7 Ways Big Data Redefines Supply Chain Management

By Larry Alton

Business both large and small will never be the same again thanks to big data. It continues to revolutionize business processes with more insights and deeper intelligence shared across all business avenues. One of the areas where this data has the most influence is in supply chain management.

However, despite the many ways in which big data influences business processing, many entrepreneurs hesitate to accept the shift from traditional methods—despite the fact that big data can reduce overhead, streamline efficiencies, and facilitate transactions. It creates an attention to detail that’s necessary for coming out on top in the competitive business world.

We look at some of the ways that big data—when used properly—can significantly influence supply chain management for the better.

How Big Data Improves Supply Chain Management

1. Drives Contextual Intelligence

The data growth within supply chain markets is rapidly accelerating, and that high volume of both structured and unstructured data makes greater collaboration possible. Big data is generally measured by variety, volume, and velocity, and each of these categories overflows with data that forward-thinking entrepreneurs can use in the supply chain area—if they can decipher and learn to harness it for supply chain purposes.

2. Improved Transparency

Every business has inefficiencies, but it’s hard to pinpoint those problems from the inside. Business intelligence creates improved end-to-end transparency, and provides access to the inner workings of a business. That lets you determine and receive feedback on those inefficiencies.

The feedback will generally come from the consumer or buyer via reviews, social media conversations, surveys, and more. When harnessed for business purposes, this feedback can be the key to eliminating wasteful practices and delivering a better user experience.

Big data and supply chain management

3. Pinpoint Focus

Sometimes renewed focus is the best medicine for inefficient supply chain operations, and big data can help supply chain departments pinpoint that specific focus and improve efficiencies. Thanks to the constant flow of data, it’s possible to not only mold your strategies to the perfect position, but also to keep up with the continually changing times and even stay ahead of competitors.

Big data provides real time updates and insights, which is essential to achieving better focus. As you receive that intelligence, you can make any business changes necessary, large or small, to exact specifications.

4. More Complex Supplier Networks

Thanks to the vast amount of data available to supply chain managers, it’s now possible to have more in-depth supplier networks. This is mostly due to increased knowledge sharing and collaboration instead of simply focusing on completing transactions. Creating larger, deeper networks is a far better goal than simply getting transactions, since these networks will ultimately lead to more transactions in the future, not to mention deeper trust and more client referrals.

5. Better Collaboration

Building relationship after relationship is a fundamental step in supply chain, which makes better collaboration one of the most important ways that big data influences the supply chain market. Business intelligence, and the software that comes with it, makes maintaining supplier-buyer relationships simple.

For example, it’s easy to make customers feel important by researching them and their companies before a meeting. Now you can simply access all of that information through a smartphone and receive priceless data in seconds. 

6. More Efficient Reaction Time

When certain inefficiencies and issues arise, it’s important to react quickly in order to solve the problem before you lose the opportunity. Big data offers real-time information that delivers a reaction time of up to 41 percent faster than traditional problem-solving techniques. This significantly improves supply chain operations and allows companies to come up with even more contextual intelligence.

7. Get Ahead of the Curve

Above all, this constant influx of intelligence lets supply chain managers get ahead of the curve, and thus beat their competition. They have the ability to analyze trends and identify patterns. This lets them keep up with the industry standard, and also predict upcoming changes to the market that would allow them to move more quickly than competitors.

In-depth resources for big data and supply chain management:

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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