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Too many engineers, not enough data analysts?

Too many engineers, not enough data analysts?

“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom”

Clifford Stoll

One of the significant changes for utility providers in the 21st century is the massive increase in data that is now available and streaming into organisations. It wasn’t so long ago that engineers were hand drawing pipe long sections and calculating maximum flows without the aid of hydraulic models, or even a computer. Those days are gone, long gone; the new breed of engineer now has access to a wide array of software programs, intelligent devices, and predictive tools that are all generating gigabytes of data for consumption:

  • Hydraulic models
  • Digital twins
  • Artificial intelligence processors
  • 3D LiDAR mapping
  • Telemetry and remote SCADA Systems
  • Digital flow meters
  • Leak detection loggers
  • Overflow and pressure transient sensors
  • Multi-camera inspection robots

The result is the availability of more data than organisations have ever had in their history, and it continues to accumulate at a faster and faster pace each year. What hasn’t changed so quickly is the traditional skills that engineers are taught during studies and the types of roles that organisations create to look after their assets.

Turning data into information, and then using that information to make smart decisions and gain improved understanding of assets requires a different skill set than traditional engineers may be used to. Not only is more data coming in, but it needs storage, user access, and interaction among different software programs. Organisations that can successfully accept the substantial amounts of data and efficiently cleanse, analyse, and integrate it throughout their processes have a distinct advantage in providing services that return value for money and meet the objectives for their community or customers.

Taking advantage of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and integration options that are often market supplied and understanding the methods of detecting trends, risks and insights is a smoother process when organisations have data analysts on board who can be the key player to ensure engineers are working with information and knowledge and not just data.

Has there been enough discussion in the industry about the creation of these targeted positions and then attracting and keeping data analysts? Opening a dialogue with sector leaders and obtaining human resources buy-in that positions like this are essential, may be a different challenge, but one that is going to be worth taking on.

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