Industry discussion about Big Data and analytics has drawn a lot of hype, but there’s no mistaking that these two technology applications are more than just a passing trend. A recent Grocery Manufacturers Association report, Formula for Growth: Innovation, Big Data, and Analytics, noted CPG companies that understand “how to improve their analytical maturity, competencies, and capabilities” will improve decision-making that actively drives top and bottom-line growth. The report also indicated that formula for growth will require an “integrated competency around innovation, data, and analytics.”
Manufacturers and distributors recognize they have a treasure trove of valuable information at their disposal often housed in warehouse management systems, but the challenge lies in how to make sense of all that information and turn it into something meaningful for the business. Only with analytics can they turn Big Data into the right data.
In a warehouse environment, data plays a key role in just about every function. For example, understanding where products are in the warehouse to fulfill orders and manage inventory – also known as demand visibility – relies on access to accurate data. By using Data Discovery and visualization tools and a user defined dashboard, warehouse managers can quickly sift through volumes of data and drill down into item-level detail where they can then slice and dice the information to locate the right pallet at the right time.
And that is just one instance; data can drive tactical improvements all over the warehouse especially when it comes to optimizing processes to achieve the “perfect order”. The Supply Chain Council refers to the perfect order as a process of fulfillment that is executed correctly across all the facets of the supply chain – orders delivered to the right place, with the right product, at the right time, in the right condition, in the right package, in the right quantity, with the right documentation, to the right customer, with the correct invoice. With so many touch points opportunity for errors and disruption abound! However a strong data foundation, an ability to analyze its contents and transform that data into usable information, gives distributors and manufacturers better control over their components of the “perfect order” process.
Process improvements can lead to higher margins and even bigger opportunities, but true business growth is dependent on both the success of operations today and the ability to plan for tomorrow. Beyond tactical improvements in the warehouse, Big Data analytics can help executives evaluate KPIs and capitalize on critical growth initiatives.
For instance, a distributor recently came to us looking for a way to improve warehouse execution. One of the first things they wanted to do was conduct an analysis of the daily activities in the warehouse. By leveraging the data within the warehouse management system, we enabled them to look at data from multiple angles in near real-time. With a more complete picture of operations, the distributor was able to quickly uncover a critical business pain point – they needed a plan in place for how and when to secure more square footage in order to keep pace with growth. Further data insights revealed optimal truck routes and better resource utilization could be exploited to accelerate expansion efforts.
In today’s dynamic business environment, turning data into strategic business insight is something manufacturers and distributors cannot afford to ignore. As they try to make sense of the data deluge, discovery and visualization tools empower them to quickly pull relevant insights from their warehouse management systems. By leveraging Big Data and analytics together to support timely decision-making, distributors and manufacturers will be well positioned to drive profitable business outcomes, growth and profitability.