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Making data work for Dow

Data islands, or data silos, are common in many industries, but perhaps more so in manufacturing. The complexity of products and production lines requires multiple types of processes and equipment, each often with their own database and data storage system. While data can be extracted, it does not become information until it can be analyzed. And without an aggregated system to analyze and deliver relevant information, the value of the data is lost to the organization.

"Manufacturers are drowning in data, but starving for information."
Dr. Lloyd Colegrove, Director Data Services, Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical, headquartered in Midland, Michigan, is one of the world’s largest chemical companies with more than 5,000 plastic, chemical and agricultural products manufactured at 188 sites in 36 countries. 

For Dow Chemical, a single product manufactured in different plants is likely produced with different equipment and systems, each set up with their own production processes and data storage. This not only makes data collection and analysis more complex, but also makes it difficult for Dow management to compare production facilities and products, determine manufacturing barriers, and develop best practices and efficiencies. The problem was not in having enough data; the problem was making the data work for them.

Challenges: Lots of data, not enough information

A lot of data is collected at Dow; however, as with many large and complex companies, much of that data never gets looked at or used. The immediate problem was to access all the data without having to move it or create a redundant, parallel data space.

Upgrading or replacing systems was cost prohibitive and unrealistic, given the scope of such a project. There was no desire to invest millions of dollars revamping manufacturing processes or IT infrastructure. The intention was not to replace current databases, but rather to access the data where it already resides.

The ideal approach was to use a neutral – or agnostic –solution with the capability to analyze data from any databases across manufacturing operations, and deliver a view of process health information in real time.

"NWA Focus EMI is our way of making sense of all our data sources."
Dr. Lloyd Colegrove, Director Data Services, Dow Chemical

Solution: Real-time information delivered through a global analytics layer

Dow turned to a longtime solution partner, Northwest Analytics, and the NWA Focus EMI® solution. NWA Focus EMI allowed Dow to access data directly from existing data sources, passed it through a global analytics layer, and then visualized the critical process information in real time. With NWA Focus EMI,

Dow gained the information it needed to monitor, understand and control its manufacturing processes.

"Dashboards  are shared across departments. When behaviors are contrary to agreed upon metrics, the decision becomes data-driven."

Mary-Beth Seasholtz, PhD, Senior Data Scientist, Dow

The global analytics layer turns the vast amounts of data into information and metrics anyone could use. With NWA Focus EMI, everyone who needs the information locked within the data has it delivered to them in real time with the context they need to do their job and take action if needed.

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