COVID-19 Data Strategies: HUVR at ASME

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Posted on December 15

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The coronavirus has been a factor in the economy since early 2020. Taking a look back and seeing the non-obvious effects it’s had is wise by any measure, especially with the vaccinations now in progress. On December 10, 2020, HUVR CEO Bob Baughman did just that as he presented a session at ASME called “COVID-19 … What is Your Data Strategy in 2020+?” 


Obviously, COVID-19 has impacted supply chains and disrupted production. It revealed a weakness in our supply chain, but also in our data. The idea of digitization has not changed, but the speed at which companies were implementing it has multiplied overnight—gone to warp speed, you might say. The long-term goal was the same, but the short-term felt an acute urging to progress. And so companies rolled up their sleeves and got to work.


Digitizing data is important, but the data is worthless without a holistic platform to process and report that data back to analysts. It must be able to serve all a company’s sites, though they may have vastly different needs, driven by areas of production, local laws or environments. It must be able to adapt to whatever workflow serves the customer, not force the customer to work in a way that makes the platform usable. Finally, it needs to be secure: the speed-up of digitization must not include a laxening of cybersecurity standards. As Bob puts it, companies need a system that is “Agile, flexible, scalable and secure.”


In the session, Bob laid out the four common problems of effective digitization and holistic data aggregation. While individual operations may face larger problems in one area and relative painlessness in another, these issues are on some level the stumbling blocks all companies face.

  1. Data lakes and siloed information: While it’s true that digital inspection tools create better, safer and more efficient inspections, they also create massive data lakes that must be managed. Often this data comes from third-party platforms that use an inconvenient format, or keep the data locked up on their system.
  2. Real-time data from assets: All of the above is also true of the flow of real-time data from assets, which must be historicized for easy callback.
  3. Human inspectors and 3rd party data: Often the right tool for the job is good, old-fashioned boots-on-the-ground human eyeballs. However, in a digital world, a paper checklist will simply not do. As such, the information from human inspectors must be simply and efficiently digitized. This is compounded when the inspector is a 3rd party, using different standards and formats.
  4. Legacy data systems:  As mentioned, data often ends up stored on a vendor’s system. Instead of worrying about chasing your data down from partners (or your own antiquated system), you should be focused on finding a platform that safely and effectively stores data on YOUR system. All information should all end up in the same place and in a format that works best for your operation.


Bob said that COVID has magnified the idea that you need ROI in weeks, not months or years: often operations required results almost instantly, and whatever could provide the quickest and best ROI in the short term was embraced. As such, you want a partner with a REAL open platform: that means access to data unencumbered,  without interacting with that partner.

But, when that partnership is struck, you will see results in four stages:

  1. Diagnostic analytics: The first stage in the journey should provide a simple-to-understand view of where the areas for improvement are. You should be able to click in from wherever you are in the world and see the same data as your counterparts across the globe—and everyone would see the same, standardized data.
  2. Comparative analytics: Once a few cycles have passed, aggregated data provides a comparison with the past—information that leads to better business decisions.
  3. Predictive analytics: All decisions now become data-driven. Make a choice to leave things alone or prepare a path for change based on a solid foundation of information.
  4. Prescriptive analytics: Bob calls this “the nirvana.” While algorithms created by smart Ph.D.s already exist, and could be applied to information at any stage, without a partner that believes YOU understand your assets better than anyone you’ll end up managing a platform instead of data. This is the key to effective prescriptive analytics: the theoretical and practical knowledge working together to inform your decisions.


Companies must figure out how to adapt, execute and survive, both now and post-COVID—our “new normal” will exist long past the time when the pandemic lives only in history books. It’s easy to be caught up in the moment, and in many instances making short-term decisions based on short-term goals is important. But equally important is remembering that the long term will always be there in the distance. 

Bob recommends using the acute needs brought on by COVID as a springboard to focus efforts on digitization NOW. If you engage a partner that can deliver success in these most challenging times, you will no doubt continue that success in a (hopefully) more stable future.

When digitizing, like a lot of things, it is easy to become solutions-focused. No matter how elegant the solution a partner offers, does it do what you need it to? Is it open? Agile? Scalable? And most importantly, does it meet the specific needs of your operation? Bob offers a bit of wisdom on how to avoid that knotty problem. “Make the problem your passion, and let your solving of the problem drive the direction you need to go.” 

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