Playing nice with data

Jan. 22, 2018
Data is not MINE! It's ours. And the sooner departments play nice, the sooner they reap the benefits.

We’re getting good at extracting data from our machines. We’re not always good at sharing that data among departments within an enterprise. We chatted with John F. Wozniak, P.E., manager with the CC-Link Partner Association, about the challenges and opportunities with properly sharing data. Take a look…

Smart Industry: Do different departments within enterprises properly share data?

John: That is the goal—to share data within the organization and increase efficiency. However, due to different departments having different goals at the start of every project, this objective is usually the last one to be considered. It is frequently overlooked.

Smart Industry: Why is that?

John: As stated above, that is the ultimate goal—to share data between different departments within the organization to reduce costs, and improve productivity. Nevertheless, with one production department wanting one thing and other departments wanting something else, the sharing of data is typically not considered at the outset due to cost restrictions and time constraints.

The primary goal at the start of most projects is to get the project completed in as short a time as possible with the least amount of capital investment. Those are the two largest obstacles—time and expense. Data sharing can also potentially increase the workload—What do we do with this data? How do we use it? How do we justify the extra costs?

These questions can be difficult to answer given the nature of the process. Also, this process is new to most organizations. It frightens managers, creating a reluctance to implement. This also means that the production processes and procedures need to be redesigned, which again adds work without a definite and tangible payback.

Finally, there is the old-school reluctance to sharing—"Never did it that way before and we were just fine.”  

Smart Industry: How do you enable teams to properly share data?

John: Getting departments to properly share data can be difficult due to the perceived potential conflicts of interest—production wants increased productivity but they see this sharing step as a time consumer. Of course, these conflicts of interest are perceived because every wants the same goal—increased productivity that results in increased profit margins. But these perceptions need to be addressed.

You need to train and educate teams, stressing that taking this time will eventually increase productivity through better maintenance schedules that reduce downtime of the production line, creating more productivity overall. I also share that providing this information can speed up the process, increasing efficiency and productivity.

Education is key—teaching the managers that this will create a better working environment and increase productivity. However, managers are not the only ones that require education. Upper-level directors need to buy in, too. Since this process takes time, directors must not put unnecessary pressure on production, which can undermine the process and, potentially, eliminates future gains.

These issues are the same ones that were encountered when industrial automation first started. People were afraid to try something new—they might be blamed for failure, lose their position/power, and become unnecessary. While there are fewer workers in automated facilities, those changes occurred over decades. Modern workers are more highly skilled and regarded. Managers need to understand that sharing data across functional departments increases productivity and has the potential to improve worker satisfaction by improving safety.

Again, training and education for all those involved, from the top down, is the key. Just as individual automated cells improved worker productivity, proper data sharing results in boosted productivity/profits, and that helps data sharing become better understood and justified.

Smart Industry: What are the benefits of properly sharing data among departments within an enterprise?

John: Increased productivity. Reduced costs. Increased quality of products and reduced downtime of the production equipment. When data is shared, the potential to improve the process increases because procedures can be better understood…and when a process is better understood it can be better controlled.

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