Using Technology to Create Manufacturing-data Storytelling


I have always been fascinated by User Experience (UX), which is why I was delighted to attend a recent talk on data storytelling. Storytelling is almost as old as our species, and consciously weaving it into the fabric of our technology has the potential to meld the electronic and human domains into a harmonious and productive whole.

Defining manufacturing-data storytelling

Let’s define ‘storytelling’ within the manufacturing-data arena, as the translation of AI data into a language (including charts, images, and narratives), that can be easily understood by non-data-scientist employees. Storytelling blends hard corporate data with the art of human communication, allowing us to bridge the gap between data science and business. Done right, storytelling can help to drive insights through the company and can be a very important element of success in a data-driven manufacturing environment.

Ideally, data storytelling describes people on journeys, from their current status, whatever that may be, to a future that is qualitatively and quantitatively improved. In agile software development, for example, a user story connects the software under consideration to the customer and presents data confirming the delivery of value. The journey described may begin with the user’s status quo, progress to the adoption of new (quite possibly SYSPRO) software, and triumphantly concludes with the creation of value. And because the story is propelled by data, the journey and its conclusion exist both as stories and as lessons.

The benefits of creating stories around data

85% of companies are trying to be data-driven, only 37% of that number say they’ve been successful.
source: NewVantage Partners,2017

Using data to create stories can help to encourage desirable traits, such as trust. When an executive or managerial decisions come out of the blue, suspicion and rumour typically ripple through the workforce. A management decision to make changes on the shop floor may be viewed with jaundiced eyes by employees on the assembly line. Management can tell their workers that the changes are based on data, but without storytelling, the suspicions remain. Add a well-composed, data-driven story, however, and the reasons for the decision can be made clear to all involved. Employees, once they ‘get it’, will be motivated to change old habits, increase productivity, improve quality, eliminate wasteful practices, follow safety protocols, and work to ensure compliance.

Using ERP and technology to create a data-driven story

Of course, if you can’t find the data, it’s impossible to tell a data-driven story. Accurate data is needed, as well as the right analytical tools. For a manufacturing company to drive success through storytelling, a modern, up-to-date ERP is essential, as well as a selection of Industry 4.0 technologies, such as AI and predictive analytics. All that’s necessary after that is a desire to communicate, and a gift for telling stories.

At SYSPRO, our UX has evolved rapidly to engage our users, and to present them with elements of storytelling. Avanti, for example, is our Cloud-capable, web-based, device-agnostic user interface (UI), which has been designed to support Industry 4.0 technologies, such as the Internet of Things. Avanti’s tiles display real-time KPIs from sensor data, then tie that data into the workflow. This allows for the easy use of predictive analytics, which makes Avanti the perfect tool for surfacing actionable insights.

But that’s not all – now we can take you one step further into the future, with SYSPRO Harmony. Harmony is a social-media-type platform that can help your company build an agile, connected, collaborative and data-driven workforce.

Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), Harmony disseminates actionable insights to the appropriate people, and facilitates internal and external collaboration. As employees ‘chat’, Harmony’s AI recognizes keywords and surfaces relevant, real-time data for the consideration of the participants.  In effect, Harmony encourages learning and engagement, through the introduction of the basic elements of storytelling.

As part of the SYSPRO team, I like to think that our software creates productive, harmonious partnerships between people and machines. By coding something as essentially human as storytelling into our software’s DNA, we help businesses take an important step towards the future.

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