Manufacturing Analytics vs TableauMost manufacturers realize if they had the right data they could improve their manufacturing operations. Every manufacturing company wants to make a high quality product, as quickly and cost effectively as they can. Having the right data on production processes can help improve quality, update and increase throughput.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” – Lord Kelvin

But what are the right systems to use to collect and analyze all of the data your machines and sensors producing. We are going to compare Manufacturing Analytics applications vs. Tableau and discuss which one is the right tool for the job.

Many companies look at Manufacturing Analytics applications and believe that Tableau or other business intelligence software can accomplish the same goals. But they are very different solutions designed to do very different things. It is true that there is some overlap between the visualization capabilities of a Manufacturing Analytics and Tableau but that is where the similarities end.

Below we will discuss what Tableau is and what it is not and do the same thing with a Manufacturing Analytics application like SensrTrx.

What is Manufacturing Analytics?

As its name suggests it is an analytics application that helps customers understand their data but it goes beyond that. A true Manufacturing Analytics application must do the following:

  1. Acquire Data
  2. Clean & Contextualize Data
  3. Calculate Manufacturing KPIs
  4. Produce Role Based Visualizations & Dashboards

Acquire Data

A Manufacturing Analytics system, like SensrTrx, must have the ability to collect data directly from equipment on the factory floor. It should be able to connect directly to the PLCs, sensors or machines and extract meaningful information.

Clean & Contextualize Data

The data should be cleaned as it is collected from the equipment, all data coming from the machines may not be relevant and should not be processed. Some data should be filtered inside the plant and some once the data is sent to the cloud. This is done to reduce the noise and make sure the data used by the Manufacturing Analytics system is ready for display and calculations without further processing.

As the data is ingested context of what department, facility, shift, product, team, operator and production line, etc. this data is associated with is added. Additionally, the reasons why a part was scraped or why a line was down can be added to help with analysis. Without context the data is meaningless.

Calculate Manufacturing KPIs

KPIs and metrics are key to any continuous improvement project and you must have the right metrics. The system will calculate things like OEE, cycle times, first pass yield and downtime in near real time. These are standard formulas which come out of the box in the Manufacturing Analytics solution and don’t have to be created from scratch.

Role Based Visualizations

Being able to visualize the data in meaningful ways is extremely important. A user wants the right data at the right time and they don’t want to look for what they need. A Manufacturing Analytics system show users the right data, at the right time nothing more and nothing less. Most systems have default dashboards by job role out of the box so each everyone from maintenance to plant managers to supervisors and schedulers have the data they need to do their jobs.

What is Tableau?

Quoting from the Tableau web site “Tableau can help anyone see and understand their data. Connect to almost any database, drag and drop to create visualizations, and share with a click.”

Tableau is very good, if not the best in the market at creating beautiful visuals and connecting to many different types of databases. Many companies have built manufacturing dashboards using Tableau. There are hundreds of different types of plots and charts a user can build allowing them to try many different options to display data exactly the way they want it.

Tableau can be used to display role based dashboards like Manufacturing Analytics but it can also be used as a data discovery tool. Data discovery allows users to dig through the data and build their own visualizations. This can be very useful for more technically advanced users.

Tableau can be deployed in the cloud or on premises and customers typically pay a per user or per server license fees as well as designer licenses.

When deploying Tableau, you need a technical user that knows how to connect to your data, setup the server and configure the initial data sets. When using the cloud system with on premises databases data must be synchronized with the server. Which means you can have a lag of up to an hour for the data to refresh.

When the data sets are built you can create formulas to calculate things like OEE, cycle time, etc. and display those on the dashboards or visualizations.

What Tableau is Not

As you can see by reading the above paragraphs Tableau is missing some critical pieces of a Manufacturing Analytics application.

  1. Tableau does not acquire data it relies on existing databases. Companies must deploy data acquisition solutions in each factory and synchronize that data into Tableau.
  2. Tableau does not clean or contextualize the data. The existing data must be processed to add production standards, shifts, part numbers etc. This can be very time consuming and expensive to implement.
  3. Any KPIs a customer wants have to be built from scratch in Tableau, nothing comes out of the box.
  4. Finally, each company must define from scratch how the want to view their data.

These missing pieces are expensive to implement and require a diverse set of skills, an understanding of the PLCs, and controls from which you need to gather data, the ability to process and contextualize the data and finally and understanding of key manufacturing KPIs.

What Manufacturing Analytics is Not

If you are looking for a general purpose Business Intelligence tool that connects to any database, then Manufacturing Analytics is not a good choice. However if you want a quick to implement easy to use solution that can help you reduce downtime, improve quality and performance Manufacturing Analytics is the right tool for the job.

The Verdict

If you are looking for a general purpose business intelligence tool, then Tableau is the right tool for that job. If you want to understand your manufacturing data to improve uptime, quality and performance of your factory then choose a Manufacturing Analytics system like SensrTrx.