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'If you don't analyse the data, it's just data.'

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For Bryan Mok, who has a diploma in precision engineering, data analysis was an entirely foreign field: "That's something that I've never learnt in school before. I never thought it existed."

TWO years ago, Bryan Mok ran machines on JEP Precision Engineering's factory floor. Now, the 25-year-old engineer has a bird's-eye view of production operations.

When he started his journey with the company, it was as a machinist: first manning the vertical turning lathe, then milling machines.

A year after joining, when the company began rolling out its Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) Monitoring and Analysis system, he found himself at the forefront of the transformation - and had to pick up entirely new skills.

The OEE system collects a wealth of data about machine performance and the production process.

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But information is useful only if you make sense of it and take appropriate action, he notes: "If you don't analyse the data, it's just data."

For Mr Mok, who has a diploma in precision engineering, data analysis was an entirely foreign field: "That's something that I've never learnt in school before. I never thought it existed."

He took about three months to pick up the required skills, all on the job and without specific training.

"It's very concept-based," he recalls. "You have to read up and understand what these variables mean. Every small change will make a big impact."

Previously, the firm tracked production performance simply by the amount of products manufactured, notes Mr Mok. In contrast, the data collected by the OEE system is fine-grained.

Now, the data analysis team can see specific points where time is lost, or analyse the effectiveness of individual machines. Different reasons for losses are uncovered across different departments.

All this in turn makes it possible to figure out how to improve.

Mr Mok helped to expand the OEE system from the milling department where it was introduced, to half-a-dozen more departments across the firm.

Every week, he meets other members of the data analysis team to discuss the numbers for that week, as well as to look at the trend over the last few months.

"As a person that analyses OEE, I'm also analysing: How can I improve this entire process?"

In essence, he looks at how to "help the company earn more money", he quips.

But when he started out in his precision engineering career, did he ever expect to be doing this today?

"Honestly, no," he replies.

"It's been interesting. I've never been involved in this kind of top-down job before."

Brought to you by The Future Economy Council