There’s a lot of talk about data: it’s even become very precious. It can be bought, sold or stolen… But is it a panacea?

The importance of data

Data enables us to understand reality and what’s truly happening on the ground, through figures, quantification and qualitative evaluation. For example, it gives you an intimate understanding of your processes and enables you to identify shortcomings and deviations. For some parameters, it’s even essential because you can’t observe them, only measure them. There’s no doubt that we need data, and it’s an engineer who’s telling you this! However…

The limit of data

A few days ago, I was in a factory to carry out a field study. It was a complex and technical visit: there was a great deal of variability in this production workshop: in the products, the waiting times, the processes…

The only way to understand the situation and come up with a concrete solution was to collect all their data. So we found ourselves in a large room, with absolutely all the data collected over the last few years. It was dizzying: machine times, production times, machine performance, and so on.

Except that some of the data was really out of whack. Some of it contained errors (time stamp errors, category or machine allocation errors, Excel formula errors, etc.). Some of the data was circumstantial, particularly the data for the Covid period, and reflected circumstance.

Data versus reality

I needed to check this data with the plant staff, to make sense of it thanks to their experience and in-depth knowledge of the processes. I’m convinced that it’s essential to link the data to the reality on the ground.

—> Do these data accurately reflect reality, and do they allow me to analyse it?

—> Do the data reflect the past, present and future?

—> What do these data reveal that staff don’t know (in this case, the dizzying waiting times at each process station)? What doesn’t appear here?

So, yes, we need data, but for me, collecting and analysing it all in a Big Data style without that connection to what is happening on the ground is a no-no! Big Data with real intelligence, correlated with the expertise of the men and women who know the product and the terrain and who can interpret what is collected is precious, the rest is just digital noise to me.

A client of mine actually admitted that they had tons of data for regulatory purposes but couldn’t use it for decision making… I could help them with that also, by connecting to the people who would be impacted by the decision even if we didn’t know them. If you’re seeking a quantified analysis of your reality to solve your challenges, call me! Let’s look at Big (picture) and Data together!