For more than a century, this leading manufacturer has provided packaged consumer goods to meet the needs of people around the world. Now the company is a market leader in more than 80 countries and nearly 1.3 billion people, one-quarter of the world's population, purchase its products every day. Its executives credit the company's growth to an unwavering commitment to providing customers with "a better life through product innovation."
One key factor in their ability to drive innovation is the organization's effective use of advanced information systems and best practices to make knowledge-based product decisions. In today's ultra-competitive markets, manufacturers are trying to distill mountains of data into business intelligence that will enable superior engineering and recognition of opportunities. Companies build vast data warehouses yet many struggle to extract the right information from their internal sources. These difficulties are compounded when companies try to mine "big data" from external sources – across industries and languages – that cannot be centralized, normalized or categorized in advance.
This manufacturer struggled to deal with many of those same challenges until 2012, when its product teams began leveraging new tools and best practices for not only pinpointing information they already knew they were seeking but also uncovering new insights and enabling collaborative problem-solving. The software they chose was Goldfire®, backed by IHS Markit professional service experts as part of a unified IHS Markit Product Design solution.
Enabling Efficiency with Smart Searches
Today, the manufacturer's product team uses powerful "semantic search" capabilities from IHS Markit to go beyond traditional keyword searches (which typically generate an overabundance of irrelevant results) by analyzing the relationship between terms in order to attain more accurate, precise answers. The team uses those semantic searches – which include synonyms and references in multiple languages – to quickly aggregate, categorize and summarize information for company decision makers.
Their business unit has a lot of buried data and their information is not compiled in a single place. They have summary forms, presentations and technical reports in various forms and it is hard to spot connections across a host of different formats. Product managers always knew that they needed to think about and solve problems in a structured manner but they had not been able to quickly drill down to find the small set of solutions they needed due to the sheer mass and complexity of their raw data.
With IHS Markit software and expertise, the manufacturer's team is now able to promote operational efficiency by using semantic search capabilities to extract relevant information from diverse internal sources much faster – streamlining work processes and achieving major time savings on the order of "several multiples."
Innovation happens because you make non-obvious connections. You can find ideas in unrelated fields that have solved the problem before but you need a fast, structured way of working through its root causes… The IHS Markit solution is 'almost like a searchable memory for an organization, it's quite powerful.
Looking Outward for Answers
The manufacturing company's research team also relies on their IHS Markit solution to tap into the vast wealth of knowledge that is embedded in external data sources. In many cases, the root cause of a problem may already have been solved or basic science from another industry can be readily applied – but only if those answers can be found and leveraged.
With intelligent semantic searches, the company's researchers can identify potential solutions from other contexts on the fly during their cause-effect analysis. The product designers say that it is almost like having a whole set of reserve information at their fingertips that provides perspective and insights far beyond their team members' experience.
Using Structured Tools to Unlock Knowledge
This global manufacturer is transforming big data – from internal repositories and external premium content, websites, social media and more – into actionable knowledge. Its product team uses the IHS Markit system to not only find relevant information within disparate sources, but also address problems through structured methodologies that uncover new solutions.
The company uses industry best-practice engineering tools such as Root Cause Analysis, TRIZ, Value engineering and Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) within Goldfire to further sharpen their semantic searches. Built-in templates make it easier for researchers to phrase their questions appropriately in order to address an issue from different perspectives. For example, when the research and engineering team hit a bottleneck on one project, they spent 2-3 hours advancing a cause-effect model so they could look at the problem again in light of certain scientific principles. As a result, they were able to quickly identify a couple of additional approaches and reframe their solution.
In another case, one team had been working to identify potential approaches for a cost-reduction project when the company decided to let another team look at the problem again using knowledge-enabled techniques. In just a few hours, the second team identified three of the same solution approaches and strategies that took the original team several weeks to develop.
Teaming with IHS Markit Innovation Experts
The manufacturing company's product designers met several key challenges (and maximized the value of their Goldfire software implementation) by working closely with IHS Markit industry and technology experts who specialize in "the science of innovation."
For instance, when the manufacturer's designers were looking at leakage problems with diaper products, IHS Markit experts helped them ask the right questions while applying Root Cause Analysis and Function Modeling tools and then encouraged them to build comprehensive models of the products. This enabled the company's engineers to fully understand not just the symptoms but also the underlying causes. In addition, IHS Markit experts helped demonstrate how resolving the most critical root cause would achieve the desired result, rather than spending extra resources/ time on extraneous issues.
Making Connections Spurs Creativity
This global manufacturing company's product designers have overcome numerous challenges by using their IHS Markit system to identify potential technical pathways that they had not investigated. In one case, the researchers and engineers recovered some of their own work from seven years earlier that had been forgotten but was now relevant to a new issue, by indexing data on their own hard drives using semantic search.
Innovation happens, the company's product designers say, because you make non-obvious connections. You can find ideas in unrelated fields that have solved the problem before but you need a fast, structured way of working through its root causes. They say that the IHS Markit solution is "almost like a searchable memory for an organization, it's quite powerful."
With their IHS Markit Product Design solution, which combines state-of-the-art software and expert professional services, this manufacturer's engineers and researchers are efficiently leveraging internal and external knowledge plus proven innovation methods to make highly effective product decisions and fuel the growth of their business around the world.