To understand what I do, head to Barcelona’s Picasso Museum. I was there earlier this year and was struck by an LCD screen that showed the number of visitors inside the museum. The data are updated on a real-time basis so you can figure out how crowded it is inside and plan your visit. The museum is using data to manage its visitor flow and improve operations. I do the same kind of thing in my job, just on a totally different scale.
I joined ExxonMobil shortly after graduating from college in 2008, and my job is to help our employees turn raw information into critical insights. In this company, data help us do everything from extracting resources more efficiently, to refining crude, to creating the chemical compounds we use to manufacture plastics. We also use data analytics to ensure all of our employees, whether they’re working in a refinery, an offshore platform or an office, always work safely. To us, data is a big deal.
I’ll give you an example. Earlier this year, we finished centralizing several years of data generated at our refinery in Beaumont, Texas. That’s about 60 billion records in all, which we’ve assembled into a single data hub to make it easier for our engineers and operations people to analyze.
Centralizing all of that data will help us answer questions that could have an enormous impact on the company. For example, can we project when some of the complex machines we use to operate the plant are due for maintenance or an upgrade?
Beaumont was just the beginning. We’re working to capture, analyze and visualize data generated at more than 40 manufacturing sites both domestically and abroad.
On a day-to-day basis, my team and I teach our employees to mine data and, more importantly, how to lay it out in a way that’s compelling and insightful. You can have the best data in the world, but if it isn’t decipherable, it’s not useful.
One of the more successful programs we’ve launched is an internal initiative called Analytics Doctor. It works in much the same way as when people call the IT desk to solve a hardware issue; Analytics Doctor helps employees with any data analytics issues. People can come to us, and we help them take their projects to the next level.
We also use data analytics to keep our employees safe. Many of my colleagues across southeast Texas were affected by Hurricane Harvey. In the wake of the storm, we activated our automated employee tracking system. The data it captured helped us account for every one of our employees. Making sure our people were safe was the first step in our recovery effort, which is ongoing today.
As a company of scientists and engineers, we’ve always been a data-focused organization, but new technologies are helping us find unprecedented insights in the data we have. And that’s helping us turn data into bold, winning strategies.