Building a Data-Based Supply Chain

Digital technologies provide valuable opportunities for making your operations more customer-centric.

By Mary Lou Jay

Looking for new ways to meet or exceed your customers’ expectations? Try using data to transform your supply chain operations.

To be successful in the future, companies must learn to take advantage of the opportunities available in a digital world. In MHI’s 2020 Annual Report, Embracing the Digital Mindset, Thomas Boykin from Deloitte Consulting’s supply chain & network operations notes that “Data is the life’s blood of the emerging digital supply chain. Companies that recognize the value of this data and engineer approaches to collect, filter and synthesize it into customer and market insights will flourish. Those who do not will drown in the wave of exponential data proliferation.”

The challenge lies in determining how to begin transitioning to this digital environment and to unlock the value hidden in the data. What data does your company need, what sources should you use to access it and how can you apply what you’ve learned from it?

Boykin says it’s not only small and medium-size companies that are daunted by this formidable task; large businesses are struggling with the digital transition as well. But there’s really no choice; if you want to remain competitive, you have to learn how to access the valuable insights that data can hold.

Most companies today use data primarily for demand sensing, analyzing information about the types and quantities of the products they sell and where they’re being sold. This enables them to keep their products on the shelves to meet customer demands.

“The problem with demand sensing is that it’s extremely reactive. Unless you have an infrastructure and a way to capture data almost in real time and then to be able to pivot on that information, you’re likely still going to be behind in the supply,” said Randy V. Bradley, associate professor of information systems and supply chain management at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business.

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