Leveraging Big Data As Supply Chain Management Changes

Explore how Big Data advancements are positively impacting the supply chain, what organizations can do to stay ahead of the curve, and how Big Data will impact the future of the industry workforce.

With the advancement of technology, and the consumer demand for immediate deliveries on the never-ending rise, the importance of Big Data in the supply chain will only continue to grow in the next decade. With the amount of data being collected globally, growing at a rate of about 59 percent per year (according to Inside Big Data), we have already seen a major uptick in opportunities for Big Data application across industries.

The breadth and depth of data generated by the supply chain today are accelerating rapidly, providing industries with metrics that allow them to make smarter decisions. While Big Data application has been a long journey, the improvements take a vast amount of new data and process and derive impactful insights quickly. 

Just like Excel dramatically changed the way supply chain monitoring and reporting was executed, Big Data platforms are allowing professionals to focus on bigger-picture items instead of monotonous tasks. Supply chain management — as it always has existed — has only risen in profile and importance with the rise of Big Data. As the world’s connectivity increases, companies in retail, manufacturing and logistics alike need managers who will quickly adapt to new technologies.

With new technology, comes new opportunities. We will explore how Big Data advancements are positively impacting the supply chain, what organizations can do to stay ahead of the curve, and how Big Data will impact the future of the industry workforce.

How Do Data Advancements Help?

  • Big data app integration provides greater contextual intelligence of how supply chain tactics, strategies and operations are helping achieve financial objectives. The ability to track financial outcomes of supply chain decisions back to financial objectives is important to all organizations. The integration of big data is effective in helping to reduce waste and allows companies to assess where changes can be made.
  • Big data is providing improved traceability and cutting down on the potential for lost items while increasing efficiency. Improved tracking allows supply chain managers to more accurately plan timing of essential operations and deliveries.
  • Big Data provides supply chain departments and organizations with a better understanding of demand and supply, allowing for reduced waste. Along with this demand and supply understanding, comes the ability for organizations to react to supply chain issues quickly, reducing the amount of time between the problem and solutions, giving managers the data insights needed for the manager to assess an issue.
  • Embedding big data analytics in operations leads to an improvement in order-to-cycle delivery times, and improvement in supply chain efficiency. Included in this, are analytics that align across a variety of factors, including geo-analytics, transportation logistics, and weather analytics.

While this is just a sampling of how Big Data has is actively impacting the supply chain, the speed and efficiency in which the supply chain can now run, cannot be denied.

What Your Organization Can Do to Stay Ahead of the Curve

Companies that are achieving significant results using big data analytics know that it’s not just enough to have the data available to them — they must be able to take that information and properly analyze it into actionable insights.

It’s important for organizations to always stay informed about the new resources that are quickly becoming available. We recommend investing in training programs and ongoing education initiatives. Try working with industry organizations like the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) or paying for your employees to attend annual educational events that will expose them to the latest solutions that will help your organization run efficiently.

While the demand for skilled labor remains high, businesses are encouraged to take action to recruit top talent amidst a very competitive landscape. For example, working-based learning partnerships with major universities make it possible for students to work on real-time projects that allow them to become part of a company’s supply chain and logistics workforce while still in school. These businesses then have an early opportunity to attract the most talented students graduating from these programs.

Similarly, through apprenticeship programs, businesses can work with community colleges to build out very specific skill-driven programs that give students the training required to receive a job offer after they graduate.    

Big Data Will Impact the Future of the Workforce

Big Data is turning supply chain managers into “mind readers,” allowing them to predict and react to buyer behaviors in new ways. This means, that in the supply chain workforce of the future, the administrative tasks of the past will be reduced greatly and a higher level of human analysis will be needed.

Supply chain managers don’t need to worry about their jobs going away, but statistics show that the need for supply chain professionals will only grow. Their jobs will just shift thanks to Big Data analytics, where these managers will look at the vast amount of information provided to them and be able to detect actionable items. This higher level of skill will also require advanced education, so supply chain managers of the future should look to join organizations that provide opportunities for ongoing education.

The Future of Analytics

Faster, more accurate forecasting is something that will improve profitability, decrease waste, and lead to satisfaction among customers and clients. The future of analytics is only going to play an increasingly prominent role in supply chain optimization, and machine learning will start to be implemented across the board. Supply chain organizations and managers can take advantage of the new technologies available to the industry, and implement changes to become better managers.

Larry Basel is vice president of Ajilon.

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