Data is a crucial driver for process efficiency and decision making. The breadth of data applications in traditional companies is much broader than one might think. You might have heard about exciting pilot projects in big data and artificial intelligence.
But don’t forget about the masses of employees dealing with spreadsheets and basic calculations daily. There is considerable potential to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of these activities. The Data Services business center of Continental Engineering Services bundles the learnings of Continental on how to establish a data culture into an innovative service offering.
Our Value Proposition
We believe that value-adding data usage can be increased in all parts of organizations. That’s why we focus our efforts around the core idea of establishing a data culture.
Increasing data literacy amongst the employee base is a unique offering of CES Data Services. We consult, train, and coach clients on their way to replicate our award-winning digital transformation story of upskilling business users.
Conducting data projects yields fast and impactful results. Our project experience is broad and ranges from automation of reporting to domain-specific process control and data science applications utilizing artificial intelligence.
Some of the projects conducted for Continental are of a generic nature. They also comprise a large amount of domain and process best practice know-how. For this reason, we offer these as replicable data solutions as project blueprints.
So many colleagues work with data in one way or another. However, the tool of choice of most business users is still Microsoft Excel. Spreadsheets are great for quick and easy tasks. But they cannot fill the gap between business needs (e.g. in reporting or process control) and the capabilities of standard IT systems.
We found a way to train business users, without prior IT or programming background, in data skills. Utilizing the open source KNIME Analytics Platform and Microsoft’s PowerBI for interactive dashboards, we empower a huge and diverse user group from various functions.
Thousands of trained users benefit from automating work previously done in Excel, finding new answers in data, and basing decision making on facts.
In 2017, the Continental-internal initiative won the renowned Digital Leader Award in the category of Empower People. Seeing the benefits of a multi-thousand business user community and the emerging data culture, we offer the path to this success as a service package comprised of consulting, training, coaching, and pilot projects. While ‘data literacy’ is amongst the top topics on every hype cycle, only CES provides a proven and actionable service offering that scales well for business users.
Data Projects & Solutions
Potential for improvements based on data exist in many functions of manufacturing companies. The starting point is always a business challenge. For example, this might be an inefficient manual process in spreadsheet technology. Or it is a production process that is not 100% understood in its outcomes and shall be optimized based on the data it records. It is always advisable to have a clear objective, maybe even a hypothesis to test, and not to naively search for the gold nugget of information in vast amounts of data. Another surprising learning is that often the automation of data processes yields not only efficiency but also new insights. For example, a logistics team could automatically analyze all material numbers instead of a 10-minute manual Excel analysis per case. That way, tight spots in the supply chain could be identified, without needing artificial intelligence methods at all.
Data projects are usually engineered from scratch. Depending on the business objective, a one-time analysis could already be the desired result. For example, identifying process drivers causing too high scrap rates in a production process. Often, also a prototype as a working piece of software in a well-defined setup and for a small target group is a project result. In cases that require sustainable repeatability or a bigger target audience shall use the resulting tools, we speak of data solutions.
Replicable Data Solutions from Project Blueprints
Some of our most impactful data projects include a large portion of domain knowledge and process best practice. We learned from the replication within Continental, that the previous projects are blueprints that only require a reasonable amount of adjustment when transferred to other units.
Being recognized as a benchmark company in areas such as inventories for automotive suppliers, our offer to implement such blueprints externally combines data methods with process know-how.
For example, Continental’s benchmark value of 26 days inventory outstanding (DIO) in the fiscal year 2018 was also supported by data analytics projects targeting stock reduction. One of these project blueprints simulates an ideal stock level on material number level. The resulting KPIs can be used as an internal benchmark enriched with an actionable list of materials of the highest reduction potential.
A second example is the financial forecasting and budgeting process of a plant. The integration of standard reports from customer demand over bill of materials to vendor data and stock significantly increases this process's efficiency. Taking days of manual effort previously, it calculates in minutes at the higher quality & precision level. Given the similarity of controlling logic across manufacturing plants, this project blueprint as well has proven to be transferable at reasonable efforts.
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Why Data Services from CES?
Since 2006, Continental Engineering Services offers comprehensive know-how, creativity, and access to the entire technology pool of Continental AG. The Data Services unit within CES follows the same philosophy. Having guided Continental towards a data culture, we offer our unique and award-winning digital transformation story of establishing a data culture externally.
The success factor is the tailoring of training material and project examples to typical challenges in the manufacturing industry or related domains.
What also differentiates us is our vast experience in the manufacturing industry. Our project examples comprise all value chain elements, e.g. R&D, production, supply chain management, sales, controlling, and human relations.
CES’s mission is to bring Continental technologies to customers of various industries is another driving force of the Data Services team. We do not need to start from scratch in our data projects, but clients can benefit in areas where Continental is a recognized benchmark (such as inventories of automotive suppliers) by replicating data solutions based on project blueprints.
- Case Study – Data Driven Product Quality Improvement
Product quality has always been at the heart of automotive manufacturing. With the rising importance of Noise Vibration Harshness (NVH), typical engineering skills need to be enriched with novel methods for finding problems’ root causes. A close collaboration between our data scientists and the product engineers helped leverage data to enhance their quality and to guide engineers in the problem resolution work.
- Case Study – Supply chain planning consistency
Producing goods efficiently requires having the exact right amount of raw materials needed. However due to complex business setup, it is difficult to guarantee ideal and consistent planning with standard ERP solutions. Our new data analytics solution improves planning accuracy in 18 participating plants and greatly reduces firefighting to prevent allocation risks.
- Case Study – Automation of Core Controlling Process
Agile planning is a key component in an unpredictable market, therefore, the Controlling department at Continental, Frankfurt sought to improve its core planning process. Challenged by time-intensive, manual forecasting and budgeting processes, the department now has an automated solution for a data-driven planning.
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