After working with many companies on a wide range of business issues, one common element permeates through all of them – the need for improvement with data integrity. It is much more than a “systems” topic; it is cornerstone to your business success. The integrity of data (whether manual or in a system) is fundamental to the performance of core business processes, such as manufacturing, planning and control, logistics, customer service, etc. The data that supports decision making must be accurate – it is amazing how much time, how many resources and how many dollars can be wasted when relying on inaccurate data.

The solution is not highly complex, yet typically yields significant results. However, many times, I’ve found that companies are not as interested in pursuing the cleanup of data and the focus on data integrity because it is not as popular and exciting a solution as Six Sigma or Lean, and it requires focus and effort. On the other hand, from a results perspective, it is one of the only solutions that requires zero capital investment and yet can have a significant, long term impact to your company’s bottom line and customer service. There are a few keys to data integrity.

First, clean up the data. Determine which data elements are critical for your business and business system – master files (bills of material, routing, work centers, etc) and transactions (inventory, work orders, etc). Define them. Input missing data and update existing data. Define the processes. This can be a significant task; however, it has far reaching results. Prioritize based on the largest business impact and take one step at a time.

Second, assign responsibility and authority to individuals for the data, including routine transactions and on-going maintenance of files and data elements. This is a critical step because it incorporates data integrity into everyday responsibilities! And, no matter what process, people are #1 to ensuring success – it is critical that they know what they are responsible to clean up and maintain, WHY it is important and HOW it relates to the company’s goals.

Third, metrics and follow-up is critical. Tracking progress is always critical to a successful outcome. Develop exception reports to minimize the effort required and review and monitor frequently. Again, leadership and people are the key ingredients. If leadership incorporates data integrity into the core of every person’s job, makes sure there are reporting and tracking mechanisms in place and follows up to ensure it is a priority and valued, success will follow. A few of the key metrics typically are the following: inventory record accuracy, master and working file data accuracy and progress of master file updates (% complete vs. target).

Incorporating a focus on data integrity into your business can result in several typical outcomes/ benefits: a foundation for effective and efficient operations, decision making and growth, improved customer service, improved cash flow (through lower inventory levels), and lower costs (a reduction and/or elimination of physical inventories and less waste throughout your organization).

It isn’t complex or expensive to implement data integrity – why not stand out in the crowd and implement the simple, “not fancy” solution and surpass your competitors without significant capital investment.