The Key to Turning Big Data into Actionable Supply Chain Insights

Published : December 12, 2014

woman-working-on-graphs“Data Is King,” declared a 2011 Forbes headline which followed the release of IBM’s C-Suite study The Essential CIO – Insights From the Global CIO Study in May of that year.

A quick look through the past month’s top headlines— “Four Things Big Data Needs For The Holidays,” “The Next Era of Designers Will Use Data as Their Medium,” “Multi-Structured Data: The New Innovation Opportunity”— shows that having and using data is still top of mind for decision makers across industries.
And it’s no surprise.

When properly leveraged, data (and so called “big data,” in particular) can be used by a business to predict trends and reveal patterns that would otherwise be difficult—if not impossible— to see.

Big data is being generated by your business and its customers all around you, every day. It is generated by the responses to your social media and advertising campaigns, it comes from tracking your web traffic, and it comes from measuring your sales, expenses and profit margins.

Why Big Data Matters

For businesses, this information is extremely important. Properly visualized, big data can allow a business to analyze its business processes accurately, including the efficiency of its supply chain. Accurate analysis leads to more accurate decision making and greater operational efficiency. This, in turn, can lead to streamlined processes, less waste and cost reductions— in other words, it leads to a more successful business.

Visualization is Key

Knowing what big data is, and even having your hands on those all-important figures, doesn't mean it's easy to know just how to make the best use of it. But just letting collected data sit in your servers or databases isn’t doing you any favors. The amount of time that passes from when the data is received and when it is analyzed and turned into actual changes in business practices, has an impact on its utility.

If supply chain efficiency is your goal, visualization may help turn that data into useful insights, insights that can be put into actual use in a timely way. Here are some key components of taking important data and turning it into actionable supply chain insights.

Geographic Analytics

"Analysis paralysis" can turn useful data into nothing more than a pile of numbers and reports, note Jozo Acksteiner and Claudia Trautmann in the article “How HP Visualizes Its Supply Chain Using Geographic Analytics” from Supply Chain 24/7.

Data has to be processed in a timely way to be effective.

Geographic analytics allow for the most important data to be visualized in the shortest amount of time. It involves mapping all the relevant locations of your packing and shipping operation. This can include manufacturing centers as well as warehouses, packaging facilities and distribution hubs. A high-quality geographic analysis will give you selective views of each location when you need the information relevant to that site. You can then track available storage space, shipping volumes and lag times as needed.

With this information at your fingertips, decision making is streamlined.

Use a Dashboard

Gathering relevant data in a timely way is only the first step.

Once that data is in hand, it needs to get to the right people. And, those people need to be able to crunch it, discuss it, and rearrange it in useful ways. They will also need to get it out to the departments where the actual changes will be implemented. To meet those ends, they will need a clear, functional dashboard that presents the information they need in a usable way.

Make the Most of Your Third Party Vendors

Your third party logistics provider will, of course, be impacted by the data you have gathered. Inefficiencies in your supply chain identified by your data analysis will have to be addressed. And your outsourced partners should be involved in the process—contributing to data collection and benefitting from insights.

Properly analyzing big data is essential to supply chain efficiency in today's fast paced electronic marketplace. Visualization of that data can make it both useful and timely.

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Topics: Supply Chain Logistics

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