Use Big Data to Improve Your Supply Chain
The term "big data" has been one of the hottest buzzwords in recent years, which shouldn't be a surprise. Statistical science and data analytics can help organizations acquire historical measurements and generate actionable information that improves supply chain visibility, drives operational efficiency, and supports growth. But knowing the importance of data is only the first step. Organizations must have the right processes and strategies in place in order to access that data, analyze it, and then make it actionable.
Set Yourself Up for Success
In order to effectively leverage data and achieve meaningful results, it's vital to start out on the right foot—which means gathering the right information. Understand precisely what data needs to be captured, tracked, and acted upon. Timely, accurate, and complete data can provide a holistic view of an organization's operations and boost collaboration—both internally and with supply chain partners.
Make Data Actionable
The ability to access and analyze the right information is only the beginning. What makes data truly valuable is how an organization uses it. Utilizing Business Intelligence (BI) tools and reporting can help make reacting to operational concerns more actionable in order to drive meaningful change and create an agile supply chain. Here are some key ways to leverage the data you glean within your supply chain operations:
Advanced Transportation Planning: Today's logistics technology helps track important data to improve the flow of goods throughout the supply chain. For example, a transportation management system (TMS) can provide precise inbound and outbound statistics to track shipment frequency, identify endpoint destinations, and more to help organizations anticipate future shipping patterns, secure necessary capacity, and ensure optimal inventory levels.
Complete End-to-End Visibility: Tracking and tracing the end-to-end movement of goods is critical to establishing (and maintaining) an efficient supply chain. Data from a TMS can help with continuous move routing and tracking the location of each shipment—and, if unexpected events occur during a multi-stop delivery, real-time load locations can help enable route adjustment to avoid paying late penalties or having a driver run out of hours.
Enhanced Planning & Forecasting: Preparing for the future is critical for successful supply chain operations. Using data for advanced planning can help anticipate what may occur in 12 to 18 months and better forecast future impacts and constraints. Conducting "what if" scenarios can help organizations mitigate risk when disruptions arise, such as inclement weather or a capacity shortage.
Strategic Capacity Planning: Advanced analytics help create an optimal network during the procurement and bidding process—which can help lower carrier costs and manage variations. In order to obtain the optimal bid results, shippers should create bid packages that contain continuous loops, tours and multi-stop movements. By utilizing advanced planning scenarios, organizations can model the future for carriers to bid against versus static, historical lane data. Look at your organization's forecast for signals that volumes may increase at specific plants or distribution centers (DCs), then model out the impact for your transportation providers to understand how your network must adapt.
Better Customer Service: Data analysis allows for transparency with customers, helping them gain insight into any fluctuations of cost or service. Additionally, using predictive analytics to automate processes allows for improved appointment setting and delivery tracking, ensuring that the end customer receives products on time.
Make Data Work for You
Data can have a significant impact on an organization's supply chain. However, accessing the timely, accurate data and then effectively utilizing it is not a simple task. It's important to have a strategic approach to big data and thoughtfully map out a plan for accessing and using it. This includes establishing key performance indicators (KPIs), implementing specific goals, identifying what needs to be accomplished with the information being gathered, and then comparing final shipping results with initial goals and KPIs and making necessary adjustments moving forward.
Additionally, utilizing the expertise of a 3PL partner can help shippers glean deeper insights into their supply chain. Pairing deep industry expertise and insights regarding capacity, routes, weather conditions and more with big data can better help validate, anticipate, and predict future outcomes. This enables shippers to more effectively leverage the data they have to optimize their transportation strategies, increase efficiency, reduce costs, enhance customer service, and improve carrier relationships.