The Impact of Big Data and Social Media on the Manufacturing Industries

It is no secret that big data has a huge effect on many industries, but did you know that it has nearly an equal effect on the manufacturing industry as well? The value of social media and data collection has is never ending and can affect multiple aspects of a large company. The effect on industries outside of manufacturing is easy to spot. Walk into any retail store and you will likely see some sort of marketing encouraging you to like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter. It is easy to see how a retail company is affected by big data and social media – but with a manufacturing company the benefits may not be as clear, at least on the surface.

Big Data and Manufacturing

Manufacturers have a constant stream of data available to them, but the real difficulty is collecting, harnessing, and putting that data to use in the manufacturing process. It starts with identifying where the holes are in the data analysis strategies of a given company, and working to plug those holes with better practices and better systems.

Having the proper technologies in place can help companies to aggregate data sets and help companies to use predictive analysis to stay ahead of the curve. This is especially helpful for manufacturing companies, as it can help them to identify where they could stand to improve their manufacturing processes, and which improvements stand to present the most promising outcome.

When the correct systems are in place to monitor and evaluate the data that is available, then companies must work on putting new policies into action as a result of what is learned from data. Data can help companies to uncover flaws in supply chains, equipment issues slowing production, or even larger concepts like downtrends in productivity in connection with policies changes.

Today, unlocking valuable data is more important than ever. In fact, in many industries it is an absolute ‘must-have’ in order to remain competitive and keep up with the rapidly changing landscape. Harnessing and utilizing data is an important part of the manufacturing process for many – helping them to identify weaknesses, shore up practices, and better their products.

Research and Development Benefits

Big data and social media definitely affect research and development. This results in reduced costs for US manufacturers and helps products to remain competitive. Imagine a company that manufactures a product being able to utilize automated system to monitor the overall perception of that product through social media. This allows companies to immediately determine what customers like about their products, what they don’t like, and incorporate that feedback into future development of that product.

One excellent example comes from Domino’s Pizza. Now, you probably do not think of Domino’s Pizza as being your typical manufacturing company, but they are a large-scale manufacturer of dough and other ingredients that are used in their pizza. The company underwent a large scale data collection program, attempting to examine their customers’ thoughts about their pizza. They quickly learned, through social media and other big data collection, that their customers felt that both the pizza dough and the crust was underwhelming. Domino’s then made changes to both their dough and pizza sauce, and went on a several month long campaign to educate the public about these changes, even occasionally admitting to previously offering an inferior product. The result? A 9% rise in sales for the entirety of that year.

Social Media and Manufacturing

Social media gives companies access to large amounts of data at relatively little cost overall. They can conduct a survey among their customers without having to make much of an investment, and immediately tally the results, affecting the process for future development.

Social media has often been used by organizations, both internally and externally. Many companies employ social media solutions that foster communication and innovation between their employees in various departments. Others may use social media to work more closely with customers and partners. This is an attempt to implement and fully leverage social media with their businesses processes. It can be use to provide a channel for communication and help to provide context in those situations – such as providing information about the product. Social media can help to foster a more collaborative process, where information is freely exchanged and ideas are put into implementation with more regularity.

Employees from the millennial generation are more accustomed to sharing ideas and information through social media in their personal life, and that familiarity can extend to their professional life and workplace. The free-flowing information presented through social media can seem chaotic at times, but provides a platform for open innovation, and gives businesses data to crawl through using ERP systems.

Barriers of Big Data

There are also undoubtedly some barriers to collecting large amounts of data as well. To start – most companies keep their data in several different databases, with sales data being separate from other feedback that a company receives. Most companies end up working with and hiring several marketing and focus group companies in order to properly develop the surveys, tests, and focus groups that a company requires to truly understand the thoughts and feelings of their customers.

Additionally, companies will likely run into competitors and other companies that they work with being unwilling to share the data that they have collected, which can limit the data that a company has access to, or force a company to conduct their own tests. For those that are able to convince those that they work with to share data with one another – the benefits can be absolutely huge for all involved.

There is no doubt that big data and social media have a real effect on retail businesses, but many overlook the huge role that it can play in the manufacturing process. Understanding how your customers and potential customers feel can be a huge leg up, and help a business to increase their sales and strengthen their return on investment.

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