New technologies that connect machines and people are having a profound impact on manufacturing, especially when it comes to Master Data Management to support Maintenance, Repair & Operations (MRO) inventory. Digitalization enables greater collaboration and quicker, more informed decision-making that yields ongoing cash savings.

As detailed in the recent webinar “Material Master Data Maturity in the Era of Industry 4.0,” many organizations are struggling to harness the power of the technology revolution known as Industry 4.0, which has spawned Integrated Risk Management 4.0.

IRM 4.0 software is designed to address several challenges that stand in the way, such as information silos, data security and limited decision-making capabilities.

Before the emergence of Industry 4.0 technologies like the cloud, sharing data was difficult, and analytics were focused on incidents that had already taken place, such as a part failure, but new technologies are making it easier and cheaper to integrate different platforms and develop predictive solutions, according to David Stroud, Sphera’s vice president of MRO. Organizations that transition to this new paradigm can realize up to 40% lower inventory costs, he said.

In order to help them along that path, Sphera has launched a free online tool that provides a five-minute assessment of a company’s maturity level in eight key areas of Master Data Management and identifies ways companies can improve.

The tool is designed to help companies identify opportunities for improving their current situation, Stroud said. “You can use the tool to go through each area, assess where you are, and then perhaps say, ‘OK, well if we’re there, what’s the next step after this?’ ”

The assessment examines several areas, including:

  • Defined standards: What defines a good standard for your materials data?
  • Material data quality: How good is your MRO data now?
  • Bills of materials: Do your engineers and material specialists work together to leverage the power of having an extensive list of materials.
  • Governance: How mature are your governance processes compared with best practices?
  • Search: Can you find stuff quickly? Fun fact: Engineers waste up to 30% of their time looking for spare parts.
  • Inventory improvement: Have you found the perfect balance between supply and demand?
  • Supplier catalog: How well are you managing the process of onboarding supplier catalogs?
  • Capital projects: How good are your processes during the capital project phase of projects?

Progress in each area is ranked according to five levels with 5 being the highest attainable: fragmented, improved, enhanced, integrated and intelligent.

The process begins by determining the data quality standard you need for your organization. For example, Level 1 is a nonexistent or poorly defined taxonomy, or classification system. “You may well see people that say, ‘Yeah, we just give it a name, and then we ask for material, size, features,” Stroud explained. “You know, a few attributes. And they think that’s going to help them. It won’t.”

The second level is developing a well-defined taxonomy. “When I’m going to search for this spare part  and find it, what do I need to know? Well, the key information I must know is the interfaces, because they can’t be changed quickly if at all,” he said.

Level 3 is determining the actual values for their attributes. “Do they have any field restriction? Are they translated? Am I able to use the description in all my operating languages? An example might be, if it’s electric current type, you don’t have that as a free-format field. It’s going to be AC or DC, that’s it. There’s no other current you can have, not at the moment anyway.”

Level 4 is developing an online technical dictionary in multiple languages, and reaching Level 5 would requires that the dictionary allows for greater “granularity” to allow compliance assessment by Material Specification type, namely a generic item, a standard item ordered by part number, a proprietary or single-sourced item, and one that is fabricated or custom-made.  Each type can be considered to need a different set of information to be compliant with the defined standard.

The tool is designed to get users thinking about their Materials Master Data Management and where they stand in this Digital Transformation era.

“If you want to move from the basic level to the integrated level, then you should be looking at your dictionary,” which is the foundation for characterizing MRO data. “Well implemented, it  steers you to get the data right first time.” Stroud said.

Sphera Research

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