Technology Record - Issue 32: Spring 2024

INTERVIEW How manufacturers can find their North Star Avanade’s Brendan Mislin reveals why it is difficult to track industrial data across multiple applications and how generative AI and analytics tools are helping to improve operations Manufacturers face a daunting task in monitoring huge volumes of near real-time data across a diversity of IT and operational technology (OT) software systems. Brendan Mislin, the global Industry X lead at Avanade, draws a parallel between this industrial conundrum and the familiar complexities of managing personal finances. “The data challenge is the same,” he says. “Starting out on your personal finance journey seems simple. First, you open a bank account, then you buy car insurance from a second provider before buying a mortgage from a third company a few years later. Fast forward a few years and there are multiple other outgoings to consider. It quickly becomes a complicated web of different accounts. It’s really difficult to ensure you are getting the very best deals and optimising your financial position. “Manufacturers follow a similar process when opening a factory. They begin by buying a historian to save all the data that is generated from their machines. But, six months later, they will likely need to resolve a quality problem, so they hire a solutions specialist to build an analytics system, and so on. Fast forward 10 years and a manufacturer can be dealing with potentially hundreds of different systems, all of which are producing their own data.” The longer a factory has been operating, the more complex it is to track performance and optimise operations. Traditionally, manufacturers have been able to use solutions from independent software vendors to aggregate different types of data. For example, they could pull industrial data from manufacturing execution systems (MES), programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and historians. Meanwhile, enterprise resource planning (ERP) from solutions, like Microsoft Dynamics 365, provide a unified view of business data, including finance, human resources, services and procurement. Such siloes will become a thing of the past soon. Technology providers like Microsoft and Avanade are helping to consolidate operational and business intelligence by enabling all this data to be accessed via one platform. “Going from 50 different systems to a situation where there’s now only two or three is great but that still doesn’t give that north star of a single point of truth for manufacturers across siloed data within a diversity of business function and supplier systems,” says Mislin. “One of the best answers to this problem is Microsoft Fabric’s One Lake.” This solution provides a point of integration where all data can be made accessible and visible in one place. Organisations can BY ALICE CHAMBERS “A manufacturer can be dealing with potentially hundreds of different systems, all of which are producing their own data” 102