The only thing worse than too little data, is too much. Big data becomes dumb data very quickly — there is simply so much of it that you can’t see the wood for the trees, and you can’t confidently make decisions using the data unless you’ve collected it into a single, aggregated and contextualized format, in as close to real time as you can get it. To do this, companies need to ditch the spreadsheet.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
That’s a given. We know this from our personal lives, whether training for a marathon, losing weight, or saving water in our homes. Simply the act of measuring something will result in improvements.
Big data is getting bigger.
Indeed, according to a 2016 report from IBM, 90% of the data in the world today was created in the last two years. This amounts to 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day — that’s 2.5 million terabytes every day! And this is only going to increase as more devices come online and start talking to each other.
Unfortunately the only thing worse than too little data, is too much. Big data becomes dumb data very quickly — there is simply so much of it that you can’t see the wood for the trees, and you can’t confidently make decisions using the data unless you’ve collected it into a single, aggregated and contextualized format, in as close to real time as you can get it.
Spreadsheets aren't for big data.
In our training, weight loss and water saving examples above, a spreadsheet would have been more than adequate for the job. It would give you insight into what was working, what wasn’t and how you can optimize your programme. Spreadsheets are massively powerful tools, when used appropriately. But unfortunately because they are so familiar and so useful, they get pushed beyond their capabilities, with negative consequences for your measurement and management efforts.
Now take measurement at industrial level. You’ll want to measure hundreds of machines and how they are performing against 10 or 20 key performance indicators (KPI), possibly even more. Then, for even more insight, you want to compare various sites with each other. Very quickly you are working with a data set that is far too large for a spreadsheet. Firstly good governance flies out the window: you lose the ability to track information and follow an audit trail of how you arrived at your results. If a data point was incorrectly entered, either deliberately or accidentally, you have almost no way of knowing this. Yet, that incorrect data point will ripple across other calculations and figures, and be used to make decisions.
Spreadsheets aren't for collaboration.
Next, and we’ve all probably experienced this, emailing massive spreadsheets around a company results in multiple versions of the truth, with no hope of confidently knowing which is correct. Everyone has their own style of working with spreadsheets, including doing the calculations on a calculator and simply plugging the numbers in. Cross-references are broken, and as the spreadsheet grows beyond its bounds, the file is increasingly likely to corrupt.
Flow Software, the right tool for the job.
So if spreadsheets aren’t up to the task, what should you look for in a tool to help you capture your measurements, report on them appropriately and then manage them through real-time decision making at all levels of the organisation, from workshop floor to the boardroom table?
Flow software provides an easy to use, single point of truth for all of your industrial databases.
Step one is to replace your patchwork of spreadsheets with a fit for purpose decision support system. This needs to automatically pull data from various sources, as well as handle manual entries. By integrating these unconnected datasets you’ll have access to a wealth of insight about your manufacturing operations, especially where things simply don’t add up and you could be losing money or missing opportunities to make money.
This also forms a master file — a single version of the truth — with various windows onto it, depending on whether the user needs to see the metrics for a single machine on the factory floor, or a global view of top level KPIs across the entire organisation. This should be real time and available on the go.
In a data-driven world, we really are all data companies. And success relies on how effectively we can take yesterday’s information to solve today’s problems, by making quality decisions more frequently. And for that, you need true big data decision support.
More about Flow.
Flow Software produces decision support software for the manufacturing, mining and utilities industries.
Flow is a flexible Information Platform for industrial reporting and operational analysis. Collect, transform, calculate and present KPI information from multiple data sources. You can only manage what you measure. The Flow Information Platform simplifies the creation and sharing of operational and strategic decision support information across your organization. With Flow you'll connect to data on-premise or in the cloud, selectively synchronize measures and KPIs, perform calculations and rollups, and then share this information in reports and dashboard via web browsers, email, SMS or the Flow Mobile app.
Graeme Welton is the Director of Flow Software. As a mechanical engineer and system integrator for 25 years, Graeme and his team have worked with some of the world's largest food, beverage, mining, and manufacturing companies to help streamline data access and insights.