Data Mining for Data Engineers - A Guide to Building Pipelines

February 13, 2024
25 min read

Data is everywhere. Every information we read, picture we see, and sound we hear is data. This data can take various forms, such as numbers, charts, tables, or any other representation method. But data is often present in its raw form, which is unstructured and noisy before being stored in data warehouses and visualized. This is where data mining processes emerge: filter this raw and unstructured data to uncover valuable insights and information. In this article, you will learn everything about data mining processes and how to build a data pipeline. 

What is Data Mining?

The global population of 8 billion produces more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily, approximating 328.77 million terabytes. Finding data to extract meaningful information and insights from this data bulk is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Data mining is the solution to this problem. It is a process in which large datasets are traversed to find patterns and trends, converting those findings into insights and predictions. It includes acquiring, storing, transforming, and managing data in an organization. These processes ensure seamless, secure, and effective deployment of high-level data applications like visualization and machine learning models.

Data mining uses preprocessed information to predict future probabilities and trends. This filtered knowledge helps you understand the behavior and relationship between data points.

Types of Data Mining Techniques

Before working on the data mining process, it is important to delve into the different types of data mining approaches—descriptive and predictive. Understanding the difference between these two methods is fundamental.

Descriptive Data Mining 

Descriptive data mining refers to finding similarities and patterns in the existing data. It involves developing subgroups in the central part of the data, which captures the essential characteristics or trends present in the overall dataset. Descriptive mining summarizes and transforms the data into meaningful information that can be used for reporting and monitoring.

Predictive Data Mining

Predictive data mining aims to make future predictions by observing current patterns in the data. It uses supervised machine-learning techniques to predict the target value based on input values. Techniques such as classification, time-series analysis, and regression are commonly used in predictive data mining to build predictive models. These models play an important role in utilizing current variables to predict future outcomes.

Descriptive vs Predictive Data Mining 

The differences between descriptive and predictive data mining are as follows: 

Descriptive Data Mining

Predictive Data Mining
Summarizes and organizes historical data. Builds models to make future predictions.
Aims to answer questions about past or current occurrences, like: “What happened?” or “What is happening?” Aims to answer future occurrences with questions like “What is likely to happen in the future?”
Utilizes statistical measures for data description. 

Requires historical data for training predictive models.

Identifies patterns and trends in past information.

Involves the use of algorithms and statistical techniques.
Standard techniques include clustering and summarization. Standard techniques include regression and classification.
Focuses on understanding and characterizing an existing dataset.

Uses machine learning to learn from past patterns.

Often applied in business intelligence and data reporting. 

Often applied in areas like finance for stock prediction. 

Understanding these techniques facilitates effective decision-making, improves data quality, and contributes to the overall success of data-related projects. By leveraging these methods, you can uncover valuable insights, identify trends, and make informed decisions that drive business growth and innovation. 

Role of Data Engineers in Data Mining

Although data mining is mostly carried out by data scientists, data engineers can play a role in the processes leading to data mining. Usually, data engineers are responsible for acquiring, storing, transforming, and managing data in an organization. This transformation ensures seamless, secure, and effective deployment of high-level data applications and machine learning models by data scientists. Some of the common tasks performed by data engineers are as follows: 

  • Designing and implementing systems to move and transform data from various sources to a destination, often a storage or processing environment. 
  • Ensuring seamless communication and integration between various data storage and processing systems. For example, connecting data from different APIs, databases, or file systems. 
  • Setting up data validation checks, cleaning and standardizing data, and handling missing or erroneous information. This sets up the foundation for a better data mining process by data scientists. 
  • Identifying and implementing strategies to enhance data processing and retrieval speed and efficiency. 
  • Collaborating with data scientists and analysts to communicate the relationship between different collected data.

How to Build Efficient Data Pipelines can help with Data Mining?

Building a data pipeline is essential as it streamlines processes, ensures data quality, and enhances scalability. There are several types of data pipelines used in data engineering and data integration. These pipelines vary based on their structure, complexity, and purpose. Some of the common types include ELT or ETL pipeline. 

What is the ETL and ETL Process? 

Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) is a process in which you can combine the data from different sources into a central repository. ETL uses a set of rules to clean, organize, and prepare raw data for storage so that it should be compatible with business use cases. Data from these storage systems are extracted for data mining for different processes, including building machine learning models.

In ETL, data transformation precedes loading. However, a modern approach like ELT allows for a different sequence. It involves extracting data from multiple sources, loading it into target storage, and then performing transformations whenever required. 

Let’s understand the different methods involved in ETL:

Data Extraction

The data integration tool extracts or copies raw data from multiple sources and stores it in a data staging area. The staging area is where extracted data is stored temporarily. These staging areas are often transient; hence, the data in this storage is erased after data extraction. Data extraction commonly happens in the following stages: 

  • Full Extraction: The entire dataset from a source system is extracted without considering changes or updates since the last extraction. This requires you to keep a copy of your previous extraction to check which information is new. 
  • Incremental Extraction: This method is designed to capture and process only the updates, additions, or deletions in the source data since the last extraction, reducing the amount of data transferred and improving efficiency.
  • API-based Extraction: API-based extraction retrieves data from a source system using the Application Program Interface (API). APIs allow different software systems to communicate with each other, enabling data extraction in a structured and often real-time manner. This method is commonly used to integrate data from web-based services, cloud platforms, or other online systems. 

Don't forget to check out our comprehensive article on data extraction tools for a deeper insight into optimizing your data retrieval processes!

Data Transformation

In ETL, data transformation is converting and reshaping raw data from the staging area into a format suitable for the target system. This step is crucial for ensuring that the data meets the intended quality structure and business requirements. This process ensures that data mining in further processes will be less tedious. Data transformation involves the following phases: 

  • Data Cleaning: Data cleaning is identifying and rectifying dataset errors, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies to improve quality and reliability. It involves handling missing data, correcting typos, and removing outliers and duplicated data. 
  • Summarization: In data transformation, summarization is crucial in condensing and aggregating information to create a more concise and meaningful data representation. This is vital in preparing the data for analysis, reporting, or storage in a target system. 
  • Splitting and Merging: These operations are often used in conjunction, especially in scenarios where data needs to be transformed, enriched, or organized for specific analyses. For instance, you might split a dataset, apply specific transformations to each subset, and then merge them to create a comprehensive, transformed dataset. 

Data Loading

Data loading is transferring transformed and processed data from the staging area to a target system. These target systems can be data warehouses, databases, or other storage environments. 

6 Steps to Build Effective Data Pipelines

The following comprehensive steps will help you to build a successful data pipeline:

Step 1: Define Objective

Depending on your requirement, clearly articulate the goals and type of data pipeline you would need to implement. Understand what insights and outcomes you aim to achieve through data processing and analysis. Based on this, you can identify the right data sources and relationships among data points. This alone can massively help in obtaining confidence and gaining trust in data while carrying out the data mining process.

Step 2: Data Collection 

Identify your data sources and gather raw data from these sources. Depending on the source system, they may involve databases, APIs, logs, or external systems.  

Step 3: Data Transformation

Cleaning, transforming, and structuring the data using descriptive or predictive mining techniques are performed to transform data into a suitable format to meet your analysis or storage needs. This may involve performing the steps mentioned above in the data transformation section. 

Step 4: Data Loading

Choose a storage solution based on your data characteristics and requirements, which could be a database, data warehouse, data lake, or another storage system. Ensure the data is loaded accurately, following the predefined schemas and structures. The transformation and loading steps could be interchangeable depending on your selected data integration process.

Step 5: Data Monitoring and Management

Implement monitoring techniques to ensure the reliability and performance of the data pipeline. You can utilize monitoring tools to track the performance of your data pipeline. This will allow you to track the flow of data, system processing time, and promptly identify and address errors. 

Step 6: Testing and Validation 

Test the data pipeline thoroughly to ensure it meets the defined objectives and operates correctly under various scenarios. Ensure all dependencies are met and conduct thorough testing in the production environment before full-scale deployment. You can also document the pipeline architecture, dependencies, and processes to facilitate understanding and maintenance. Validate the accuracy and completeness of the processed data against predefined criteria.

By following these steps, you can build a data pipeline that meets your organization's data mining requirements in the further processes and supports informed decision-making.

How can Airbyte help you Accelerate the Data Mining Process?

Airbyte, a data integration platform, seamlessly integrates data from various sources into a centralized repository. By connecting to diverse data sources such as databases and cloud storage, Airbyte enables you to aggregate all relevant data for mining purposes in one place.

Features of Airbyte:

  • Its intuitive UI and 350+ pre-built connectors allow you to configure data extraction and loading processes with minimal effort, reducing the time required for integrating data.
  • Being an open-source integration platform, Airbyte supports log-based CDC from Postgres, MySQL, & Microsoft SQL servers to any destination, including BigQuery or Snowflake. 
  • With Airbyte’s Connector Development Kit (CDK), you have the flexibility to build customized connectors to integrate with specific data sources that suit your needs. 


Data mining is crucial for deriving value from large datasets via different techniques. For efficient data mining execution, you can reliably channel clean information into storage and analysis platforms by clearly defining goals and methodically executing well-crafted pipelines encompassing ETL or ELT processes. Airbyte simplifies building those robust pipelines, enabling seamless aggregation of scattered data. Its extensive connectivity and customization capabilities help you build data pipelines effortlessly. With the right objectives and rigorous validations, purposeful data mining and integration infrastructure unlocks immense potential for analytics-driven decision-making.

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