Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MTInsight at 2011 Global Forecasting & Marketing Conference

This is an exciting day for MTInsight at the 2011 Global Forecasting & Marketing Conference here in Cleveland at the Intercontinental Hotel which is located in the Cleveland Clinic campus.   This conference is loaded with great speakers and sessions and I am sure MTInsight will generate lots of excitement for those attending.  (Above is view from my room.)

Manufacturing Business Intelligence

Just as a reminder, I am including a blog post I wrote previously on MTInsight.

What is MTInsight?  MTInsight is a state of the art manufacturing business intelligence platform that hosts applications for AMT’s members as well as non-members.   Before we get into a more detailed description of MTInsight, it is important to make sure we are all on the same page with some definitions. 

The overall purpose of  business intelligence is to synthesize business information from a variety of sources into a format enables better decision making.   Business intelligence (BI) software is typically made up of three major parts:

  1. Lots of adapters to a variety of information resources. 
    1. Examples of these are adapters to databases such as MySQL, accounting systems, inventory systems, sales systems, Customer Resource Management (CRM) systems, Enterprising Resource Management Planning systems (ERP),  spreadsheets, web services, old IBM mainframes, CSV files, text files, XML files, and basically anything else that you can think of.  The more adapters you have, the better.    Many times, all of this data ends up in a large data warehouse.  Today, these data warehouses are usually housed in the cloud.  MTInsight’s large data warehouse is in the cloud.
  2. Software tools to slice and dice the data in any fashion that is needed for the analytics.    Usually, BI software has the ability to call other languages as well to augment the tools the BI vendor also provides.  It is not unusual to see JavaScript and Java as programming languages that can also be used with the BI software.  Structured Query Language (SQL) is also very important for accessing data from databases.
  3. Graphics visual tools to a wide variety of output devices is key to any BI software program.   This is the logical last step after a BI developer has connected to a large number of data sources and has done lots of calculations.   This what the business person who wants to see the data in reports, charts, graphs or other types formats wants to receive.   Business people want to receive this information whether or not they are at their desk or on the road or at home and they want to view it on any device that they have in front of them.   Supporting lots of output devices as well as output formats are important.

MTInsight is built upon Actuate’s BIRT onDemand BI in the cloud software.   Actuate created BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools) which is an open source project.    BIRT is known as one of the premier BI platforms.   BIRT onDemand is the  Software as a Service (SaaS) platform MTInsight uses to access information from the very large MTInsight data warehouse in the cloud, analyze the data and then display it to a wide variety of devices.   We spent a tremendous amount of time analyzing BI vendors before we made the decision that Actuate was far and away the best choice for MTInsight.

What is manufacturing business intelligence?   This phrase for MTInsight is really a double entendre.   First, it is manufacturing business intelligence or creating business intelligence.  Second, it is manufacturing business intelligence or business intelligence about manufacturing.   How I like to think about MTInsight is that it is your virtual business intelligence department for manufacturing.  If you have a browser, you have a virtual business intelligence department for manufacturing.

We discussed the three parts of BI.  There are also three parts of MTInsight.  Those three parts are:
1.     Pat McGibbon, AMT’s Vice President of Strategic Information and Research (SIR) and his extremely talented SIR department.  These are the manufacturing industry experts who are statisticians, economists, researchers, mathematicians, programmers,  database experts, BI experts and a number of other areas of expertise.   This is what I like to call “MTInsight’s secret sauce.”     These are the folks who manage all the data sources,  write the analytic software programs that create the MTInsight charts and graphs that you see. 
2.     MTInsight data warehouse.  This is the combination of all those data sources that I mentioned previously.   I like to call this database equivalent to Metcalfe’s Law.  Metcalfe’s Law is stated as the value of any network is the number of nodes or devices squared.   In other words, with just one website you don’t really have a lot.  With a million websites, now you have something of real value.  With databases, the more data that you can get into the data warehouse, the more interesting questions you can start asking because you have the data to do the interpolations, extrapolations and generally ask the interesting “what if” questions that all of us are familiar with when you sit down in front of a spreadsheet.  The difference is with MTInsight, you now have access to tons of data that you likely could not afford on your own or simply would not have access to at all.  AMT invests a lot per year in keeping its many data sources all up to date.   These are internal data sources where ATM literally is the keeper of the data as well external data sources that AMT pays for.  
3.     BI software.  This is Actuate’s BIRT onDemand SaaS that I referenced earlier.  BIRT onDemand is what AMT uses to both build these many manufacturing business intelligence applications as well as where they are hosted in the cloud.

There is a lot more that I could write about MTInsight and look for many more articles in the IMTS insider in the future.   Just like MTConnect, MTInsight will be a game changer for manufacturing!  Check it out now at MTInsight.org

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