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Big Data Use Cases Explained

big data use cases

Big data isn’t just a catchphrase. The reality of using high-end computers to crunch unimaginable volumes of data in pursuit of insights that can mean greater profits has developed to a point where it is hard to fathom an industry that wouldn’t benefit from the process. And if “greater profits” is too general a term, let’s get more specific. Big data applications can reduce processing flaws, increase efficiency, improve production quality, as well as save time and money. To get a sense of the possibilities, let’s take a look at a few specific big data use cases.

Before We Start

While the ways in which big data can be useful to an industry are essentially unlimited, unless you approach the process with a specific business challenge to be addressed, there’s a good chance you will end up wasting time and money. While the power of data acquisition and analysis is a mighty tool, unless you have a tightly focused query, useful insight will be hard to find.

Use cases, like those we are about to reveal, provide real world scenarios that illustrate the value to be found in spending the time beforehand to come up with a targeted question. You need to learn to think tightly and specifically when formulating a question for big data to chew on.

For example, asking where the next big market for your product will likely not yield as useful of a response as asking who in the US is more likely to buy more of that product? Ultimately, big data focuses on finding patterns and examples, thus coming up with appropriate questions that play to this strength is critical.

Product Design Customization

Without naming names, one example of using big data comes from a $2 billion company that engages in product manufacturing. With big data analysis in place, this company decided to focus on the behavior or repeat customers. At the heart of the attention lies the long-held 80/20 rule of business, which decrees that approximately 80% of a company’s sales come from 20% of its customers. By focusing on discovering the habits of this critical minority, it stands to reason that more profits could be generated overall.

One of the gold nuggets uncovered was that the company lost productive manufacturing time while waiting for contracts to be signed. By insuring that the necessary paperwork was always complete ahead of time, the result should be more uptime, productivity, and profits. Another result of the big data process in this example was a shift to lean manufacturing, which advises how to cease production of what the customer doesn’t want and concentrate primarily on what they do want.

Improved Manufacturing Process

The following is an example of successful big data use from the pharmaceutical industry. This company manufactures vaccines and various other blood components. In order to insure purity in the end result, they tracked 200 different variables. On the surface, that sounds like a pretty impressive effort to maintain a high quality in the final product. The problem, as big data analysis pointed out, was that this intensive quality assurance process still allowed for a yield variation from 50 to 100 percent. This level of inconsistency is enough to draw attention from federal regulators, which is bad news.

The analysis was able to separate and identify nine parameters that directly impacted the quality of the final vaccine yield. The rest of the 200 variables were essentially eliminated. The end result was that the company was able to save time in the testing process, increase production by 50 percent, end up with a higher quality yield, and save $5 to $10 million per year.

Fortifying the Supply Chain

Here’s a nifty way one manufacturer found to use big data to make sure they got their raw materials no matter what, even in the face of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. Through various predictive applications, the company was able to calculate the probabilities of delays at various points in the supply chain, then make arrangements beforehand to identify backup suppliers. This is how you use big data to guard against downtime from unexpected natural disasters.

Better Testing = Higher Quality

A normal Intel computer chip used to go through 19,000 tests before it was cleared for sale. As you might imagine, this was a huge but necessary chunk of time and money dedicated to maintaining high quality standards. But you can bet that any company CEO would give his or firstborn child (an exaggeration!) to be able to cut down on testing time without quality taking a nosedive. Big data to the rescue.

By an exhaustive analysis that began at the wafer level, Intel was able to throw out a large number of their standard tests and focus on those that specifically yielded the most value. The savings on a single line of processors was $3 million in the first year, which is expected to grow to $30 million once fully implemented.

The Bottom Line

The preceding examples are just a few of the dozens of use cases that could be cited. Once you narrowly define the problem and turn loose powerful computers on a big pile of data, you might be surprised at the creative solutions uncovered to problems you didn’t even know you had.

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Exploring the Data Acquisition Industry

For such an innocuous term, data acquisition (DAQ) is well on its way to being a billion dollar industry. DAQ is the process by which a company measures sound, temperature, pressure, voltage, current, or other physical and/or electrical phenomena. Though it wasn’t so long ago that these measurements were taken with simple mechanical devices and a chart recorder, the Computer Age has changed all that. You would expect a modern day DAQ system to consist of sensors, measurement hardware, and programmable software on a PC. Who are the top 10 vendors in the DAQ market? Grab a seat and we’ll give you our opinion.

Campbell Scientific

As a major vendor in the global DAQ market, Campbell Scientific produces systems intended for survival in rugged conditions associated with long-term, unattended monitoring. Typical applications would include collecting data from machines, soil, weather, water, and energy. As an industry leader, expect Campbell Scientific to stay on the forefront of developments in the PC-based world of data acquisition.

Rockwell Automation

If you’ve ever eaten food, there’s a good chance an integrated system from Rockwell Automation might have had a hand in the process. Though the company specializes in process manufacturing (recipes and formulas) related to large-scale food production, you can also find them at work in other industries like oil and gas, mining, metals, and life sciences.

Dewetron

Dewetron’s niche in the DAQ field is all areas of research and development, as well as specialized data acquisition instruments and custom built solutions related to the automotive, energy and power, transportation, and aerospace industries. With a focus on always moving the DAQ field forward with state-of-the-art technology advances, Dewetron is part of the larger TKH group and is headquartered in Austria.

Yokogawa Electric

Based in Japan, Yokogawa Electric has earned a solid reputation in the design, manufacture, and sales of information technologies, control systems, and measurement solutions. With a century of experience behind it, this company has managed to successfully reinvent itself to stay in step with changing industrial demands. For today’s world, Yokogawa Electric continues to satisfy clients with top-notch products and service, while emphasizing environmental sustainability.

Honeywell International

Make no mistake, Honeywell International is a multinational conglomerate with fingers in a whole bunch of different industrial pies. One of those pies happens to be DAQ. As well as the usual measurement and control products, this company enjoys a high demand for its circular chart and paperless recorders. Honeywell International presently focuses in particular on energy, safety, security, productivity, and global urbanization.

Pentek

As an ISO 9001-2015 certified company, Pentek prides itself on the manufacture and sales of cutting edge DAQ solutions, with a specialty in digital signal processing and software radio applications. You can expect to find Pentek embedded chips in rugged environments associated with military and defense applications. The ISO 9001 certification assures clients that Pentek products will meet the most rigorous standards for performance.

Ametek

With 15,000 employees and locations in 30 countries, one could say Ametek has created a rather large footprint in the DAQ industry. Equipment in high demand from this manufacturer includes programmable power equipment, industrial battery charges, analytical instruments, electromagnetic compatibility test equipment, and gas turbine generator sensors. Ametek is a leading provider of systems to the aerospace and defense industries.

Spectris

This UK company might have a name that reminds us of a secretive James Bond organization, but Spectris is anything but fiction. Specialty equipment includes a focus on improving productivity, streamlining processes, and delivering higher quality for laboratory and industrial applications. A corporate focus that encourages employer entrepreneurism keeps cutting edge products always in the pipeline.

Keysight Technologies

As another company that provides measuring equipment to the aerospace and defense industries, Keysight Technologies prides itself on not selling one-size-fits-all solutions off the shelf but rather provides a process that includes consulting, customization, and optimization that fits directly into the client’s product lifecycle. The result of almost eight decades of refinement and innovation, Keysight Technologies enjoys high name recognition for the future.

National Instrument Corp.

With more than forty years under its belt, National Instrument Corp. has created a solid spot in the niche dedicated to manufacturing virtual instruments and automated test equipment. A sampling of industries served includes academic and research, wireless, aerospace and defense, automotive, energy, and heavy equipment. National Instrument Corp. prides itself on creating more than singular products but rather entire ecosystems for clients.

These are just a few of the big players in the DAQ field. As the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) grows, expect this already important industry to become even more so.