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Supply Chain in.sights: Delivering with Data

“Not everything that can be measured is important, and not everything that is important can be measured.”

This quote from Adrian Gonzalez, president of Adelante SCM, succinctly summarizes one of the main points of “Data: Don’t Drown in It, Deliver with It!” the first session in Trimble’s Supply Chain in.sights Virtual Series + Interactive Community Event, held June 22, 2021.

In the first of two sessions on the theme of “Elevate Your Data Perspective,” Gonzalez shared many poignant insights into how fleets can better track and utilize their data in actionable ways.

Tracking the Right Data

Transportation is one of the most data-intensive areas of the supply chain. Given the large number of available data sources in the transportation and logistics industries – ELDs, ERPs, GPS, EDIs, APIs, weather, traffic and more – it can be difficult to know where to begin.

The first step, Gonzalez says, is making sure you’re tracking data points that are actually relevant to your current fleet operations and your company’s goals. That sounds like a simple task, but the fact is that many companies track too much – or too little – data, which then becomes noise.

It’s not uncommon for fleets to be tracking data points that were relevant at one point – say, due to an acute issue at a moment in time – but are still being tracked despite having no real value to an operation.

For example, Gonzalez says he previously worked in a new product development role at a manufacturing company that measured temperature on the line, but no one knew why. To the best of his knowledge, the reason why it was being tracked was due to a problem that had occurred with a product years before but had since been fixed and was no longer an issue: it had simply become noise.

It’s important to not only set up the right data points to track, but also to evaluate incoming data on a regular basis to ensure that what you’re tracking is relevant and necessary to your operation – otherwise, as mentioned before – it’s just noise that distracts from the truly relevant information.

Starving for Logistics Insights

Gonzalez, who oversees the Indago market research service, presented data from a recent survey of transportation professionals. The first question, “Do you agree with the statement, ‘We are drowning in data, but starving for insights,’ as it relates to your transportation and logistics operations,” saw a whopping 65% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing.

A follow-up question about the biggest factors that inhibit the ability to convert data into actionable data revealed that most respondents have data scattered across many systems, showing a need for more integrated platforms that bring data together, rather than in siloes.

That integration can have big payoffs when it comes to developing actionable insights: one survey respondent shared that by bringing production schedules and routing maps together, their company was able to successfully eliminate one-off, one-way trips into existing round-trip routes, ultimately saving more than $1 million in six months.

Gonzalez says that digitizing your company’s data and information should be a top priority in integrating data sources. Many companies have data sources like spreadsheets or “tribal knowledge” that lives within teams that can’t be accessed by a system automatically. Transitioning data sources to a cloud-based platform can help reduce reliance on manual processing and save a great deal of time, bringing data analytics to near real-time.

Contextualizing Information

Gonzalez also underscored the importance of putting data into context: “Data without context is just numbers.”

One of the transportation professionals who responded to an Indago survey mentioned that while it’s easy to see trends in data, it can be difficult to gauge the performance against a standard or benchmark – does the data indicate something good is happening, or does something need improvement?

The top recommendation Gonzalez had for organizations that are looking to improve or enhance their data analytics activities is to start by clearly defining their goals. For example:

  • Are you looking to reduce costs? If so, which ones specifically?

  • Are you aiming to improve customer service? If so, is there a certain customer you’d like to focus on?

  • Would you like to launch a new service (such as final mile)?

  • Are you hoping to improve the utilization of your fleet?

Answering these questions can help you set some initial goals and benchmarks – but it’s important to remember that transportation is a dynamic industry, so these goals will likely evolve and change over time.

Start by establishing a baseline that you can measure your progress against in order to define and implement Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which ultimately define what data you’re collecting.

In today’s increasingly connected supply chain, the amount of incoming data can sometimes feel overwhelming, which is why it’s important to have clearly defined goals, expectations and processes in place. “If you don’t have a strategy and processes in place to manage the data you collect, you can quickly find yourself buried in it.”

Catch a Full Replay to Learn More

Looking for more helpful “in.sights” into the important role of data in the transportation supply chain?

Check out an on-demand replay to watch the entire discussion and uncover additional advice on how to make the most of data within your business.