Making Sense of New Data in the Supply Chain

Right now we are seeing a tremendous increase in the amount of data available throughout the supply chain. The problem is, there is so much data that no one really knows what to do with it. Harnessing the power of data is vital for ensuring your supply chain is meeting customer expectations.

To get started making sense of all this data, supply chain managers should adhere to the following steps: 

1. Understand where all the data is coming from 

Before you can begin making sense of new data, you must first understand where it’s coming from. Today, we not only have structured data, including orders and forecasts, but also unstructured data including POS, weather forecasts and sentiment analysis. 

2. Be able to access data from anywhere 

It’s predicted that by 2020, we will have over 6.1 billion smartphone users globally and over 50 billion smart connected devices, all of which are opportunities to collect, analyze and share data. In light of this growing number of smart connected devices, its important that supply chain managers can access information from anywhere, at anytime, on any device to be able to make real-time supply and demand decisions. 

3. Turn big data into actionable information with business context 

It’s reported that only 42% of companies know how to extract meaningful insight from the data available to them. To help make sense of it all, data should always be put into the appropriate business context for whomever it’s intended for. For example, a 20-page detailed data analysis report might resonate well with a production manager, but a C-Level executive would respond much better if the same data were presented in high-level dashboard. Putting demand and supply data, both structured and unstructured, into the right business context will allow you to best monetize innovative business models.

4. Leverage the power of data scientists 

Harnessing all this data and turning it into actionable information, requires a specific skills set and expertise that have not been required in supply chains, until now. That’s why the most successful businesses have hired data scientists to fill this void and take on these new responsibilities. This person is critical for not only collecting, managing and analyzing supply chain data, but also for garnering advanced predictive analytics to help executives make more intuitive, accurate and reliable, allowing them to deliver goods and services ahead of the competition. 

Big data enables us to capture and analyze massive volumes of information from all corners of the supply chain and ecosystem. If harnessed and leveraged it can deliver increased visibility and deeper insights into the business processes across your extended supply chain. You can improve your responsiveness to changes in demand and supply and minimize or even mitigate supply chain risk.

Contributing Author Richard Howells is a VP for Extended Supply Chain at SAP
Ben Benjabutr is the editor of SupplyChainOpz. He holds a master's degree in supply chain management with expertise in procurement, new product development and business process management