John Clark | Director | Star Data Analytics

Does “what gets measured” really “get managed”?

October 2020

The phrase “What gets measured gets managed” sounds good, however, when it actually comes to practical experience I argue that it rarely works out that way. You can find other variations such as “To measure is to know” and “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it” which again are good and true statements but I propose they are incomplete.

With deference to Lord Kelvin, I suggest a longer and less catchy phrase: “What get measured, analysed, acted on and continuously monitored, gets managed”. Whilst it isn’t going to be a new slogan, I would argue that it is much more realistic. The extra steps are essential when it comes to making data actually work for you and produce meaningful, beneficial results.

We could call this “closing the loop”, where data collection is just the first stage and then the data has to be worked with and actioned upon. Being a “loop” it also needs to be checked again in the future to prevent slippage back into inefficiency or for adjustments to take into account changing situations.

This might sound like too much hard work so it needs to be made simple, quick and clear to those who don’t have the time or inclination to pour over data. Certainly the focus has traditionally been “Is the equipment achieving its goal?” rather than “Is it achieving its goal and using the least amount of energy necessary?” If we are to achieve net zero then more attention needs to be given to energy usage and with upward pressure on prices there will be a growing financial motivator as well as environmental.

Investment into software makes this challenge manageable by automating both the assessment and presentation of findings. With each new system, more experience and more data helps to refine the engineering models. However, it still requires a human champion to take the recommendations and action them.

We’ve found every stage of this journey or “loop” to be a challenge, especially when it comes to clearly and succinctly communicating the technical findings and call to action. However, straightforward red/amber/green health indicators, suggested remedial actions and costed opportunities help motivate and guide. It still comes down to the relevant people communicating and working together effectively though.

Consider the question “Is the refrigeration equipment working the way the designer intended?” In our experience every old system has had something to pursue and even some recently commissioned systems also. Thankfully most actions don’t need large capital expenditure, it could be optimising control set points or some targeted servicing.

Coming back to the thought at the start “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”. I would ask: What data are you collecting? Who (or what software) is looking at it? Is it ever being compared against what the designer expected it to do? What systems are in place to take findings and actually push for meaningful change? How is it monitored to prevent it slipping back in the future?

“What get measured, analysed, acted on and continuously monitored, gets managed”

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