Informance: Manufacturing Performance Management in Disguise

Last week I re-introduced you to Aravo, a hidden gem in the supply chain space with their mastery of Supplier Information Management (SIM) that goes so far above and beyond what you get with traditional packaged e-Sourcing suites that even Oracle, one of the few companies that not only eats its own dog food and drinks its own champagne but also tries fervently to have it for every meal, and Google, one of the few powerhouse research labs left in existence thanks to the short-sighted venture craze and short-term return strategies of the last decade that saw the likes of some of the greatest labs (like Xerox Park, Bell Labs, etc) more-or-less disappear from existence, have decided to adopt the solution.

This week I’m going to introduce you to another hidden gem in the supply chain space that you might not notice otherwise – and it goes by the name of Informance. Although I did introduce them to you back in this post in January, I doubt you took much notice as I didn’t go too much beyond the press release and web-site in my introduction as I was still struggling to understand where the true value of their solution lies.

However, thanks to a concerted effort by their new Chief Marketing Officer, the infamous Sudy Bharadwaj (who temporarily replaced Tim “Mr. Perfect” Minahan at Aberdeen before the arrival of Vance Checketts after market-making stints at MindFlow and i2), their messaging (and website) has been considerably cleaned up and clarified and their knowledge center has exploded. (Their recent series of benchmark studies, reminiscent of Sudy’s record-breaking research performance at Aberdeen of 5 studies in 7 months, is particularly enlightening as to the importance of the type of solution they offer.) After reviewing the cleaned up messaging, the new materials, and a few discussions with Sudy, I’ve finally figured out what Informance really does and how it goes beyond traditional manufacturing solutions to allow centralized operations and contract manufacturing customers to improve their distributed and outsourced manufacturing processes.

In a nutshell, even though they are currently advertising their solution as Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI, not to be confused with the EMI Group), what they are really doing is Manufacturing Performance Management (MPM) – which could be explained as next generation Supplier Performance Management (SPM). In Supplier Performance Management (as promoted by Ariba, Emptoris, and Ketera, among others), you collect, analyze, and disseminate relevant supplier performance metrics to determine where your suppliers are performing well and where they are performing poorly. You then use this information to optimize your supply base, identify your strategic suppliers, and collaborate with them to root out identified performance issues and develop processes for improvement.

Manufacturing Performance Management (MPM) takes supplier performance management to the next level by not only identifying where performance is lacking (relative to best-in-class) at the plant level but also by providing actionable information upon which you can base performance improvements. By tapping into bi-directional information flows, what-if scenario analytic capabilities, six sigma, lean, and TPM knowledge bases, and heuristic improvement strategies, the system can not only tell you that production is down, but it can pinpoint the specific manufacturing line within the specific manufacturing plant that is not producing its fair share of units, determine the reason for the decreased production (breakdown, lack-of-inventory shutdown, labor shortage, etc), and provide you with a solution to fix the problem (increase safety stock, redesign your transportation network to prevent delays, increase staff levels, etc).

The importance of being able to go beyond identifying a problem to identifying one or more potential solutions in your manufacturing and contract manufacturing operations cannot be over-stressed. Just one of the benchmark studies I referenced above serves to highlight the drastic performance gaps between laggards and best-in-class performers. The Food and Beverage benchmark study found that best-in-class performers have 6,800% fewer process failures (0.25% vs 17%), 828% fewer equipment failures (1.69% vs 14%), and 33,333% fewer shutdowns (0.03% vs 10%). In addition, best-in-class have 10,909% fewer changeovers (0.11% vs 12%), 1,145% less operational downtime (0.96% vs 11%), and over 60,000% fewer production adjustments (0.01%, rounded up, vs 6%).

In addition to the bi-directional information flows, what-if scenario analysis, and actionable insight, Informance also offers real-time performance monitoring, proactive before-the-fact notifications, and multi-level dashboard monitoring that starts at the plant floor manager and goes all the way up to the COO. This is not to downplay their plant solution, which I’d still consider labelling EMI (Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence), since contract manufacturers can also proactively use this solution to improve their operations and become supplier of choice to their customers, but merely to note the extent to which their enterprise solution goes beyond traditional EMI into the beginnings of true MPM. So be sure to check them out, and their expanding knowledge center in particular.