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10 Tips for Leveraging Big Data in Your Organization

Posted - June 29, 2018

By: Bob Daymon, Senior Vice President of Operations, Transplace

“Big data” has been one of the hottest buzzwords over the last couple of years, but the phrase still has different meanings for different organizations. And no matter how you define it, there is no doubt that an organization’s ability to use statistical science and data analytics can help them obtain historical measurements and generate actionable information to drive operational growth and supply chain efficiency. Take a look at the following tips to get the most out of big data at your organization.

    1. Gather the right information. Understand precisely what data needs to be captured, tracked and acted upon. Having timely, accurate and complete data can create a holistic view of an organization’s operations and improve collaboration. And, it’s critical to organize that data in the correct format, in the right location and with the perfect cadence.
    2. Set specific goals and map out a plan. If data is being tracked without a clear plan, it’s probably not worth collecting. It’s important to establish key performance indicators (KPIs), implement specific goals and identify what needs to be accomplished with the information being gathered.
    3. Make raw data actionable. The ability to access and analyze information is only the beginning. Using Business Intelligence (BI) tools and reporting can help make reacting to operational concerns much more actionable. What makes data truly valuable is how your organization uses it to drive meaningful change and enhance an agile supply chain.
    4. Plan in advance and forecast. Preparing for the future is a must for your supply chain operations. Using data for advanced planning can help anticipate what will occur in 12 to 18 months and beyond; and conducting “what if” scenarios can help mitigate risk when unplanned disruptions arise – such as a capacity shortage or inclement weather.
    5. Use data to reduce inventory and lower transportation costs. Advanced technology such as a transportation management system (TMS) has the ability track meaningful data and use it to improve the flow of materials throughout the supply chain. For example, a TMS can extract exact inbound and outbound statistics to track shipment frequency and identify endpoint destinations. This clearly-painted picture can help anticipate future shipping patterns, secure much-needed capacity and have the right amount of inventory.
    6. Increase end-to-end visibility. An efficient supply chain must track and trace the end-to-end flow of goods. Data from a TMS can help with continuous move routing or tracking the location of each shipment. And, if unexpected events occur during a multi-stop delivery, this information can identify real-time load locations and can enable route adjustment to avoid paying late penalties or having a driver run out of hours.
    7. Shape your own demand. During the procurement and bidding process, advanced analytics can help mold a network. The ability to forecast these activities can help lower carrier costs, and if handled correctly, data can help manage variations.
    8. Enhance end-to-end customer service. Data analysis allows for transparency with customers – helping them gain insight into any fluctuations of cost or service. And, using predictive analytics to automate processes allows for improved appointment setting and can help track product deliveries, ensuring that the end customer receives the final product on time, every time.
    9. Couple quantitative data with your professional instincts. Non-quantifiable information, such as what you may be hearing throughout the industry (e.g. regarding capacity, routes and weather conditions, etc.) and your gut instincts should be paired with what you see in the data. Your insights are still considered “big data,” as they allow you to validate, anticipate and predict future outcomes.
    10. Circle back, compare and adjust. Data should be used to compare final shipping results with initial goals and KPIs. Utilizing the expertise of a 3PL partner can help shippers glean deeper insights into their supply chain and optimize their transportation strategies to increase efficiency, reduce costs, enhance customer service and improve carrier relationships.

*A version of this post originally appeared in Inbound Logistics.

If you want to learn more, I recently sat down with Adrian Gonzalez of Talking Logistics and discussed how big data is impacting the supply chain. Check out the video here!

What are ways you are using big data to improve your operations?