Scott Sinclair: Understanding our data is the bedrock of all other developments on our journey

Everywhere we look, and every communication we receive through the media, reinforces the importance that data plays in our everyday lives. Often, we see the benefits in our personal lives before we fully understand the positive impact that data and the productive use of data can make.
Scott Sinclair, CEO, CeeDScott Sinclair, CEO, CeeD
Scott Sinclair, CEO, CeeD

We all receive prompts from Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc on items that may interest us or places that we should visit. All of this is based on our behaviours, our interaction with these services, and the service provider using the data that you create through interaction to predict what you may like or need next.

Imagine how productive our workplaces would be if we could replicate these behaviours and developments – we could improve productivity, reduce the risk of accidents, increase sales, improve reliability of our products or services, influence our customers, or beat our competitors to market.

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All of this is possible, if we embrace data science or the concepts within ‘Factories of the Future/Industrie 4.0’.

Technology on its own is merely an enabler, technology that works from data becomes more productive, beneficial and therefore powerful. We hear often the ‘buzz’ terms of machine learning and AI (Artificial Intelligence), but for most of us, we have much to gain from the positive use of our data and from better understanding our data, before we progress to AI and machine learning.

We should think of data is to business what blood is to humans: it provides the circulation of nutrients and energy that help us develop our performance, recover from exertion, supports the function of our vital organs, and ultimately keeps our systems running.

As we develop our use of data, so we will recognise the importance of developing skills across our businesses to maximise impact. Who would have thought only a few years ago that our organisation structures would have a need for a Data Scientist, and a role at a level like any change agent within business, influencing at a senior level. Those who don’t seize the initiative in this area will be left behind.

Our data creates a common language, bridging over functional areas of our businesses which previously had process or technology specialists, and jargon which succeeded in isolating many. Our new data outlook creates common platforms and language, which if designed and integrated across our processes, will simplify and reduce the number of transactions, thereby speeding up our activities. This turn will make life easier for those in the workplace, rather than creating the gloomy fear of ‘here come the robots’ predictions.

In expanding our knowledge in these areas within the CeeD network, we can see the competitive advantage that we have within the Scottish business support networks, with market leading intelligence and knowledge through our innovation centres, specifically in this field with ‘The Data Lab’ and ‘CENCIS’, but also across many innovative Scottish companies. We recently held our first exploratory clinic in this area with our member companies, with Exmos and CENCIS leading the discussion and putting the challenge to our member companies.

Gordon Coulter, CEO of data processing and monitoring experts, Exmos commented: “Business – any business – is awash with information, whether it’s about production, quality, power, personnel, temperature; you name it, there’ll be data about it. Now, as we move into the Industry 4.0 era, the great news is that for the first time, the tools are available to collect, combine and analyse it all to not only give insight into what’s happened before, but provide real-time production-influencing data now, not to mention valuable foresight. Companies should see the use of data as an asset that never depreciates.”

We have a responsibility to future-proof our businesses, to ensure economic growth, employment, and continuity in the workplace. By embracing the data challenge and opportunity, we will develop our skills and knowledge, whilst moving our businesses forward into new markets and opportunities.

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There inevitably will be obsolescence along the way, think desktop computing superseded by tablets and mobile phones, but also recognise that this progress makes us more flexible, easier to do business with, and able to serve at the point of use.

Within our member network, we are having ever more discussions around ‘Factories of the Future / Industrie 4.0’ and what this means to our respective businesses. The clear recognition is that we must embrace the challenge to be competitive, innovative, and ultimately successful going forward.

This area will influence and drive ever more of our knowledge share activities, with far-reaching implications for positively embracing change and technology in every aspect of our work lives. Understanding our data is the bedrock of all other developments on our journey.

Scott Sinclair, CEO, CeeD.

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