How CIOs Can Use Big Data To Boost Supply Chain

by CXOtoday News Desk    Jul 14, 2015

big data

Companies today are collecting massive amounts of data with the help of digital technologies. To make sense of that data, they need new strategies, improved skills and more powerful tools to crunch the numbers, and find the useful insights that are buried in the data. This situation is elevating the importance of Big Data analytics as a critical business capability.

But big data is often seen as a particularly intimidating subject: the larger the pool of information, the easier it is to become overwhelmed by the number of correlations and statistics. A recent survey from the Fortune Knowledge Group found that 62 percent of executives trust their gut feelings and believe that soft factors should be given the same consideration as hard factors like data. In some areas, there seems to be a real hostility to information, as though a sensation in the pit of your stomach is worth more than blunt facts.

For supply chain managers, this is a dangerous (and unprofitable) mindset. Data analysis isn’t yet ubiquitous, but it’s making serious inroads in the industry and any business slow to incorporate it into their operations risks being left behind by the competition.

But, if treated with the proper care and with the right tools, big data can redefine the way you do logistics and supply chain management. Kevin McGirl, president of sales-i, who has been at the forefront of major trends in the big data offers actionable information that can improve supply chain efficiency and help drive profits.

Greater visibility

By handling big data correctly, CIOs can provide far greater transparency than was previously available. Experts believe minor inefficiencies can damage margins for every organization in the chain, by making use of the data available to them, businesses can get feedback on these inefficiencies, and can quickly cut them down.

“You need to be best-in-class to thrive in today’s challenging environment. Effective measurement of supply chain performance across the value chain is critical to achieve this,” says McGirl, who states with access to such accurate insights, you no longer have to rely on educated guesses.

Business intelligence software can spot trends in internal processes and flag up the ones that are leading to under-performance. For example, if sales of a particular product are slipping, an alert quickly will be issued to the relevant manager. The right tools will eliminate wasteful practices before they damages the company’s bottom line. 

Trend spotting

 McGirl believes one of the best features of BI software is its capacity for trend identification. This used to be a time-consuming, tedious affair that largely involved plowing through spreadsheet after dull spreadsheet in the vain hope of finding a meaningful correlation. But with modern technology, those dark days are over.

“BI software sifts through volumes of data, locates important information and makes actionable recommendations grounded in established patterns. A furniture supply chain manager using a BI program will be able to spot a potential shortage in socket-head cap screws well in advance, for example—giving him or her the time needed to source substitute parts,” he says.

More Transparency

BI software offers greater transparency for stakeholders, customers and others. Where the precise causes of underperformance were once a mystery, the correct tool can locate and highlight them anywhere across the chain, from manufacturer through to end user, says McGirl.

For example, if margins are slipping, BI software can issue an alert showing the exact cause of the margin erosion, enabling you to identify and resolve the minor problem before it becomes seriously damaging.

Better Communication

When combined with relationship management tools, better communication is easier than ever before, he says. Customers may be the lifeblood of the supply chain, but it’s tricky to please them unless you’re collaborating effectively with partner organizations. This is complicated by the often elaborate, involved nature of the chain, which can make maintaining rapport with key personnel hard work. But managers are expected to do exactly this or risk alienating their partners, tipped off McGirl.

The right technology, however, will make this job infinitely easier—software can help manage these relationships more efficiently, providing insight into the needs, behavior and performance of vendors and manufacturers in no time. “If an executive needs to make a crucial phone call, but isn’t properly prepared, all he or she needs to do is input the customer’s name into a search field and the relevant information will be returned instantly,” says McGirl.

Big data isn’t the ultimate and it will facilitate a good management only when used meaningfully. Researchers believe it’s gaining widespread traction in small businesses, enterprises and supply chains alike, and it’s now clear that going with your gut when the competition is making real, 

McGirl believes, business intelligence software is the way forward— because of its impressive leading-edge feature and also the cumulative streamlining process grinds out inefficiency that would otherwise go without notice. With a lesser focus on mitigating ineffective practices, staff across every link of the chain are able to emphasize improving their margins and customer service.