Data: Your Source of Answers

A lot of companies record a lot of data.  Financial information, orders, process data, people data, quality data, outcome data.  This data is often used to check whether things are OK or not.

What about using this data to answer those questions we’d love to answer? Such questions include:

  • Why is my rework so high?
  • How do I better match capacity to customer demand?
  • How can I reduce variability?
  • How can I cut costs?
  • How can I increase capacity?
  • How do I reduce out of specification?

Often, when we come to ask these questions, we answer them from gut feel or anecdotal evidence.  Clearly such answers are not necessarily wrong, but our view on life and memory of events is not perfect.  Using data, that we often already have, brings better clarity and objectivity to the answers.

So, what advice would I give? 

The starting point is to collect data in a way that allows it to be analysed easily.  That means electronically.  Spreadsheets, databases and ERP systems are all useful tools for this.  If you are using spreadsheets, try and store the data in tables where there is just one row of header information and each row of data is a discrete event.

Secondly, write down the questions you want to answer.  We tend to be looking for things that happen more frequently than others, trends between one variable and another, one variable that influences another…

Thirdly, unless you can yourself, find someone who is good with numbers and can do the analysis.  Ask them to look at the data to answer the questions. Also, ask them to produce the results in picture format!  The aim is to make the data speak for itself, rather than the answers be hidden in a mass of numbers.


If you would like to discuss this topic further, please contact Steve at