Data Rich but Information Poor?

Douglas C. Fair
By Douglas C. Fair | February 9, 2017
Chief Operating Officer
“Data rich, information poor.”
This modern adage has defined manufacturing organizations that have invested heavily in technology. Just because a company spends capital dollars on technology doesn’t mean that data is available or that technology communicates critical quality information to other systems. 

In fact, the opposite tends to be true: Often, new technologies are designed to not allow communications (or make communication
difficult) with third-party quality systems. Of course, vendors want to protect their revenue streams by dissuading the client from using any other data-acquisition tools besides those the vendor offers.
Unfortunately, that can mean that despite their considerable technology investment, manufacturers may have no idea how much data they have—or how it can help them. And working with limited information can also have consequences: What if a process change helps a company make products faster but doesn’t improve their quality? Well, that company is now making defective products much faster, increasing costs, scrap, rework, and inspections.
Spending money on technology doesn’t automatically improve quality. But having enterprise-wide visibility into data gives organizations the ability to glean information from the data that their technology investments generate.
4 Immediate Benefits from Centralizing Data
As soon as an organization centralizes all the data its manufacturing technology generates, it starts to see tangible benefits.
  • Now, useful information becomes freely available to:
    • management teams;
    • quality managers, engineers, and statisticians;
    • Six Sigma project teams; and
    • engineering teams.
  • With access to information, technical experts can work together to better understand the organization’s biggest quality issues and prioritize corrective actions.
  • In addition, Six Sigma quality teams—whose sole reason for employment is to dramatically improve quality and reduce costs—can immediately act on the information.
  • Finally, the organization achieves dramatic reductions in IT-related costs when users can instantly access the information they need.
So, What’s Stopping You?
Why aren’t more manufacturers centralizing their data? First, the task seems daunting—too many systems, too many spreadsheets, too much paper floating around. In most plants, quality personnel are already stretched thin, which doesn’t make the task any easier. In addition, operations tend to get the bigger budgets, while quality departments have lower-priority. Organizations see the quality folks as glorified firefighters, so there’s little focus on long-term, big-picture opportunities to make quality more proactive. That mindset among management means that there’s little understanding of how quality data can provide strategic opportunities for improvement and cost savings.
The good news, however, is that if an organization has fairly modern systems—say, no more than 20 years old—most existing equipment can communicate data externally. This means that InfinityQS solutions can be configured to gather data from those systems, even if they use unusual and diverse data formats.
Centralizing Data Is Hard—and Expensive—Isn’t It?
The truth is, compared to manual data collection, juggling spreadsheets, and managing dispersed data environments, a modern, centralized system actually saves time and money.
Add up the time and costs associated with deploying and managing paper-based data-collection systems. Then, add up the time necessary to re-enter all the data into a spreadsheet so that it’s available for reporting. And then figure out what to do with all those spreadsheets—where to store them, how to organize them and who has access to them. When most companies do the math, they find that the costs and time are extraordinary.
I once worked with a company that relied so heavily on paper-based quality checks that they literally had a library and employed a librarian to manage and organize all the paper. And, they required a warehouse (that they leased) for the express purpose of archiving all that paper. Amazing how expensive that was.
All that effort and expense could be put to better use: Store quality data digitally in a centralized data warehouse and see how easy it is to make improvements throughout your enterprise.
It may just be this easy
The good news is that most of the technology modern manufacturers employ already has the means to export data. The InfinityQS quality solution can automate data collection from virtually any data source and easily handle different data formats and technologies.
These solutions can even sample data streams and save the data to a single, centralized repository, making data access and reporting fast and easy. Once the data is centralized, management and teams can view it in dashboards, reports, and analyses, making it easy to turn data into actionable information.
So, what are you waiting for? Act now to centralize your quality data, visualize it across the enterprise, identify opportunities for improvement, and transform organizational performance. 

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