Supply Chain Analytics and BI – How They work Together

As companies have struggled through these past couple of years one thing has become apparent that is supply chain visibility has become prevalent than ever before. Supply chain analytics has become important for businesses to monitor and adapt their business priorities and models to readjust forecasts and adjust to demand. Whether it is a push or pull model as companies employ inventory strategy has changed to become a pull model rather than the problematic forecasting that the traditional pull model imposes.

Many C-Level executives are breaking their silence as to how they are getting through this rough time. As stated by Jim Butts, Sr. VP of Transportation at CH Robinson from his perspective the companies that have survived the recession best generally had four attributes: highly variable cost structures; cultures that focused on being very close to customers; strong, active supply chain leadership; and the ability to embrace change more so than competitors economic time. These four attributes points to backbone of many systems out there but do they supply the business intelligence needs of the organization to have the visibility they are looking for ?

Looking at these four areas from a systems standpoint brings to light that a system must have components of business process agility and visibility, financials, customer service and supply chain analytics. These functions can be processed through an enterprise performance management solution using dashboards. A system that can unite the data from several systems or aggregate from one central system is a valuable tool to gain insight into your business. Dashboards that can be catered to individual users with useable data from their own tasks and functions can empower employees to become more productive by making better decisions, becoming more efficient and have access to real-time data for customer service is invaluable.

These systems cover the business intelligence provided by operations, finance, IT, customer service, marketing and all other departments within your organization. A good BI software should include data aggregation from business processes, workflows, workcells, inventory status of everything in plans, replenishment, work in progress, in-transit inventory, inventory already on order, and lead time queries, central or dispersed databases, labor management, operational KPI’s, multiple systems, the ability to unite multiple technologies, possibly cloud capable, an easy to use interface, sales information, non-technical query building for non-technical personnel, department independent capabilities with individual or group security rights to name a few.

If an organization selects this type of flexible BI tool enables the organization to have the ability to make decisions quicker and embrace change because of readily available information be it good or bad but the ability to adapt to that change is the key decision making process that your competitor may not make make which will put you ahead of your competition. It is these companies who have embraced change to rapidly adapt to changing conditions that are showing profitability.

A line told to me from one of our customers “In business you don’t know what you don’t know about your business” He was referring to a supply chain system he had put in to monitor supply, control replenishment, track waste, monitor inventory, control costs from procurement and monitor supplier quality and bidding cycles. Once the system was implemented and the dashboards were set up the information he was able to aggregate from his system into how his business was working “The results floored me, as to what was going on ” he said, when we started to analyze the data. By understanding what his business was doing this particular customer saved over 36% of cost overruns and gained a 29% more profitability by reusing and accounting for unused material and better sourcing practices. This particular customer actually customized yachts and sold shipbuilding materials for yachts. The new found insight allowed him to change his business processes and become efficient than what he was doing previously.

As can be seen, there are no magic bullets for how BI can change your business but the available solutions can accommodate what ever you are trying to track or fix. But if someone were to give you tools to assist you in your business wouldn’t it be worth a look to see how you can improve its performance ?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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