, paper forms and RFID chips. In the process, ADC usually touches a number of different systems, such as a warehouse management system (WMS) or manufacturing execution system (MES).
Approaches to Automated Data Capture (ADC)
ADC may connect with an assortment of data collection and reporting technologies. Paper forms are the oldest and still very common. The reflexive reaction to paper is to say “No! We have to get off of that approach!” Yes and no, in our experience. Paper means manual transposing of data into manufacturing systems. That’s slow, labor-intensive and error-prone. However, paper is very inexpensive and ultimately, it’s extremely flexible compared to digital techniques. For companies that do not completely understand their ADC requirements, it makes a lot of sense to start by analyzing how they’re tracking their manufacturing data on paper. From there, it’s possible to devise an effective ADC process.
Other technologies include Optical Character Recognition (OCR), voice recognition, time capture devices and mobile devices. These each have their pros and cons. The most common problem is difficulty with configuration. It can take time and expertise to set up an OCR scanner and connect it to data capture and analytics tools. If there are changes, and there will be, that will cause a reconfiguration headache.
ADC may also require connecting data analytics solutions to systems that are atypical for IT, such as those running supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). These are common in manufacturing and robotics, but not standard in IT and data analytics circles. So, it can be a costly hassle to get at their data. Similarly, it can be a large-scale, expensive program just to connect the data generation back ends MES, WMS, ERP and Materials Requirement Planning (MRP) solutions.
The Maturity Model
The best way to look at ADC, in our view, is as a maturity model. Manufacturers sit somewhere on a scale of ADC maturity, measured in terms of complexity and the number of processes for which they are tracking data. A beginner might have a few, paper-based data capture processes. Higher up on the scale, an expert company might have many complex ADC process at work—linking SCADA systems with WMS. It’s a worthwhile exercise to think through where you are on this scale and figure out the next best step for ADC. We can help you with this.
The Acumatica Solution for Automated Data Capture (ADC)
Acumatica for Manufacturing embodies a number of critical ADC capabilities. These include embedded barcoding and mobile capabilities that streamline data capture from a host of different devices. The platform is designed to automate pick, pack, and ship transactions, for example. As an adaptable and modular ERP, it easily connects to external systems. Acumatica also enables you to move up the ADC maturity scale at your own pace. You could start with a simple barcoding process and then move up to time tracking, machine center analysis and onward from there.
We have worked with manufacturers who have embarked on the ADC journey. If you want to get an understanding of where you are on the ADC maturity scale and what would make sense as next steps, contact us for a free consultation and demonstration of Acumatica cloud ERP.
Interested in Learning More? Download the ADC Playbook
Explore the benefits of automated data capture (ADC) before your competitors do. This playbook will get you started and provides manufacturers with an overview of available ADC technologies and a framework for planning and executing ADC implementation projects to streamline warehouse and shop floor data collection. Click here to download.