David and Goliath may well be the most famous underdog story of all time. And its lesson, that someone can be much smaller, or outpowered, and yet still come out on top through some creative, or unexpected tactic, is the rallying cry of practically all small companies when faced with competition from a larger player. Small companies the world over have relied on the fact that they are more nimble and able to innovate faster as their main tool for beating the big guys. And the good news for them is that largely remains the case in this new Digital Age.
As I alluded to above, one of the challenges that large enterprises have historically faced is their sheer size. It’s much harder to turn a ship the size of the Titanic. But interestingly, that size and scale is suddenly becoming a major advantage for large corporations. Specifically, the scale of data that they are able to collect, and even more specifically, the likelihood of that data coming from a large fleet of similar assets, gives large corporations the potential of tapping into the wisdom of the fleet in a way that smaller corporations, on their own, will not be able to do.
Until recently, all this volume of data was simply overwhelming. Even the most powerful statistical tools were not able to crunch this much data – certainly not in real-time. But using the power of practically infinitely scalable computing power, and the Machine Learning tools that it enables, it is now possible to analyse practically as much data as you can collect.
At TwinThread, we believe that the Wisdom of the Fleet is one of the key enablers of the productivity improvements the digital age of manufacturing promises to deliver. And this is where scale really makes the difference. Scale now means a new level of insight. You are now able to compare the running conditions of an entire fleet of similar assets. Machine Learning helps you to understand why some assets run better than others – and enable you to move the performance of all your assets to where the best running assets in the fleet have proven they all can run.
Scale not only helps with understanding the opportunities in your assets, but also in how much benefit you can achieve as well. Once you figure out why a particular asset is not performing well, the fact you have an entire fleet of similar assets means you can now scale out that new solution to the entire fleet. Even the smallest incremental improvement, when applied across a fleet of assets can add up to a huge win!
As a final thought, if you are reading this as a small manufacturer, fear not! Agility is still a competitive advantage. In the coming weeks, I will also be sharing how smaller manufacturers will be able to take advantage of the Wisdom of the Fleet as well. (hint: just because you don’t have a fleet of assets, doesn’t mean your assets are not part of fleets…)