Analytics at the North Pole — Manufacturing Master Class

Dipali Mehta

Analytics at the North PoleThe sun sets on the North Pole around September 24, and doesn’t rise again until March 19.

Without the sun’s warmth, temperatures plunge to an average -34 degrees Celsius (-29 degrees Fahrenheit).

In this land of bitter cold and darkness runs the largest and most complex manufacturing operation in the modern world.

Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, with a number of magical elves and flying reindeer. Aided only by these unusual creatures and the dim light from the aurora borealis, Mr. Claus conducts his famous business. He compiles customer lists of children throughout the world and categorizes children according to their behavior and geographic location. He manufactures appropriate gifts for them and delivers the presents exactly on December 24th each year.

This magnificent operation is:

  • Informed: Santa uses the power of the social web to ensure that his customers’ latest trends and expectations are reflected in his products.
  • Aligned: Santa’s famous “naughty or nice” categorization is reputed to rival the Google PageRank algorithm in complexity, but is firmly aligned with his organizational vision of rewarding good behavior and spreading cheer.
  • Adaptable: Technology companies, the internet, and short-lived customer preferences have shortened product life cycles, forcing Santa to become highly adaptable.
  • Driven by intelligent data: Santa requires sophisticated data interpretation techniques to interpret patterns and forecast requirements in order to prevent information overload generated by billions of mobile device users around the world.

Santa’s “magic” at the North Pole is referred to by a more common name in equatorial regions— analytics.

Best in Class Manufacturing

Santa must frequently adjust his inventory and technology to compete with for-profit companies, despite his limited resources. This uneven playing field has driven Santa to include more and more extraction, interpretation, and analysis of data. Santa’s manufacturing is now dominated by sensor and machine-generated data (like temperature, open/closed, or scientific readings) that are derived from operational technology (OT) systems.

The few companies who have begun to emulate Santa’s operation have faced significant challenges. The sheer “bigness” of the data presents the difficulty of what to extract and how to extract it. The value to the business process isn’t immediately clear. As with other industries, manufacturing struggles with how to integrate unstructured data like social media into structured demand-side data, such as syndicated sales data, consumer panel data, or demographics.

Analytics for Utilities—Braving the Chill

Another complexity at the North Pole is managing electric, gas and water utilities. Santa’s utilities always use the latest in IT-OT alignment, including:

  • Smart grids and advanced metering infrastructure
  • Smart appliances
  • Advanced distribution management
  • Remote asset monitoring
  • Event avoidance
  • Self-healing network

But Santa has the advantage of being his own utility customer. For today’s utility providers, the anticipated smart grid data volumes from their customer base will quickly overwhelm their existing data processing systems. Energy information’s a key component of utility offerings and needs to be processed in a near real-time environment.

Much of this “big data” is contained in customer information systems and customer relationship management systems, resulting in more data sources and more data, both structured and unstructured. Leveraging the information hidden in this data can help better predict and avoid outages, balance loads, and collect bills, enabling businesses to mirror Santa’s utility efficiency across their customer bases.

Analytics for the Oil and Gas Industry – Taking a Page Out of Santa’s Book

An intelligent and sustainable oil and gas operation follows the same “magical” principles that Mr. Claus holds dear. Analytics can help companies:

  • Remain competitive by managing and optimizing operational performance.
  • Compare costs to potential income in real-time
  • Help predict and improve profitability.
  • Monitor production or distribution losses, outages, asset downtimes, and other disruptive factors

Taking real time calculations and big data simulations further, analysing prospective oil fields and wells combined with “anytime, anywhere” access to key operational and financial data can drive a paradigm shift in accelerating decision making and productivity.

Bringing the North Pole Closer to the Equator

The dreams of data interpretation and big data have fascinated humans long before real-time analytics tools were easily available. Santa Claus, Charles Xavier of the X-Men comic series, and other characters have been idolized for their abilities to connect with consumers by collecting and analysing big data.

Now that superhero abilities are possible for businesses, customers expect every company to function as efficiently as if it sat at the North Pole.

To do so, a business must turn big data into intelligent data—thereby revolutionizing the way decisions are made across the enterprise.

Is your company ready to use the Santa-like magic of analytics to overcome business challenges and jump ahead of the competition?