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Article / 16 February 2018

Big Data in Supply Chains

Today you hear a lot of people talking about “digital” and its impact on value creation for business customers. Especially, if you look at “disruptive technologies” such as big data and it changes the way we plan, source, make and deliver our products to consumers.

One way of defining big data is more, messy and correlational. The more is because big data comes in large volumes; for example, you would take all your call center recordings and analyze them, not just a few selected calls. The messy is because big data includes internal and external sources; so, for example, you would add your supplier’s machine output data, not just your machine efficiency data. Finally, correlational as big data can be structured or unstructured; for example, you would analyze online catalogue search results, and not just actual purchase data.

Picture your own Supply Chain, as it is right now, with its people, processes and systems all trying to keep up with the “beat” of the supply chain. Now picture the future “digital” supply chain, where you add these so called disruptive technologies. Are you prepared and more importantly, is your workforce ready to capitalize on this?

You may decide to adapt your business operations slightly to include some feedback you receive from customers through social media. In that case, you would adapt your model, but keep many things the same. Or, you may decide to completely re-invent the way you steer your operations, for example: your order-to-deliver process by using demand sensing and route optimization that is based on big data.

The future potential is there, to make your supply chain more connected, more intelligent, more scalable, and probably also more rapid.   We have only just started to understand the new digital world.

Written by Paul Thompson, who is a Partner in Grange Partnership LLP –  A Supply Chain learning and development company.