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Data Fog

By November 6, 2020No Comments3 min read

Break through data fog to get the operational insights you need

By Thomas Gilmartin, P.E.

Imagine driving on a dark, pre-dawn morning – and the fog is so thick you can barely see across the street. There are many shadows and lights, but you’re not sure what they are. Any light you see could be just from a roadside sign — or maybe it’s an approaching vehicle.

Data fog can be like that – so much information that it crowds out what you need to know about your company’s processes.

It wasn’t always this way. Back in the day when plant operators gathered information on clipboards, they focused on a few key metrics that they found valuable to making operational decisions.

Then, computers arrived, along with remote sensing devices that would measure ever so much more. The essentials-only trickle of clipboard-based information became a flood, and then a tsunami of data that overwhelmed the ability of many managers to make sense of it all.

Three problems caused by data fog are:

  • Much of the data gets ignored because it’s not useful for making decisions or solving problems.
  • There is a financial cost to buying, installing, servicing and maintaining the sensory data system – and storing all that data (and responding to false alarms).
  • Faced with too much information, operations managers may miss genuine problems – such as a bearing running hot, causing a motor to seize and the production line to shut down.

So, just because you can gather data, doesn’t mean you should. Okay, maybe you can gather the data, in case it proves useful in future. Storage doesn’t cost much. But find a way to push all that “extra” data to one side, so you can focus on the metrics that really matter.

Learn what matters by consulting with your colleagues about what information they need to manage their part of the operation. Talk with hardware and software vendors about what’s possible with current technology. And get access to knowledgeable, third-party expertise, with experience solving similar problems elsewhere, able to help you cut through the data fog to find out what you need to know.