Your customers’ expectations are changing. They need visibility, access and information about how and when products are made and delivered — from end-to-end.
What does this mean for your business and supply chain?
You also need to know more — more about the state of your supply chain, from when everything is running according to plan to when disruption is likely. For this, you need data that is real time and actionable. You need information that you can trust, sources that are reliable and insights that give you the power to run your business better.
Where should you focus? You can start with the following:
• Make data-driven decisions. Harvard Business School describes data-driven decision-making (also referred to as DDDM) as “the process of using data to inform your decision-making process and validate a course of action before committing to it.” Whether you’re analyzing purchase orders, trialing a partnership with a new supplier or monitoring shipments, data enables you to benchmark performance and explore critical questions that can’t be answered by spreadsheets alone.
• Get better at using third-party data. Most large-scale modern supply chains are outsourced or highly dependent on external factors, systems and organizations. Informed decisions are made by incorporating and considering all relevant information, including third-party data needed to give you that full picture.
• Organize your data. Spreadsheets don’t cut it anymore. You need data to be organized, so you can track against established metrics and variable indicators. This data must be accessible to all relevant stakeholders and, ideally, presented in a way that makes insights understandable and usable from one central place.
• Improve how you share data. Collaboration is the bedrock of successful operations. If you can communicate well with your suppliers, business partners and your internal teams, you’re all more likely to succeed together.
What can you do to get started now?
If you think this advice only applies to larger companies, you’re mistaken. On the contrary, taking a data-driven approach to supply-chain management is just as important for small- and mid-sized enterprises. Pitted against giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google, businesses must make intelligent strategic decisions to ensure their survival.
To start, you can:
• Identify the gaps in your knowledge. What information do you need every day for your teams to use and for you to monitor the health of your business?
• Locate your sources. Once you’ve identified the data you need, the next step is to find out where (or how) you can get it and where the data exists. This may include partners, internal sources or third-party data from your partners.
• Determine your data consumers. Who in your organization needs access to the data and for what purpose? Understand what information is actually relevant to them and not just noise.
• Make it all accessible. Data is of no use if it’s buried or lacks context. Consider your internal and external stakeholders and make it easy for everyone to access and share the data they need to keep the supply chain running smoothly.
• Use modern technology to collect and organize your data in one place. With the benefit of AI and machine learning, you can have the operational agility and transparency you need in one place with real-time, accurate data.
In a world where expectations are high and circumstances are fluctuating, prioritizing efficiency and improving the quality of information flowing in and out of all systems is a strategic imperative. Generating long-standing, replicable success means seeing the indicators that will detract or add to your business.