In the past to track a product from the warehouse to the customer, kept track by filling out forms on clipboards that were coupled with spotty end user records. Today those workers might hold a smartphone or tablet to do the job. By installing sensors, including cameras and RFID tags, that data might even get entered into a database automatically. Workers and managers can track everything on shelves and use self-service BI tools to draw insight from analysis of the data.
Sensors Gather Data at a Dizzying Rate
It wasn’t long ago that only banks and the government had the ability to store a terabyte of data. Now, most home computers built by enthusiasts have at least double that capacity. So what are we filling up all that storage space up with? Data.
There are new sources of data every day. Fitbits track the number of steps you take. Digital cameras take real time streaming images of just about everything. Nest keeps track of how warm or cool you like your home and will adjust for you on the fly.
Sensor Data Provides New BI Opportunities
Business intelligence is the process that makes data useful for a business. The great thing about BI is that the more data that there is, the more useful your BI platform can be. Why not start leveraging that sensor data for the good of the business?
On the corporate side, Disney set a $1 billion budget to put in place MyMagic+ at Disney World. With it every resort visitor can use a wearable band that keeps track of ride tickets, act as room keys and can even have meals charged to them. It even lets visitors buy souvenirs and anything else sold at the resort. That’s a lot of convenience for the visitor, but it allows Disney to collect a lot of data far in advance, and up to the minute. Disney can control park operations with this knowledge. Think of the data that Disney can leverage from being able to see where the visitors to the park are spending most of their time.
Leveraging Sensors for Your Warehouse
What about keeping track of inventory real time? RFID sensors or real time barcode databases help warehouse managers track a company’s inventory. Everything from office supplies to your best selling products can be tracked. As they are taken off the shelves, that data gets put into the hands of an analyst who can resupply quickly before inventory levels get too low.
Sensors help track how long a certain item sits on the shelf before a sale. It may even be able to track the usage patterns of the people who buy it.
An Izenda customer’s application puts real-time data into a surgical team’s hands. The supply staff scans every item to make sure everything is available before the surgical team starts the procedure. The system tracks the surgical team’s orders for supplies, where those supplies are on the shelves when they pull them from the shelves and are sent to the operating room. Managers can track what supplies are available on a real-time basis.
A delay caused by a search for the correct inventory will keep as many as 12 medical professionals tied up for that time. It also delays any procedures scheduled for later in that OR, or with those hospital staff members. The impetus for the system, however, was safety.
Ed Burns wrote about industrial analytics, describing one company that has its entire business built on sensor data, with sensors installed in dumpsters to track how full they are. He explained how a health system monitors 17,000 computers to spot problems even before users do.
Leverage Your Sensor Data
Creative use of sensors can open up whole new data streams for your analysts to use. A good BI platform will be able to leverage this new data and publish it for end users to take advantage of real time. Sensor data can help making a decision easier and more accurate. It will be up to the organization to decide what data means the most to the business. Simply collecting sensor data won’t benefit the organization. Users still need to know what questions to ask.
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