Discrete manufacturers need access to real-time data and analytics across their shop floor. (Analytics is the key word here)

At Data Inventions, we’ve been saying that for a while.

But knowing what is happening without knowing how it is happening won’t do a lot of good.

For many discrete manufacturers, the processes that have developed across their shop floor are poorly documented—if they are documented at all. That might sound harsh, but saying processes are poorly documented is not the same thing as saying those processes don’t work. In fact, your shop floor might perform at a high level with no process documentation or mapping at all.

But performing at a high level is not the same thing as performing at the highest level. It is always possible to be good at something—even great at something—without achieving your potential.

Why Process Mapping Supports Improvement Activities

Michael Jordan was an excellent basketball player for years before he became a champion. What changed? Jordan mapped out his pre-season training process, saw where his weaknesses were, made changes, and then observed as his real-time data finally reached its potential—and then he won championship after championship.

By engaging in process mapping, Jordan went from really, really good to becoming the greatest basketball player ever.

Discrete manufacturers can do the same.

And it starts with mapping the processes that occur across their shop floor. Doing so prepares owners and managers to better understand the insight they will gain by accessing the real-time data trapped in their machines. Real-time data provides the manufacturing intelligence discrete manufacturers need to perform at the highest possible level.


Process mapping gives discrete manufacturers the ability to identify and improve areas on the shop floor where breakdowns are occurring.

Steps to Successful Process Mapping

Here are a few tips on how your shop floor can better engage in process mapping:

1. Start by going old school.

There are tons of process mapping tools out there, but it’s good to start your process mapping journey by getting back to the basics. Start with a pencil and paper and begin documenting how your shop floor functions. Processes that develop organically on a shop floor can be messy, and you are going to need to use your eraser.

And that’s okay. If Mark Twain wrote out his books by hand, you can begin process mapping with a #2 pencil.

2. Collaborate across your organization (and up and down the org chart).  

A top-down process mapping exercise will be a waste of time. Managers must get input from across the shop floor and include the entire team, from operators to operation directors.

Getting input across your shop floor and up and down the org chart will help ensure the actual process—as messy as it may be—is captured the way it actually happens.

3. Don’t critique or change the process while you’re mapping it.

It will be tempting to fix mistakes and broken procedures as soon as you identify them. Don’t do that—unless the issue is so severe it must be addressed right away. Instead, commit to capturing the process as it works on your shop floor right now, and make changes once you understand how your plant is functioning.

4. Don’t let your processes sit on a shelf.

Everyone has engaged in strategic planning sessions that end with a nice, glossy binder sitting on a shelf. The plan looks good, but it remains unchanged or even unexamined until the next strategic planning session.

Don’t do that.

Review the processes on your plant floor regularly and adjust as needed—especially when real-time data gives you manufacturing intelligence that shows how impactful those changes could be. This is another opportunity for feedback from your operators, who want to do their job well and usually welcome the chance to influence improvements.

5. Embrace the…process.

In some ways, process mapping is disruptive. Most managers would rather focus on the business—but that’s the thing. Process mapping shows you how your business functions.

So, embrace the process of process mapping.

Then, use the real-time data driven insight delivered by Alora by Data Inventions to reinvent your shop floor and become the type of discrete manufacturer that leaves the competition behind.