June 2015 | Commentary | IT Matters

Ditch the Spreadsheet and Grow Your Business with Quality Data

Tags: Logistics I.T., Logistics, Big Data

Kristen Celecki is Director, Visibility Solutions, INTTRA, 973-263-5100

To optimize logistics execution, shippers must gain visibility by adopting new technologies that provide high-quality data. But at many companies, separate freight procurement and logistics management functions leave managers struggling to optimize processes beyond freight rates, producing results that may have a large financial impact and damage customer satisfaction.

Even today, many companies manage information manually. Excel spreadsheets and telephones are still tools of the trade, resulting in incomplete data that is often incorrect or late. This leaves logistics professionals without complete supply chain visibility, hindering business growth.

To deliver visibility, shippers and their providers must quickly adopt technologies that incorporate new and diverse sources of information. A unique opportunity exists for the supply chain to raise the bar on reducing costs and complexity, while playing a central role in enhancing customer experiences. The key to achieving these benefits is high-quality data.

Delivering on Data Quality

Regardless of how you manage information, if you can't trust the data, and it's not presented in an understandable format, you won't have time to change business practices.

Technologies that support improved data quality are available now. Digital platforms fostering collaboration among shippers, carriers, and freight forwarders deliver significant savings. But to enable true visibility and productive collaboration via digital platforms, the data must exist on three levels:

  1. Collaborate. Large shippers can mandate visibility or collect fines when data is inaccurate, but smaller shippers struggle to gain access to timely, accurate data. This results in information gaps that exacerbate inefficiencies and customer dissatisfaction

    To even the playing field, shippers need ready access to accurate and timely information. Participating in an integrated, collaborative digital platform provides real-time information from all transportation sources.

  2. Automate. Manual entry is still prevalent, creating incorrect or partial data availability downstream. Each participant can have different coding and naming conventions for their shipments, creating a complex, mistake-riddled process full of discrepancies. Automation reduces those data quality errors.
  3. Standardize. Carriers have their own format for delivering data, tracking hundreds of events and milestones in different ways, leaving logistics managers without a common format for reducing data complexity.

Consider the word "arrival." Does it mean the ship entered port? The container was unloaded at the dock? The shipment was turned over to ground transport? Discrepancies occur without standard definitions in place. Next-generation collaborative networks are driving new data quality standards that all supply chain partners can use.

Demand Better Data

The movement to optimize logistics through high-quality data is happening now. To benefit from systemic information quality improvements, industry participants need to speak on the importance of data quality.

Take full advantage of technologies that drive e-business through a collaborative network. Those who commit to high-quality data will compete more effectively, and lead the way in optimizing the movement of goods.






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