Build Better 2022: Manufacturing data is core infrastructure for modern organizations

Alisha Gallagher

The manufacturing industry has fundamentally changed since 2020. Where engineering and operations leaders could once fly across the globe to oversee production on the manufacturing floor, they’re now cobbling together data from disconnected sources to find and fix issues from thousands of miles away — and if these last few years are any indication, we’re not going back to the way it used to be.

The opportunities that come with these changes were central to our discussions at our annual Build Better Manufacturing Optimization Summit. We hosted hundreds of manufacturing and operations leaders from around the world in our virtual event to discuss actionable advice on building sustainable, reliable products, and how manufacturing data infrastructure is the key to delivering world-class products. 

Here are just a few key takeaways from the industry leaders who participated in our Build Better event.

Contract manufacturers are valuable data partners

Milo Werner, General Partner at The Engine, encountered a steep learning curve when she started her career as an early NPI leader at Fitbit and Tesla. She quickly learned that there’s an enormous difference between working with a contract manufacturer (CM) and a factory that’s owned and operated by the company. Her advice? Find a CM you can trust, and lean on them for more than manufacturing.

Panelists throughout the Build Better summit agreed: Matt Ohline, Senior Director of Automation, Equipment and Test Group at Intuitive Surgical, found that when CMs and companies openly share data from the beginning, it’s easier to reach the finish line together and bring products to market, which frees up engineering teams to jump right into the next product opportunity.

Better data brings better outcomes

Anna-Katrina Shedletsky, Instrumental CEO, took the Build Better stage to announce Instrumental Correlations, a new tool that helps manufacturing teams solve bigger problems faster. Instrumental Correlations seamlessly plugs into your data streams and delivers an AI-ranked list of the most actionable relationships in your product data, empowering teams to quickly identify root cause and implement corrective actions.

Featured in the announcement was an Instrumental customer, a Fortune 50 electronics company that discovered the root cause of an antenna issue with Instrumental Correlations. It identified inconsistencies in the quality of upstream products and a problem with the feed screw length, allowing the company to intentionally and systematically improve their manufacturing process — and it all started because they had access to better data.

Data is the difference between an unsolvable and solvable problem

David Nazzaro, Senior Director of Hardware Engineering and Advanced Technologies at Insulet Corporation, explained that data is mission-critical to the life-saving medical devices built by Insulet Corporation. The most important data? “We’re listening to our patients.” The panel agreed that patient and customer feedback, combined with visual and parametric data sources, empowers their teams to contextualize and solve previously unsolvable problems in their manufacturing processes.

They also agreed that while every detail is important when you’re building a new product, it’s impossible for individual team members to track thousands of details on their own. Intelligent data streams, however, remove that burden, so engineers can spend more time doing just about anything other than collecting data from disparate sources. What would they rather be doing? Sleeping. During an Instrumental breakout session, an audience poll found that 75 percent of attendees would rather spend time catching up on sleep than collecting and formatting data in Excel.

What’s next for manufacturing?

While manufacturing processes might have changed, the goal is still the same: to build and deliver world-class products. And today, that starts with data. Engineering and operations leaders across industries around the world are seeing the potential with data-centric approaches, and building a backbone of manufacturing data to provide the critical infrastructure they need to thrive in this new age of manufacturing. 

Watch for more highlights from Build Better 2022, including videos from each session and breakout.

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