With the new year beginning, I’ve read a number of articles about predictions for different industries heading into 2016. Not surprisingly, big data is usually somewhere on the list. Companies of all kinds have jumped on the data bandwagon. More information and more insights lead to smarter, more efficient businesses. For manufacturers, there are a number of questions that need to be answered in regard to processes and business relationships. Sometimes, those answers are easy. That’s not always the case, though. When a difficult decision needs to be made, having more data always makes it easier.
Here are three manufacturing questions and challenges solved with better business data:
No. 1: Who Should We Work With?
There’s no such thing as the perfect supplier, but there is always a best option. Identifying the right partner means analyzing multiple variables. It’s not enough just to know basic pricing and geographic details. Decision-makers need to know much more than that. Analyzing all available data gives manufacturers a complete picture of a supplier and an idea of what impediments may emerge during the relationship. The basics of any company are available and easily gathered, but how do you uncover the critical insights that really give you the information you need? How, for example, do you find out about a supplier’s financial health? Did they recently lose a deal with a similar company because they couldn’t match the demand? Building this qualitative data into an analytics model can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of different suppliers.
A recent example comes from agricultural, construction and forestry machinery manufacturer Deere. When the organization opted to expand into Brazil and Russia, it identified those nations after detailed, data-driven analysis. The company went over available suppliers, business conditions and other key factors. Without deep business data, it may have been more difficult to make the informed decision Deere needed for such an expensive undertaking.
No. 2: Who Should We Speak With to Advance a Deal?
When complete, accurate business data is unavailable, manufacturers’ sales teams and others involved in identifying a new opportunity may reach out to the wrong parties. By introducing better business data to the process, manufacturers can get a better idea of the best person at a company to target. This can be crucial if it’s a lower-level decision-maker, rather than an executive, that will have the best knowledge of the feasibility of a certain deal and can be the key person to move the conversation along to the next stage.
The Highland Group, a consulting firm that focuses on improving business processes and operational efficiency for manufacturers, found that access to in-depth business data expanded its list of possible targets. Instead of reaching out to a top-level executive, working with subsidiaries and their decision-makers helped the company understand the challenges a prospect faced and develop a sound strategy. By the time the Highland Group spoke with top executives, it had a better idea what would work best for each party.
No. 3: Is This Relationship Still Working?
After a few positive months working with a supplier, things can change quickly. The same detailed analysis done to research a deal should apply throughout the process. Alerts and triggers for data and developments that emerge over time will keep manufacturers on top of their supply chains. The issues that can turn a positive relationship into one that hurts business are many. If a supplier is a subsidiary of a larger, struggling company, that may indicate problems down the road. Similarly, a coming product recall related to the parts a manufacturer uses can be devastating to business. In years past, these kinds of problems caught manufacturers by surprise. When data is a priority throughout the enterprise, manufacturers can monitor for any and all potential issues and end relationships before they become detrimental to their business.
Supplier relationships ultimately determine everything about a manufacturer’s success, from customer pricing to overall availability. The information is there. Manufacturers need to take advantage to ensure they make the best decisions and prepare for every outcome. Manufacturers will undoubtedly face a number of challenges as the new year begins, but with better business data, they can be better equipped to address each of them.
Lauren Bakewell is senior vice president of product at Avention.