Big Data and the Supply Chain Industry

Preparing the Supply Chain Industry for Big Data

Today’s big trend in the supply chain industry is the same as the big trend in most industries: data, data, and more data. Big data is here to stay. Data analytics drive everything in today’s business world. Businesses that don’t develop a robust data analytics system are falling behind. Supply chain analytics offer unique challenges due to the mobile nature of the industry. What are some things that a supply chain professional can do to stay ahead in this data driven world?

First, embrace a mobile platform. Smart phones, tablets, and portable thin client hardware gets stronger, faster, and more robust every generation. Top-notch mobile analytics apps are already available and more are coming to market as the mobile platforms continue to increase their hold on the market. Bar code scanners and GPS tracking are often integrated into these platforms as well, allowing supply chain professionals to have all of the data they need at their fingertips anywhere in the warehouse, the office, or the world.

Second, find out what cloud computing can do for your business. The cloud offers scalable offsite data storage accessible from any device on the network. Cloud computing renders expensive on-site server farms irrelevant. Cloud computing also allows the deployment of thin client computers that don’t need large, expensive hard drives or dedicated processing power. This allow supply chain professionals to do more than ever without the expensive technology costs of the past.

Third, deploy a robust Electronic Data Interchange system. Supply chain systems stretch around the world and touch multiple factories, warehouses, and businesses. EDI is no longer optional, but imperative. A proper EDI system means that components on opposite sides of the world can be brought together in a timely manner. Shipping, transportation, and receiving can run on three separate systems but still allow everyone to see everything they need to see. Supply chain professionals will be able to not only see what is happening now but access the data they need to run data analysis.

Fourth, develop a strong data security plan. All of the systems that make it easier for employees to get the data they need also make it easier for outsiders to get data they should not see. Data security and protection is paramount and with decentralized, cloud-based systems and multiple data warehouses constantly sharing information there are more fail points than ever. This does not mean businesses should avoid new technology. It simply means that organizations need to deploy strong data protections and plan responses to data breaches ahead of time.

Big data is here to stay. Opportunities for supply chain professionals to use data analytics and technology to streamline operations are all around. Improving supply chain operations will require planning and investment in new technology, but in today’s world a business that does not prepare for tomorrow won’t make it past today.