From data to actionable intelligent data

Data have become indispensable. Both at home and at work, we are flooded with bits and bytes. As such, the importance of data in an industrial environment can no longer be ignored or underestimated. Cheaper sensors and more powerful computers have resulted into an exponential accumulation of data. But how can companies benefit the most from all these data?


Competitive edge

An increasingly efficient production is one of the most commonly used methods to lower costs and stay ahead of the competition. Lately, we’ve noticed that the use of data has become ever more important for this. Think of smart, predictive maintenance of production lines in which the decision when a particular part should be replaced is based on data. We are also able to manufacture ever better products and, as these products remain connected, we can even upgrade them during their lifecycle. Also products generate data throughout their lifecycle. By analysing these data, companies can gain important insights on how their products are used. When, subsequently, these companies improve their products on the basis of these analyses, they will have completed the circle and obtain a not inconsiderable competitive edge. In addition, companies will be able to develop and implement new, innovative business models

Still, to be able to properly process such huge amounts of data, a number of conditions must be fulfilled, including:

  1. A reliable and fast internet connection (5G networks will play a major part in this)
  2. Sufficient storage capacity (this storage capacity is necessary for storing and distributing data and may be situated in the Cloud, in the Edge or on the device itself)

Data, the new gold?!

Some refer to data as the new gold. But data in themselves will not create value for your company. For this to happen, you must convert the collected data into intelligent data and even into actionable intelligent data. Data will but become relevant to your company if you can give them a clear structure. This entails that your data must be stored correctly, with information about context, type of measurements, time indications of their use, etc.

Also data from components or (sub)systems are valuable. They can be converted into better usable, richer data through inverse model filtering. The combination of all these data will help you to draw the right conclusions from your analyses. So, if you want to benefit from your data, you will have to collect, structure and filter your data correctly and then combine them with a number of algorithms that are tailored to your business.

From data to intelligent data

You can convert data into intelligent data using statistical and artificial intelligence algorithms. Intelligent data allow to identify opportunities for improvement.

The adjustment of model parameters through neural networks will enable you to better determine and understand the origin of your data. An example of this is a screen on which product or production parameters can be read. In this way, the operator receives feedback on the condition of the machine(s) and make adjustments where necessary. A problem here, however, is that many neural networks operate in an industrial context through the black box principle. The system is not able to explain why it gives a specific output. This explains the demand for explainable AI. By applying reverse modelling filtering, we can now separate part of the black box and make data understandable and richer.

When you understand data, you can very rapidly assess the risks of certain decisions. Only by creating a maximally transparent data flow, the need for change and improvement will become clear and you will be able to evaluate your decisions as objectively as possible. Besides, it is also a tool to identify opportunities for improvement.

From intelligent data to actionable intelligent data

By subsequently combining your intelligent data with specific AI and deep learning algorithms, you will generate actionable intelligent data. These autonomous decision-supporting data help operators to improve processes, change product/machine settings or conduct root cause analyses of production failures.

Actionable intelligent data enable products or production systems to take autonomous decisions in view of better performing products, increased productivity and/or a higher product quality. By adjusting autonomous processes, you can take into account decision-supporting features, man/machine processes or certain human actions that are needed to improve the current situation.

Today, the value of data cannot be underestimated anymore. At least, if you store and use these data correctly. Data in themselves are not invaluable but they will be as soon as they have been converted into intelligent actionable data. Once you’ve managed these data collection and processing methods, you can build a strong competitive edge and your company will benefit in many different ways.

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Dirk Torfs - CEO

Dirk Torfs - CEO

Dirk Torfs is CEO of Flanders Make since 2014. Dirk is a Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineer as well as a Doctor in Applied Sciences (KU Leuven). He has over 20 years of experience in management positions in the Flemish industry and is Professor of Quantitative Decision-Making for the Executive MBA programme of the Flanders Business School.

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