Companies are collecting more data than ever these days. Business intelligence processes, in turn, have become a necessity in every business function, including the supply chain. 

BI tools can get complicated in a hurry. Given the sea of data that supply chain companies find themselves swimming in, choosing the right solution can become tricky. It makes sense to focus on a few BI functions that cut to the heart of supply chain analytics. 

“It’s worth noting that not every business intelligence software on the market will integrate with specific databases,” writes digital business icon Neil Patel in his recent guide to BI. Different platforms have different specialties, and not all of them can handle the IoT signal firehose that supply chain monitor networks are known to emit. 

Assuming that your software and network infrastructure are optimized for supply chain use cases, here are a few key ways that you can use BI to derive insights that make a difference.


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ROLE-BASED MODELING

Supply chains are complicated to deal with. A lot of this complexity arises from the different roles that are involved in the process. 

From a transportation perspective, roles such as the VP of logistics or transportation compliance might be involved. Outside of transportation, roles such as operations planning executives, sales executives, and health and safety executives also exist. All of these roles have very different objectives, and as a result, smart data modeling is critical to empowering them with the information they need.

The VP role may focus on adherence to the transportation budget, requiring a high-level view of processes. A transportation executive needs granular information on route options and scenario modeling based on a variety of factors. The roles outside transportation need dashboards derived from a combination of data sets from across the organization.

Savvy BI deployment offers companies the ability to model scenarios across all of these roles and project data as needed. Scenario modeling based on roles helps companies reduce risk across the supply chain and plan their processes more efficiently.

DATA SOURCE INTEGRATION

Supply chains involve many different processes and, as a result, disparate data sources. For example, an operations analyst might be more concerned with machine sensor data than with the condition monitoring data of their shipments. 

Today’s enterprise-grade BI platforms can integrate all of these data into a single environment and make them available for use in reports. Integration is a huge deal in supply chain analytics since supply chain data affects so many aspects of organization-level planning. It’s something that supply chain solution providers have been focusing on.

“The basic use of integrating our service to customer ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems is quite exciting already, in my opinion,” Janne Juhala, co-founder and CEO of condition monitoring startup Logmore, said in one recent interview. “In its simplicity, it makes reporting and analysis so much more efficient for companies that have strong processes established within their own systems.”

By integrating disparate data sources, processes from all parts of the organization come together. By combining different data points, executives can derive insight into cross-dependent processes and build efficiency in their organization.

ROOT CAUSE ANALYTICS

Supply chain managers deal with a staggering array of issues daily, which have different implications depending on the manager’s purview. 

For example, a transportation department manager might be dealing with a significant number of load tenders being rejected by carriers. A sales and marketing manager might be analyzing data to figure out why production can’t keep pace with a recently announced sales promotion.

Drilling down to the root causes of these issues is critical for business success. BI software allows executives to create visually rich dashboards that expose the root causes of failure. The transportation manager can create a rate curve analysis to figure out why tenders are being rejected. The sales and marketing executive can access production analytics to better plan sales campaigns.

Drilling into root causes also exposes the costs associated with each transportation option. This helps companies reduce costs and increase their bottom line.

EMBEDDED ANALYTICS

Supply chain companies often face challenges concerning the adoption of new behavior. Employees might remain rooted in outmoded ways of executing their tasks and will find it difficult to switch to a standalone analytics package. 

A key step to achieving greater analytics adoption is to embed them into existing applications. Thanks to embedding analytics, employees don’t need to change their workflows and can access insights within their existing applications. Even giving your team the advantage of minimizing the friction involved with unnecessarily switching between app interfaces can make a big difference. 

By giving her last-mile logistics account reps the ability to receive alerts regarding data anomalies in Slack, Deliveroo executive Marion De Najar says that “The team can focus their attention on what really matters, rather than being overwhelmed with a lot of data points and not really knowing where to look.” This is the power of embedded BI services. “They’ve gained a lot of efficiencies because they know where to focus their efforts,” she adds.

The applications for supply chain professionals are virtually limitless. For example, a shipping manager can query a summary of carrier performance before placing an order with a given vendor. As far as the manager is concerned, the summary is a part of their system. The BI package has crunched data in the background and has delivered insight in an easy to understand rating format.

LANDED COST AND PROCUREMENT ANALYSIS

Companies need insight into profitability by customer and product. Logistics components are an important factor to take into account when calculating cost. The problem is that these costs often include unplanned accessorial costs. 

Companies that don’t use BI systems overcome this issue by using costs projected on their tenders. However, these numbers are far from accurate. A good BI system can pull numbers from finalized freight audit data and therefore incorporates accessorial costs. 

Supplier relationships are a huge part of reducing costs, and procurement analytics help companies in this regard. Vendor performance can be measured accurately, and companies might discover that certain vendors perform better when tasked with sourcing or dispatching specific products.

POWERFUL BI FOR BETTER INSIGHTS

Thanks to the wealth of data that companies generate, they can gain insight into every aspect of their supply chains, reduce costs, increase efficiency, and make strategic changes to operations. Smart supply chains need smart, data-driven solutions.

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