Building a competitive advantage with data

You need more than data to win… You need a strategy!

In the context of business, organizations are data rich. Unfortunately, in many cases, that data does not translate into actionable measures instead it is collected and filed away, only to reappear for an audit or when a customer asks some detailed questions. Often, data is not properly analyzed or used to drive actions that improve the performance of our organizations. In some cases, the collection of the data becomes the aim and key measure. This is the “activity fallacy.”

Activity Fallacy

In some cases, the collection of the data becomes the aim and key measure. This is the “activity fallacy.”

When the focus becomes only the numbers, organizations can confuse what’s being measured with the metric being used. The end result is that we collect useless data and remain unable to improve the business.

There are several keys to ensure success when deciding what data should be collected and how that data will be used to drive improvements.

Connect Strategy to Data Collection (Identify the Need)

What is the need to be addressed or fixed? It seems like a very basic question, and it is. Are you working to close the gap between plan and actual production results? At first, you may not know if the issue is downtime, material flow, or quality. Ask the right questions and put the correct metrics in place to help understand the situation clearly. And then take action. Collection of data without intent to act on that data is a waste of resources and frustration for your team.

Insure Wide-Spread Adoption (Have a Plan)

What is the plan for collecting and analyzing the data? Having a wealth of data is beneficial when you have a plan to collect, review, and act on the data. How many times have you received a daily report with data from production only to ask, “Now what?” Who will take action? What resources are needed? What resources are available? What’s the next step?

Downtime minutes and causes, quality fallout, and equipment failure data are great to collect,  but if there is no process to respond, the data becomes mute.  Have a process for circulating, reviewing, and acting on the data with the intention of driving results. We suggest a set weekly meeting where your teams basic problem-solving documents are reviewed. Use of a standard 8-D, 7-Step, or 5 Why problem-solving document can be used.

Choose the Right Tools (Select the Tools)

What process and tools are needed to collect and report? There are many products on the market when it comes to data collection and reporting. From basic Excel files and dashboards to large software suites that are developed to collect, store, and report, the options cover the full spectrum. Don’t jump ahead too quickly to the tool. The wrong tool applied quickly doesn’t get you and your team where they want to go.

Tools Support the Strategy

Tool selection is important. The wrong tool applied quickly doesn’t get your team to the final destination!

PNEt screen

Production Net

At Seraph, we developed software to help clients asses their manufacturing operations.  We prioritized building a stand-alone tool that could be deployed without complex IT hardware or software integrations to allow for an intuitive and highly customizable setup, by the people who will use the data. Cloud-based data collection and reporting solution supports teams to take action and drive improvements. Our teams have used this software for several different applications, including production tracking, service parts packaging, and quality auditing. With the right tool you have the freedom to collect data and see results on any device, and even remotely.

Make Sure Results are Beneficial (Check and Validate)

What results are expected? Your team will not embrace wide-spread data collection efforts without seeing the benefit for the organization, or for them. Don’t make the assumption that when your teams collect mounds of data that they will automatically recognize the impacts of what they are doing. Meaningful reporting will show data-driven achievements and improvements. It is important to demonstrate on every level of your organization how data collection and the resulting actions are improving their jobs and the company’s performance. For example, have defect rates been improved? What about production performance? Has OEE improved? Has unplanned downtime been reduced?

Having a strategy, a plan, and the right tools are important to success. But realize that your plan will likely require real-time adjustment as you learn more. This doesn’t mean you abandon the basic strategy, but rather that you may need to adjust course as you move toward the final destination. Like traveling cross-country, unforeseen obstacles will certainly show up. It doesn’t mean you cancel the trip and turn around.


Step 1: Identify the need. 

What is to be addressed? What gap is to be closed?

Step 2: Develop your plan. 

How will the information be collected? How will the information be acted upon?

Step 3: Select the tools. 

Does the tool support the data collection process? Does the tool support the problem-solving process?

Step 4: Validate your process. 

Data collection is not the goal. Are you getting the results (see Step 1) you want?

Author: Jay Butler

About Seraph: 

Seraph’s team of operational managers and senior consultants intercede on our client’s’ behalf to fix a crisis that is putting the business at immediate risk, turnaround a situation that is damaging the bottom line or restructuring to improve the balance sheet. Seraph has successfully delivered projects in the following regions: The Americas, Europe, China, and India. Seraph’s Industry Expertise Includes Aerospace, Automotive, Energy Infrastructure, Healthcare, and Medical Devices. Through our other operating companies, we are continually looking for distressed situations where we can put our expertise and capital to work to create value. 

May 18, 2020

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