What's the Expiration Date?
Expiration dates are everywhere these days. Practically everything you can buy at your local supermarket has an expiration date on it… even water. Imagine that – water… expiring. It's almost ludicrous, isn't it? What a lot of businesses don't realize is that their data can… and does… expire. The results have real consequences as well, and none of them is good.

There's nothing new about collecting data. It's been done since manufacturing began in the Industrial Revolution. There's always been a manager watching the process somewhere with even the most rudimentary form of tracking results. Despite the trusty old clipboard, data collection was slow and tedious over the decades.

Now that we've reached the Information Age, data can be collected at the same speed at which the equipment runs. The bits of information that are collected rival the output. If the equipment produces a thousand widgets an hour, there's probably a thousand different bits of data collected in the same time frame. Plus, automation and integrated software advances make collecting data easier and faster. Collecting data is no longer the slow, tedious process it was when production managers relied on their clipboards. In fact, you've probably collected more data than you know what to do with. And there's the rub.

Improvements are contingent on the speed with which data is interpreted and acted on… not on how fast it's collected.

How often do you get the reports you need? A century ago, a monthly report probably sufficed. In fact, it was probably impossible to generate one any quicker. A decade ago, a weekly report may have been adequate, but with the speed at which we're now moving, for many decisions, a weekly report is probably six days too late. In fact, in many production environments, a daily report is very likely twenty-three hours overdue.

If you get an hourly report about equipment temperature, when things go wrong, you'll probably smell the smoke before you get the alert indicating that it's overheating. Countless situations simply scream for real-time reporting. Your data definitely has a shelf life… and an expiration date. When you pass its expiration date, you've either lost the ability to make a timely, cost-effective correction, or you've wasted time and energy generating a report that's now useless.

Data interpretation and report presentation are equally important. You need to be able to interpret the data quickly and accurately, so you can take the right action. In the case of the overheating equipment, you don't want to be pouring over the information, timely as it may be, trying to figure out what it means while wondering why you hear the approaching fire engine sirens.

Finally, you have to take action, and the clock is ticking. The most accurate real-time data, clearly presented, is useless if you don't do anything with it. The cost savings or profit enhancement is directly proportionate to the speed with which you act. If you call the fire department when you see flames from the equipment, you save the building from burning down. But if you shut down the equipment as soon as you see an overheating warning based on your real-time data and dashboard, you save the equipment and a visit from the fire department. The latter is far less expensive.

Don't let your data expire. Real data in real time with real action means real results, real savings and real profit.