Excel Spreadsheets in Manufacturing

Manufacturing generates more data than any other industry.

Quantity of data stored by manufacturers
With so much new data stored each year, manufacturing requires the best tools for data analytics to empower manufacturers to make data-driven decisions.

With the increasing affordability of industrial sensors, cloud, and other connectivity-focused technologies, manufacturers have more opportunities than ever to turn their operational data into a competitive advantage. But on many shop floors, reality doesn't align with potential.

Many organizations still record data on whiteboards and clipboards. They still process their data in Microsoft Office.

We’ve written about the historical and industry-specific barriers that contribute to slow technological adoption. But the question remains: why do organizations still use Excel?

Here, we’ll show that there’s a better way.

Why Manufacturers Use Excel

Many organizations still use Excel because it’s the universal language of data analysis, so to speak.

Excel is already installed on the vast majority of business computers. Its cell-based interface is easy to learn, easy to use, and makes visualizing patterns in data simple. From simple arithmetic to more powerful formulas or macros, excel can do a ton. As an interface, Excel is intuitive and simple to understand.

It would be disingenuous to attack Excel. There's a reason why it's used across industries around the world.

But when it comes to processing operations data, Excel is far from ideal.

Tracing the Data Chain

For one, Excel can’t provide real-time insights.

Consider how information about an operation makes it into Excel.

First, an engineer needs to record the data. Often, this is done using a mixture of manual methods. Just as often, clipboards or whiteboards are the first steps. An engineer will walk the floor or sit at a work cell of interest and record data by hand.

Then the information needs to get entered into Excel. If things are really organized, you can upload a .CSV, do a little cleaning, and be ready to go. But more often, this means manual data entry. Entering data by hand is far from the best use of valuable time, and it’s prone to error.

Once the data is entered, you might be ready to produce insights. Might.

Chances are, however, that operations are too variable and the data too incomplete to produce insights that speak to root causes and performance truths. How do you account for processes that require customization? Or for products and processes that have multiple variants?

If you’re trying to compare the performance of different departments or machines, then you’ll likely need to gather information from different silos, creating more time between you and the insights you care about.

Ultimately, data collection needs to be fast, error-proof, and flexible enough to handle variability in manufacturing processes.

What Real-Time Data Looks Like

With the right tools, manufacturers can cut the data chain to turn the execution of processes into useful information.

Tulip gives organizations real-time data at the source.

Screenshot of performance dashboard app built with Tulip
Tulip’s Frontline Operations Platform allows manufacturers to collect data at the source and use it in real time.

With Tulip’s Frontline Operations Platform, you can turn routine processes into data. As operators move through processes, the platform automatically captures performance information. With edge computing and machine monitoring, the data machines generate is naturally and automatically converted into valuable information.

And because the platform automatically collects performance data, it’s flexible enough to account for variability and customization.

So instead of collecting and entering data, engineers can spend time making improvements that deliver real value.

Ready to replace your spreadsheets with automatic, real-time manufacturing analytics? Get in touch for a free demo today.

Automate production tracking with Tulip's Frontline Operations Platform

See how a system of apps can replace your spreadsheets and capture real-time data with a free trial of Tulip.

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