Inforbix and linking disparate data together using semantic technology

This week Inforbix will be attending the SemTech conference in San Francisco.  In addition, I’ll be given an opportunity to give a presentation on how semantic technology is applied in manufacturing. Navigate here to read a synopsis of what I will present.  On today’s post, I want to discuss why using semantic technology to link data together could be a very useful thing to engineers and non-engineers in manufacturing companies.

During a normal work day, chances are that you’ll need to search for data to complete some task.  Ideally, finding the data you need shouldn’t take more than a few seconds or at most, a few minutes.  But this isn’t usually the case. Because data tends to be distributed all over the place, no matter how well organized your company’s data is, finding what you need in seconds or even minutes is usually not possible.  The BOM table you need may be in an Excel file in another department buried in folders eight layers deep. Or you might need an assembly for a CAD drawing but have no idea where it’s located.  People can spend hours searching for data causing delays and lost productivity.

One of the articles I read in preparation for my trip out to SemTech had to do with the general notion of structure and how it applies to data.  The article was recently posted by Mike Bergman and is titled, What is Structure?.  Have a read, it’s a fascinating general treatment of the structure behind data which I found rather insightful.  Here’s my favorite passage:

In the more prosaic terms of my vocation in the Web and information technology, these insights point to the importance of finding and deriving structured representations of information — including meaning (semantics) — that can be simply expressed and efficiently conveyed. Building upon the accretions of structure in human and computer languages, the semantic Web and semantic technologies offer just such a prospect. These insights provide a guidepost for how and where to look for the next structural innovations. We find them in the algorithms of nature and language, and in making connections that provide the basis for still more structure and patterned commonalities.

Mike’s article resonated with how Inforbix helps people in manufacturing companies derive structure from its many sources, e.g. CAD drawings, Assemblies, BOM tables, Excels, etc. Let me share with you a couple of screenshots of data snippets taken directly from Inforbix search results to illustrate what I mean.

Say you locate a particular CAD drawing from among thousands spread out in different file servers and departments in your company (with Inforbix, that takes seconds to accomplish). In addition to finding the CAD drawing you need, Inforbix automatically links together other files that are related to the CAD drawing you need.  In a sense, it’s giving you information on data you may not know existed or that you needed.  In the snippet below, Inforbix has also found a PDF and AutoCAD file, located in a different department, that are semantically related to the CAD drawing you found.  Knowing these other files exist and even accessing information about them could be very useful.

Here’s another data snippet, this time of a particular Assembly found for a data reuse task. Notice that in addition to linking a related CAD drawing to the Assembly, Inforbix has also found an Excel file having something to do with the Assembly.  Inforbix gives you the means to now access the Excel file and see what’s in it.  Could turn out to be something you’ve been looking for and haven’t found related to your project.

Conclusion. Inforbix goes beyond search by using semantic technology specifically geared for the manufacturing domain to connect disparate sources of data together.  It can help anyone in a manufacturing company gather more useful information from structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data found in design, engineering, and production departments.  Learn more about Inforbix by giving it a test-drive.  And let us know what you think.

Best, Oleg