Driving Your Shipping Business Forward With Analytics

Inbound logistics is a complicated affair, carefully managing the movement of raw materials, components, and finished inventory throughout the production process before it goes out into the wider supply chain. Shipping in particular can be very costly, so great effort is put by shippers into ensuring vessels operate at capacity and as efficiently as possible.

Huge investments are made in advanced analytics technologies to gain these operational improvements and use data to better understand inefficiencies, refine processes, and forward plan. However, many shippers are ignoring how the same technologies could be applied to growing their businesses’ revenue, volumes, and ultimately margins.

At the start of 2016, there were approximately 51,400 merchant ships trading internationally according to Statista, of which over 27,000 were bulk carriers or general cargo ships. The capacity of ships has also grown by 1,200% since 1968 with ships reaching 19,000+ TEUs, according to Allianz. Make no mistake – the growth has been incredible across the globe, and that means intense competition among shipping providers.

Used correctly, analytics can identify sales opportunities and regions where sales efforts should be focused. Equally, predictive analytics can be used to reduce churn, gaining a 38,000-ft view of customer volumes across the network, highlighting those customers that may be starting to move shipments through other providers.

Used in other industries, analytics is doubling growth and increasing profitability by 3-5 percent. B2B logistics is one of the lowest performing sectors, so companies should not compare themselves to the competition. It’s time to seize the market advantage and use analytics to accelerate growth beyond the typical 1 percent seen by using it to drive leads, productivity, and competitive pricing.

Analytics has been shown to directly impact lead generation processes, productivity, and sales growth as well as enable disruptive features such as dynamic pricing, which can make the difference between winning or losing new contracts.

But it’s important to remember that analytics alone is not enough.

To capture the impact requires operators to embed the tools in the business and drive broader behavioral change in their organization. Analytics has to prove its abilities and gain the trust and confidence of users. One of the key ways to do this is to ensure that when you build teams to get involved in this type of digital transformation project, they include champions from across the business, who will not only contribute to the project’s technical success but also its adoption by users.

To begin your journey towards adopting advanced analytics to grow your business, there are four key areas to consider to ensure you develop the right capabilities and give them the best chance of success:

  • Identify use cases – Start by discovering which part of the business analytics can have the most impact in. Remember you don’t need to do everything at once. Look at business goals and functions through four lenses: profit & loss, use case inventory, customer journeys, and value/process chains.
  • Prioritization and validation – Validate and rank identified use cases based on their impact and potential to disrupt competitors or the market. This combined with initial feasibility studies should allow you to identify 3-5 lighthouse projects with significant potential to positively impact operations.
  • Advanced analytics roadmap – Once your key use cases are identified you need to build out the requirements to deliver them. This should include not only looking at the data and analytics capabilities needed, but also how they will impact processes and whether staff training will be required or new talent should be recruited. You may also need to consider partnerships with systems integrators or other parts of your supply chain to exchange data needed to create your new capabilities.
  • Implementation – See the implementation of your analytics projects as iterative. You don’t need to deliver every capability or feature of individual capabilities in one go. Trial applications with small groups, and run them in parallel with existing processes to assess how they perform. An iterative approach gets applications and value into users’ hands more quickly, and allows you to adapt with business needs as part of your ongoing digital transformation.

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, advanced analytics is the key to gaining access to hidden insights about your business that can drive growth and improve performance. Shipping and logistics companies are consistently behind other B2B organizations in their adoption of this technology, so seize the advantage now, and begin to experiment with trials that can bring real value to your business.

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