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6 ways to improve logistics performance with big data

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From improving healthcare to suggesting what movies to watch, big data is being used to improve our lives on a daily basis. Accordingly, businesses across the globe — and across industries — have spent extensive amounts of their marketing budgets on using this data to gain expert insight into both their businesses and their customers. In doing so, they have been able to optimize processes and, consequently, customer experience.

However, while most industries got on board years ago, logistics has been a bit slower to implement and reap the rewards of big data. Granted, the industry already leverages big data in a multitude of ways, but it is unquestionable that it could be better utilized to advance the industry even further. Records have indicated that supply chain executives agree. According to Supply Chain Management World research, 64 percent of executives think that big data and the insights it brings will have a disrupting power that can pivot the industry forever.

In this sense, Youredi and Transmetrics share a vision of helping logistics companies maximize the value they derive from their data. At Youredi, we often talk about how it’s necessary to have the right data in the right format at the right time available for all stakeholders. Transmetrics facilitates this process by providing the vital data cleansing and predictive optimization that logistics companies need to succeed.

But good software only gets you so far. Before you can maximize the benefits of big data, and the insights, clarity, and accuracy it brings, there are a few actions your logistics company should take:

Record Data on Every Aspect of the Business

I remember the time when I had to deal with logistics planning and ERP systems myself – I thought it was a nightmare. And forecasting every aspect of the supply chain surely wasn’t the easiest task. I quickly realized that more, accurate data, along with a platform that visualized that data, would be useful for better executing supply chain strategy.

This is partly the reason why I see recording data on every aspect of the business as the number one opportunity when we think about big data in terms of supply chain management. Exploiting every piece of data from every single step of the supply chain can bring immense value to businesses. It will ensure end-to-end visibility for all parties (of course data-sharing is a must!), greater efficiency, and optimized processes (preferably digital ones).

Building up an information-driven supply chain is the top priority for supply chain executives and all the following aspects will closely relate to this. In fact, in one report, 75 percent of respondents said that digital transformation of the supply chain was “important or very important.” In the same report, supply chain visibility tools like Youredi and big data analytics solutions like Transmetrics were listed as the two top key technology enablers that will help make the digital supply chain a reality.

Utilize Contextual Intelligence

Contextual intelligence is a second factor that cannot be overlooked. According to Harvard Business Review, it is defined as “the ability to understand the limits of our knowledge and to adapt that knowledge to an environment different from the one in which it was developed.” In other words, it is about considering the context of situations when looking to gain business insights through big data.

One way to acquire contextual intelligence relates directly to the above-mentioned point. Having data available from all aspects of the supply chain (including manufacturing, e-commerce and retail data too) will make it easier to improve processes and better plan for the future. However, the raw data itself is not enough. With companies like Transmetrics, which does data cleansing and predictive analytics, you can transform the raw data into actionable insights which can be shared with all relevant stakeholders across the value chain in a timely manner.

Other tools are useful, too. You need to find a platform or a cloud-based software, such as Data Essential or Infosys, that helps to make sense of the data – and you might want to be able to integrate it into your own systems to see all the information in one place. You also need to ensure that all your on premise systems, cloud applications, and IoT devices are transferring data to you in your preferred format. This can be implemented through a simple API management solution.

Improve Operational Efficiency with Data Sharing and Partnerships

Real-time data sharing with all of your partners is important. The insights that you gather may not only be useful for you, but also for your partners. At the end of the day, this type of data sharing in logistics can help to improve operational efficiency by capturing fluctuating customer demand, external factors, and the operations of your partners.

Additionally, it will improve transparency and help all stakeholders to streamline their processes, ultimately improving the quality of your processes, and the overall performance of your business as well. (Remember to implement KPIs!) As you gain more control over every aspect of your business, from optimizing resource consumption to improving delivery routes, the increased efficiency will allow you to speed up your operations, improve customer retention, and increase revenue.

However, you certainly need to evaluate what data you can and want to share with the other parties (for security and privacy reasons). Only some data will result in a win-win situation where the processes and solutions of both parties benefit. Fortunately, tools like Nallian already exist to foster business collaboration through this type of data sharing.

Improve Order-to-Cycle

The speed of delivery is important for customers today. Having accurate, timely data available won’t only help you to pinpoint improvement opportunities for processes and allow you to collaborate better with your partners, but also to ensure that your customers receive their orders in the shortest time possible. Meanwhile, you want to provide your customers with real-time visibility over their orders, so they can always know the status of their deliveries and when they can expect them.

As such, data can help you to optimize customer service – knowing the exact status of your customers’ shipments by having all data in a single place will make serving them far easier. Ultimately, this will improve your order-to-cycle process, but what’s even better is that, as you continue enhancing the quality of your partnerships and providing excellent customer experience, you will also increase customer retention and loyalty.

Manage External Factors Better

Many different factors can affect the performance of your supply chain. In some cases, you must deal with climate changes and “force majeure”. Crime is still present in some countries. Changes in the political situation or in the financial market can occur. Socio-cultural changes can affect your performance. Or simply a shift in customer demand can put you in a bad position.

With that in mind, having data on everything that can affect your operations will help you to better predict future events and act before those events would happen. By putting such data points into predictive models, you are able to improve the accuracy of your forecasts and remove some of the uncertainty involved in the process.

Optimize Deliveries with Geo-Analytics

Planning the best possible route for delivery does not only mean that the shipments will arrive faster to your customers (though that is an important factor – customers do expect fast delivery, especially for e-commerce), but also that you will be able to save on fuel consumption which can save substantial costs to your business.

Access to data on delivery in real-time can help you to monitor and manage your routes better, communicate with your agents, and if necessary, adjust your delivery plan. Take the company what3words, for example. In partnership with Aramex, a disruptive leader in the logistics industry, the company’s software was able to improve last-mile delivery time by over 40 percent using three-word addresses, instead of full street addresses.

Software to Save the Day?

How can you achieve all the above mentioned to help you to improve your logistics performance?

Clearly, logistics big data itself is not enough. When you receive raw data in bulk, it’s not very useful. You must also have data governance processes in place to ensure the adequate storage of the data, comply with all the regulations and security, and ensure that the quality of the data is flawless, so you can validate and enrich it.

Once the data is validated and enriched you can create actionable insights for any number of purposes: improving partnerships and cooperation, managing external factors and risks, optimizing routes, schedules, and deliveries, making sure you deliver everything on-time and boost customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, improving operational efficiency and becoming more profitable.

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