Arguably the most vital KPI used to gauge the success of your supply chain is achieved through monitoring your daily performance. Managing such a vast and spanning network comes with its own set of unique challenges, but how can supply chain leaders fix a problem that they don’t know exists? This is where your supply chain data comes into play. Small disconnects in communications or lost connections create a ripple effect that impacts this ecosystem. Harnessing this symphony digitally and translating events from data to actionable business analytics represents an enormous business opportunity for your organization. Whether a family-owned business or a publicly traded enterprise, digitizing the supply chain and transitioning from reactive firefighting to proactive strategy and problem anticipation will drive consumer loyalty, increase profitability, and ultimately fortify a company’s sustainability.
Supply chain management with inaccurate data causes headaches
Disconnected data weakens visibility and oversight
Accounting for the daily activities of a supply chain manager – from coordinating logistics and executing warehouse operations, to managing staff and maintaining external partnerships – there are several demands that require your attention to ensure the supply chain runs seamlessly. If a company struggles to have a smooth process for collecting and analyzing their data, the numbers ultimately serve more as a hindrance to productivity rather than as a tool to enable rapid growth, based on the time and effort it takes to find the true reference point.
In the instance where methods for tracking operations of planned, active, and actual events are dispersed among several platforms, such as spreadsheets, emails, or hard copy purchase orders and invoices, a supply chain manager can only make decisions based on an incomplete data story through a paper trail or rickety spreadsheets. This is inherently time consuming and leaves substantial room for error.
Without gaining visibility through a digital platform, important events and developments may not accurately be monitored to ensure compliance of a flawless execution. Further, a company without modern technology may not have complete foresight of potential errors to avoid risks, such as lost shipments or missed payments. In a more public sphere, companies face a growing pressure to account for their environmental impact. In the case of publicly traded enterprises, both quantitative and qualitative data should demonstrate a company’s carbon offset program and the direct effects of the industrial footprint on the planet.
Incorrect or missing information leads to poor decision making
Due to a lack of a single source of truth and convoluted spreadsheets, supply chains are misfiring. In this, businesses must rely on accurate managerial input to coordinate a product’s lifecycle from inception to final delivery.
To consider data management from a different angle, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, have grown in popularity. These systems provide large corporations with oversight of their employees’ revenue generating actions and collect quantifiable data on a client’s buying behaviours.
Similarly, supply chain managers coordinate with external partners and warehouse and delivery vehicle operators to build relationships to maintain supply chain workflow. These activities and events should equally be tracked and monitored diligently so that leaders can assess positive outcomes in the distribution footprint or in negative trends, like unexpected costs in detention and demurrage charges, to better inform a planned course of action.
How to improve your supply chain data accuracy
Understanding the areas in which your company compares to competitors can be assessed through published annual stakeholder reports. These reports also serve as a tool to measure broader industry trends. Internally, data should convey an accurate scorecard of which lines of business require review, or alternatively, are poised for considerable growth. Efforts can be focused to scale one area of the business at a time to isolate potential impacts to the overall supply chain and to improve the speed to market in delivering goods to the end-customer.
Operations can be streamlined to increase efficiency of daily tasks, thereby reducing labor hours that are lost while searching for information through paper trails, emails, and phone calls. Internal and external corporate risks can be mitigated or avoided altogether by way of reliable data sets curated within ERP systems. Finally, a business cannot successfully scale if analysts are not guided by precise data.
Companies that have yet to advance to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system may perceive the combination of time and resources required to upgrade as a barrier. In this instance, the vast improvements of a technologically advanced system far outweigh the initial investment. To ease this transition in the early phases of upgrading to a data management system, clearly map data through logical and physical data flow diagrams. Creating this system architecture builds the structure in which data can be properly mapped to digital workflows and accurately analyzed.
With a practical and logical data map in place, companies can begin to visualize their supply chains in pragmatic steps and ultimately move towards a visibility platform that will provide a cockpit of live supply chain activity. This effort and investment will pay off tenfold and prepare your business to effectively compete and win.
While managing a supply chain is an inherently daunting task, it’s vital to understand where to start. No matter what your supply chain looks like, the first element to achieving success is your data. You can’t manage what you can’t see, and this is exactly where most supply chain issues arise. To avoid issues hiding in corners or miscommunications internally and externally, investing in the quality and readiness of your data is key. Industry experts agree that having a centralized digital platform to do the heavy lifting for you is the tried and tested solution.