DEARBORN - Big data has become big business. The ability to capture, store, process and analyze large volumes of data has become critical to the success of any major corporation, which is why big data played a significant role in the Fifth Annual Ford Analytics Conference that was held in the Research and Innovation Center Sept. 25 - 26.
The Annual Ford Analytics Conference was originally established to encourage collaboration and exchange among various analytics teams. Thanks in part to the growing importance of meeting big data challenges, increased recognition of the work being done by Ford analytics teams, and the overall growth of the company of late, conference attendance this year was at a record high. The two-day conference was open to all Ford employees and selected sponsors.
“Participation is huge this year,” said John Ginder, manager, Ford Systems Analytics and Environmental Sciences, Research and Advanced Engineering. “In past years we have had 120 to 150 registrants, this year we have 190. In past years we’ve had sponsor participation from maybe a half-dozen companies, this year there are 12. There’s a greater enthusiasm.”
Much of this enthusiasm, both within Ford and in the Analytics industry as a whole, is coming from the rapid and massive emergence of big data and the increased need to draw value from this data.
To put big data and the importance of the analysts working with the data into perspective, consider this: According to Randy Visintainer, director, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, one vehicle today can generate a terabyte of data per hour. A terabyte is a measurement of computer storage capacity and is equivalent to one trillion bytes, or approximately 472 hour of broadcast quality video, according to the tech savvy website, searchstorage.com.
Every Ford Motor Company department generates data. Access to the most effective means of capturing, storing and processing this data will help Ford analysts develop valuable forecasting models and other analytical tools that could improve many aspects of our business going forward.
Throughout the two-day conference, dozens of highly technical presentations and panel discussions took place, all pinpointing ways to improve one aspect of Ford’s business or another through effective data analysis. Here are just a few examples of the topics experts covered:
• Voice of customer analytics – Using voice of customer data (often coming from social media outlets) to gain knowledge of customer experiences and opinions of various products. This data can help promote a competitive advantage and influence product and service improvements.
• Workforce analytics and workforce planning – Identifying workforce challenges, such as the impact of the ageing workforce and determining which steps need to be taken to prepare for these challenges.
• Advertising adstock and response function – Measuring advertising impact on the market to determine effective ad strategies for the future.
During day two of the conference, over 70 attendees from 12 sponsors were on hand presenting the latest and greatest data processing and storing technologies in order to keep our teams on the cutting edge.
Visintainer said the purpose of including high-tech sponsors such as Alteryx, Cloudera, IBM and SAS is not for them to make a sales pitch, but for our teams to see what technology will be available in the future and to then leverage that knowledge when they develop plans moving forward.
“These days analytics is a very hot space, everybody is using it,” said Alfredo Cateriano, Ford Credit vice president, Global Analytics.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” said Visintainer. “Getting back to why this conference is here, it’s so we can look at these challenges and not be intimidated by them but to start thinking them through. We’re not the only industry generating lots of data that we want to capture, and the big data is not just in the car, it’s in the whole business. It’s in the enterprise. How can we make the whole enterprise run more efficiently? You could even take the whole vehicle discussion out of this and we still have our plate full of big data challenges just in the business.”
If all of this seems a tad too massive to comprehend, then you’re getting the point.
Visintainer summed it up best, “Knowledge combined with data is power.” And the 2013 Ford Analytics Conference has once again shed light on some of the most important topics analysts face today.