A Look Back: Business Intelligence & Manufacturing


Business intelligence (BI) is widely regarded as one of the most important assets to any enterprise. This is because the hard analysis afforded to companies that utilize BI allows for much better decision-making processes. Manufacturing is one of the industries that has benefited the most from the onset of BI. With so many moving parts—almost entirely based on quantifiable actions—manufacturing is a perfect beneficiary of these advancements. The BI world of today is completely unrecognizable from what it was 25—or even 10—years ago. This rapid evolution has led to the proliferation of incredibly powerful technologies. Here’s a look back on how BI has shaped manufacturing over the years.

We Realized the Potential

For most of corporate history, BI has been a relatively primitive process. It required people to painstakingly record all data by hand onto physical paper files. This was inefficient, often inaccurate, and likely wouldn’t be useful because of how much effort was needed to synthesize the information. The idea of what we can call a modern computer wasn’t introduced to the world at all until it was invented by the brilliant Alan Turing in 1936. And this looked nothing like the computers of today. It had no digital interface and incorporated a reel of tape. In the 1940s, we saw the first iterations of electronic computers, which were typically the size of entire rooms and weighed thousands of pounds. Needless to say, these machines weren’t solving complex business problems.

It wasn’t until 1958 when IBM’s Hans Peter Luhn introduced the world to the term “Business Intelligence.” His research showed that computers could effectively be used to promote higher levels of efficiency within organizations. But it was a long time still before these thoughts were played out in reality.

Computers Became Viable Instruments

In the following decades, computers became much more accessible, and thus allowed business owners to begin using them for real-world applications. This largely started with executives being able to use computers and the Internet to conduct research. Then, data warehousing came into the fray, which was highly important for manufacturers who generally have high amounts of quantifiable data.

Business Intelligence Becomes an Industry

Once we reached the 1990s and 2000s, BI had entered a whole new era. It was no longer a concept roughly embodied by certain applications; BI became an industry. This was highlighted by companies creating BI tools for customers to better identify trends within their operations. These BI tools ushered in a whole new world of analytics, requiring teams to use the programs, and IT professionals to maintain hardware.

Business Intelligence Evolves

The next chain in the link is the movement to cloud-based BI software. This opened up an unprecedented level of insight in the realm of business intelligence for manufacturing. Cloud computing was a massive step for BI because it cut out a few major inefficiencies in the process. Cloud-connect devices are capable of automatically registering data to internal storage systems. This eliminates the need for manual data input. The amount of time saved by this is unfathomable for industries such as manufacturing.

Additionally, cloud-connected sensors can be implemented at almost every stage of the manufacturing process—creating a highly detailed picture from start to finish. The advancement of cloud BI has also made sharing insights easier than ever before. Since anyone with permission can access the cloud with an Internet connection, it’s possible to instantly share results with people all over the globe. This makes decision-making a much more lucid procedure.

Today and the Future

The future of BI will largely be determined by the influence of artificial intelligence. This is already happening in many arenas. Cutting-edge applications such as relational search are propelling BI to new heights. As technology continues to accelerate, manufacturers will be some of the top beneficiaries of BI advancements.

Business intelligence has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. It makes sense; the usefulness of this technology is undeniable. Manufacturers should continue integrating modern BI advancements into their workflows.

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