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FLEXO Magazine : October 2010
Technologies & Techniques tracked by salesperson, estimator, customer, product line, etc. All of this data is available in the MIS. On-time delivery will generally be tracked through the scheduling module of an MIS, and month-end close time can be tracked with time stamps in a similar fashion to the invoicing process. GettinG at the Data Most management information systems collect data very well. But it is the well-intentioned manager that is often frus- trated by the difficulty in gleaning the right data at the right time and in the right format. In the past, the most effective way of getting at this data was through reports—printed or on- screen. This is still an incredibly viable and effective method for extracting the data in the MIS database. But in so many cases it requires a deep understanding of the database itself and the relationship between one table and another. Some management systems have built-in report writers that incorporate these relationships within the applica- tion saving the report designer a significant amount of work. Other systems use third-party report writers that require an extra step in setting up the relationships between tables. Fortunately, about eight years ago, through advances in data mining, a new breed of software for reporting business analyt- ics made it to the marketplace. These add-on applications sat on top of databases and provided the tools to create visually appealing and time-sensitive data dashboards. These dash- boards were just like the dashboard of a car. They reported in an easy to read format actual performance. If things are operating properly, there is no report. If something is wrong (a la check engine light), the operator/manager is alerted. Today, there are some MIS providers that incorporate this technology directly in their software without the need to pur- chase a separate data analytics package. This is great news for statistical process control. In many cases, the data needed for some SPC is built right into the dashboards. Sometimes, this information is called key performance indicators (KPIs). In addition to the canned data that comes with these dash- boards, there are generally tools for creating custom dash- boards. Some of the toolsets are visual and do not require a degree in computer science to use them. Some of the toolsets are very similar to, or even use, Microsoft’s Excel spread- sheet. In all cases, custom dashboard tools are generally designed for the experienced MIS user and not necessarily just the IT staff. A boon to SPC! Statistical process control continues to require discipline and management oversight to benefit manufacturing and business operations. But practices used to run a good MIS can double as the raw data for SPC. MIS and SPC can live together quite nicely. n ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tim Daisy is a mechanical engineer and long time student of process improvement methodologies. He has applied this in the printing industry for almost 20 years and he now works for Prism and provides the type of MIS and shop floor data capture solutions referenced in this article. www.flexography.org october 2010 FLeXO 11 FLX_Oct10_mech.indd 11 10/15/10 12:31 AM
Sustainable Fall 2010