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Big data and supply chain analytics

What is big data?

What is big data?

Big data is a phrase that’s been thrown around a lot recently but what exactly is it?

Put simply, big data is large volumes of complex statistics, facts and figures from various areas of a supply chain. Whether it’s information on who’s buying what or real-time data about local and global issues that could affect a company’s market, this complex and multifaceted information is transforming the way businesses run their supply chain.

Big data can supply you with information on just about anything, from fluctuating stock levels to the weather. It can be used to track purchases, warehouse stock or even external suppliers and distributors. Whilst the use of big data is literally transforming company’s supply chains, understanding how to harness it effectively is the main issue that a business must solve.

Supply chain analytics

In the same way, you would work to improve the everyday running of a supply chain, businesses should take a similar, analytical approach to their data. The analytics supply chain turns facts and figures into real life consumable decisions that will have a direct impact on how well a business performs. Big data analytics should be integrated into the everyday running of the supply chain, using data fed to you in real time.

Supply chain analytics


The Internet of Things

Whilst the Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t exactly a new concept to many businesses, advances in technology are allowing companies to merge real-time tracking with big data from social sources and news sites. For example, information on consumer spending during sale periods can be fed through to stock control and weather warnings can be used to reroute deliveries already on their way. With radars, mobile phones and even supermarket scanners being integrated into the IoT, it’s becoming easier to manage stock levels and distribution.

Most importantly, with big data and IoT working seamlessly, businesses can create an in-depth profile and genuine understanding of their customers’ needs and habits. With customer satisfaction at the forefront of most peoples’ minds, it can be seen how harnessing this data could be beneficial in both directions.

How can this be done?

Technological advancements, such as self-learning computer algorithms and smart cameras, are changing the way business owners look at traditional supply chain methods. For example, integrated cameras in warehouses can be used to track stock entering and leaving the building and feed this information through to those in charge of stock distributions and management.

In the same way, real-time technology can track shipments every step of their journey, relaying any issues back to those in charge. If a shipment isn’t going to make it because of bad weather or a problem at customs, managers can quickly determine whether they need to find a different supplier for an essential product.

Potential problems

Unfortunately, implementing an analytics supply chain into your current strategy can be complicated, especially if you don’t have the right technology or system in place to filter through big data quickly and effectively. This problem can force companies to look for cheaper alternatives, such as the traditional spreadsheet or even using their gut feeling to make important supply chain decisions. However, processing data in this way can often lead to errors and contradictions, causing more harm than good.

The solution to this lies in company’s investing more money in new analytics technology. However, that’s often easier said than done. Businesses without millions of pounds of spare cash behind them can look to supply chain analytics specialists for advice. Supply chain professionals can help businesses create strategies to utilise big data more effectively, whilst taking their budget and customer reach into consideration. There’s no one size fits all approach to supply chain analytics but there’s no doubt that collecting and utilising big data is beneficial for all businesses.

For professional help in getting the most from your supply chain analytics and big data contact Total Logistics supply chain consultancy.

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