How real-time data can help with decision making in supply chain

Jonas Mehrhoff
Jonas Mehrhoff
June 9, 2022
5 min read

Note on the authors

Heiner Murmann is the founder and CEO of Orkestra SCS, a logistics, technology and services company. In addition, Heiner serves as Executive Chairman for Evolution Time Critical and President of The Five Inc., and as an Advisory Board Member for both Metro Supply Chain Group and Black & McDonald Limited. Notably, Heiner previously held various senior executive roles at DB Schenker, one of the top three global logistics companies, as a Member of the Board of Management responsible for Air and Ocean Freight, and as CEO of the Region Americas.

Arnold da Silva, Senior Ocean Freight Advisor for Orkestra SCS, is head of an ocean freight consulting company where he actively advises global shippers on ocean freight strategy and execution. With 40 years of experience in the ocean freight industry, Arnold served as Executive Vice President for Ocean Freight Region Americas for DB Schenker. Arnold's passion is to conceptualize and implement innovative ocean freight solutions that transform one’s supply chain and promote a shipper's success.

The value of real-time data to business operations can’t be overstated. It provides supply chain managers with the ability to maintain visibility and empowers them with the information to make business-enhancing decisions without delay.

Data found within a supply chain is incredibly valuable to companies running supply chain analytics to measure the progress of their business. By implementing the appropriate technological tools, companies are able to analyze the data within Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems and use this to drive business decision-making. 

Here’s a deeper look at the importance of real-time data in the supply chain process.

How real-time data improves decision-making in supply chain

Drawing on real-time data from the supply chain provides businesses with huge potential to improve operations. Here are a few of the value-add features of this data. 

1. Insights into demand

Using new data sources within the supply chain, business operators are able to gain insight into the demand for various materials and products, allowing for a more accurate forecast. Because the data is accessed in real-time, companies are better positioned to adapt to sudden fluctuations in demand or emerging trends with potential to bring in revenue. This insight into the logistical capacity needs of a company translates to a reduction in inventory oversupply or undersupply, as the balance between demand and supply is met. This equates directly to cost-savings and an enhanced customer experience.

2. Enhanced planning capacity

These insights into demand and emerging trends can be used for future project planning and the establishment of more effective business strategies. For manufacturing companies in particular, this real-time visibility provides valuable insight into production volumes, inefficiencies in manufacturing, as well as challenges related to raw material sourcing. The increased accuracy of this information makes for improved planning capabilities, in turn giving companies a competitive edge. 

3. Better reporting capacity

The access to up-to-the-minute data gives planners an advantage. Prior to the availability of digital supply chain solutions, ongoing inefficiencies would either be overlooked or identified too late, by which time the damage would already be done. The access to real-time data through smart sensors, transport management systems (TMS), artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) means that any weaknesses are detected almost immediately. We no longer see a  need to work off historical data sets or wait until month-end for data analysis- information related to productivity and efficiency is already on hand. This gives way to real time communication along the supply chain, ensuring any redundancies are addressed in immediately. The information being drawn from the data saves time on manual data entries and the creation of extensive spreadsheets that just do not work.

4. Improved logistics and inventory management

For suppliers and vendors, real-time data in the supply chain provides immediate updates on any order backlogs. These can be attended to promptly, with strategies put in place to adjust the inventory management process. Similarly, those in logistics are able to benefit from real-time information related to their various cargo batches, consignments, and the updated delivery status of each. This allows for better operational management and effective tracking of goods for a more information and satisfied end consumer. 

5. Better long-term processes

With so much useful data on hand, businesses have a much better handle on how the supply chain operates. This is not only beneficial for short-term strategy adjustments to improve the supply chain but provides the visibility to address long-term problems such as shipping issues, problematic locations and seasonal hiring challenges.

6. Enhanced navigation capabilities

The use of GPS technologies has revolutionized transportation. The data derived from this technology allows managers to adjust routes, lower fuel consumption, and cut down on carbon emissions. Waiting times at warehouses can also be drastically reduced with logistics providers able to better predict the ideal delivery times to minimize repeat delivery attempts.

What are the benefits of real-time decision making?

Transparency in operations

One of the most important traits for a sustainable supply chain is transparency in operations. Real-time data provides organizations with complete end-to-end transparency which is incredibly valuable for all stakeholders involved. Transparency includes the ability to identify procurement sources, due diligence measures taken in supplier appointments, and the metrics used for the calculation of carbon emissions. 

Better customer experience

Data driven decision making in turn results in a smoother, more positive customer experience. . managers can analyze operations as they’re happening and find ways to decrease waiting times and increase accuracy, ensuring customers receive their deliveries on time in full and in good condition.

Cost savings

Cost savings in supply chain operations can be achieved by ensuring that the demand for raw materials and products are met on time so there is no delay to the assembly lines or production plants. It can also be achieved by ensuring the products move on the quickest routes in the shortest time frame. Data provides supply chain executives the necessary insights and visibility to address challenges in supply chains such as reducing waste, increasing operational efficiency and boosting profitability.

Key takeaways

Companies are realizing the full value of data within the supply chain and how real-time data improves decision-making in supply chain, and now it’s just a matter of accessing this data in real-time by using the latest in big data software. By incorporating tools such as mobile track and trace devices, inventory management software, AI and IoT, supply chain managers are able to access up-to-the-minute data. 

Once this data is accessible, it can then be used for enhancing end-to-end operations, starting with better logistics and inventory management to reduce over- and under-supply. This increased supply chain visibility and benefits of real-time decision making gives managers better insight into trends and demand, the ability to improve forecasting and reporting so that the organization has better planning capacity. Effectively, real-time data means a more streamlined, less wasteful operation that cuts costs  and boosts profits. 

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How real-time data can help with decision making in supply chain

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