We live in a digital world. It doesn’t matter what we do and what business we are in, getting information is becoming absolutely necessarily for our business success. It is about effectiveness of our decisions and efficiency of our day to day operation.
Engineers are on the front lines of design, production planning, supply chain and risk mitigation problems. Having right information during the design time can be a matter of doing right things and adjusting your design. Engineers are increasingly expected to be data-savvy problem solvers, capable of harnessing the power of information to drive innovation and efficiency.
Still, day after day, I can see engineers that dumping data from CAD system and checking a few more spreadsheets about prices, manufacturer information, Googling some data online and hoping for goosd when contacting procurement or contract manufacturer.
Data management systems is quickly becoming “must have” element of engineering and manufacturing environment, yet the problem I can see with data management systems and data management tools is that they require some minimal effort from engineers and other people to organize a data management process. Existing data management platforms are still complex, which leads many engineers to take the “excel path”, which bring down data quality and exclude engineers from data management systems. They remain “connected by Excel”. For the last 10-15 years, the demand of engineers and manufacturing companies for setting up a database management system to manage engineering data still not good enough. I’m not even speaking about data integration and connecting to business systems. Engineers are hiring interns and low wage workers to manually copy/paste data to ERP systems from Excels or writing custom tools to do so.
In this blog post, I’d like to explore three compelling reasons why engineers need to learn data management, emphasizing the shift towards data intelligence, the importance of robust data organization, and the development of a data-centric strategy. By the end, I hope to highlight the pivotal role of data management education in placing data at the heart of the product development process.
Placing Data in the Center: From Data Control to Data Intelligence
Traditionally, engineers have focused on maintaining control over data – ensuring its accuracy, security, and availability. However, the modern landscape demands a shift from mere data control to data intelligence. This means that engineers must not only manage data but also understand how to extract meaningful insights from it.
Data intelligence enables engineers to make informed decisions, predict trends, and optimize processes. Whether it’s monitoring the performance of machinery in a manufacturing plant or analyzing user behavior in a software application, engineers armed with data intelligence can drive improvements and innovation.
Learning data management equips engineers with the skills to collect, store, and analyze data effectively, transforming them from data custodians to data-driven decision-makers.
Moving Beyond “Excel Can Do Any Job”: Robust Data Organization
Many engineers have, at some point, relied on spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel for data handling. While Excel is a versatile tool, it falls short when managing large datasets or complex relationships. Engineers must move beyond the misconception that “Excel can do any job” and adopt more robust data organization methods.
Data management education teaches engineers how to structure data in databases, create data models, and implement data validation techniques. These skills are vital for maintaining data integrity and ensuring that data can be accessed and analyzed efficiently. By organizing product data effectively, engineers can reduce errors, improve collaboration, and enable more sophisticated analyses.
It is also essential to engineers working on design to understand basic principle of data organizations, data models and data structures. When the only tool you have is Excel, then all problems look like a spreadsheet.
Building a Strategy for Data Intelligence and Decision Support
In the age of information, companies that harness data effectively gain a competitive edge. Engineers are uniquely positioned to contribute to this by building a data-centric strategy that integrates data intelligence into product development.
A data strategy involves defining data goals, identifying data sources, and establishing data governance practices. Engineers who understand data management can collaborate with data scientists and analysts to create data-driven solutions that support informed decision-making throughout the product development lifecycle.
What PLM vendors can do?
Organizing manufacturing processes is not a simple task. It requires significant efforts in managing product related data, understanding how data stored, how change data capture, how production data (eg. sensor data) can be connected, including data quality management, product lifecycle management, data virtualization and many other disciplines.
Wile we cannot turn mechanical engineers to data scientists, but we can bring to the level where they understand basics of what data management process includes and how to organize database management systems in the right way.
Which means more focus to data management education and tools that capable to solve data management problems in an easy and novel way.
What is my conclusion?
Data Management Education as the First Step. Putting data at the center of the product development process is a groundbreking task, but it’s an essential one for engineers in today’s data-driven world. The journey begins with data management education, equipping engineers with the skills to transform data into a valuable asset.
By embracing data intelligence, organizing product data robustly, and building a strategy for data-driven decision support, engineers can not only excel in their careers but also drive positive change in their organizations. In a world where data is king, engineers who understand how to wield this powerful resource will be the ones to lead the way towards a brighter, more innovative future.
So, when the next time you will think that “Excel is just fine”, think twice. Check the following picture and think how you can do better.
Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital-thread platform with cloud-native PDM & PLM capabilities to manage product data lifecycle and connect manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.