Using the cloud and IoT (Internet of Things) to gather data that will make your manufacturing business run more efficiently and increase your productivity seems easy; but how do you decide what data you need? In this article, we’ll explore how to figure out what information will most benefit your business and what you need to track to obtain those benefits.

Data is Just Data

Unfortunately, data is really just that: data. It’s numbers or other specific information your systems feed into a repository. Data doesn’t mean anything until you define why it’s essential to your business. You can’t weigh it against another number or some other threshold until you determine what that threshold is. And you certainly can’t use it to improve your business until you decide what you need to improve.

Define Your Parameters

The first step to working with data is deciding what you should gather. The obvious place to start is with your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Once you know what those are, you can move on to the next step which is to figure out what data points will help you measure your KPIs. 

If we take the example of “sales” as a KPI, we then have to figure out what information we need to benchmark our sales. The number of dollars made is an easy data point to choose. The next step is collating that data so it’s useful to your company. 

Construct Your Data

Now comes the hard part, getting that data into the configuration where it will make the most sense. This is where a good piece of software can help you cut down on time and effort. It allows you to clean up, tabulate, collate, and look at the data from many different angles.

If we return to our sales example, this is where those sales would be combined into daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly numbers. These numbers can then be used in the next step.

Define Your Goals

The final step is to find out what your baseline is for the data gathered and calculate a goal. If you start with a goal rather than what data should be gathered, you run the risk of setting goals that are too small, too big, or which make no sense. 

Improvement is A Cycle

What if after looking at the sales numbers, you determine that’s not the only thing you want to track? What if you want to also track the number of customers or the amount of sales per customer? Then you might need to start pulling that data, as well. 

As you can see, some of these steps might be happening simultaneously, or concurrently. In fact, all these steps should eventually inform and influence each other, so that you’re always using the best data to make the best improvements.