What is the Impact of Big Data on the Supply Chain & Transportation Industries?

Whether you’re part of a business that’s already leapt into the world of Big Data or if you’re still in the process of learning how to use it to your advantage, there’s no denying that Big Data is here to stay and changing the landscape of the transportation industry and the way supply chains are managed.

Big Data Analytics

At its core Big Data is exactly what you’d think it is—massive amounts of data pulled from hundreds of sources, including operations systems, customer interactions, vendor interactions, weather reports, social media, mobile devices, vehicle diagnostics and online activity. Big Data is also untapped and unorganized when it’s first gathered, leaving it up to the work of advanced data mining to draw conclusions from it that can better help companies make intelligent business decisions and predict what they will need to do to stay competitive in the future.

However, don’t let the relatively simple surface definition fool you—Big Data is an extremely powerful tool for those businesses who know how to harness it right. And it’s playing a particularly large role in transportation industries and in managing the supply chain, something we at LTX Solutions have seen firsthand.

A business’ supply chain and the transportation industry are invariably linked—without transportation a supply chain is nothing more than the churning out of a product that has no way to get where it needs to go. Because of this Big Data has had led to an equally significant shift in how the supply chain and transportation are optimized.

Big Data and the Transportation Industry: Increasing Efficiency, Reliability and Safety

Big Data Freight

Today’s transportation industry relies heavily on real-time data from sensors placed in delivery vehicles that monitor every aspect of the shipment from the moment it leaves to pick up its freight to its arrival at the delivery destination. This provides both transportation companies and the businesses that rely on them access to information regarding how fast the truck is driving, where it is along its route, how often it stops, when maintenance is needed, the capabilities of the driver, weather and road conditions and more to paint a detailed picture of what it takes to deliver a shipment from Point A to Point B.

Transportation companies can harness this data to consolidate shipments that consistently run along the same routes, find routes that require the fewest number of stops (that are still safe), and better predict delivery times to ensure customer and shipper expectations are met. Additionally, data collected from sensors in the shipping vehicle can detect maintenance issues or other problems with the vehicle early to stop errors before they occur (keeping shipments on track and on time) and to increase the safety of drivers by fixing small issues before they can seriously affect the performance of the vehicle.

Satellite tracking of freight allows transportation companies to alert drivers of necessary changes in their course due to weather, traffic issues, construction, etc. to keep shipments moving. Plus, systems will automatically re-route drivers to the fastest and most cost-effective route available if the delivery destination is changed, which benefits both the transportation companies and shippers using their services.

With the influx of Big Data, the transportation industry as a whole has entered a new era of increased efficiency that benefits both shippers and customers and encourages businesses to match their level of service.

Big Data and the Supply Chain:  Industry-Wide Data Makes Inventory and Freight Management Smarter than Ever (and provides top notch customer service)

One of the biggest advantages of incorporating Big Data into the management of a business’s supply chain is that they are no longer limited to data provided inside an enterprise. Instead, they have access to data from throughout their industry that can lead to greater understanding and collaboration for improved operational efficiency and customer service. This includes both structured and unstructured data, such as CRM transaction data, demand forecasts, customer location, weather data, social media usage, bar code system reports, etc. that together helps businesses draw highly intelligent conclusions that guide business decisions and applications to the supply chain.

Big Data Cloud

At the heart of the supply chain is a business’s inventory and without accurate (and sufficient) data managing it efficiently can prove difficult, leading to a misuse use of resources and dissatisfied customers. But with the application of Big Data to inventory control systems businesses are able to reduce inventory write-downs, increase the speed at which inventory turns over, provide consistent time to delivery, increase available floor space, and reduce back orders and other customer frustration points. This is because they have real-time data to more accurately predict the movement of inventory and proactively manage inventory levels rather than reacting to a change after it happens.

Additionally, Big Data also allows for improved risk analysis, so that businesses are better prepared to handle the variables that come with producing and shipping product (such as complicated crew and driver schedules, perishable product conditions, damaged or mishandles product, insufficient safety stock, etc.) and avoid the risks if at all possible.

And, perhaps most importantly, businesses can leverage Big Data to stay ahead of the curve in providing top-notch customer service by having a fully integrated supply chain that is optimized to deliver the experiences today’s consumer's demand: the correct product delivered as quickly and cheaply as possible and in pristine condition. This is possible because today’s businesses have access to information never even recorded before, helping them glean insights that keep their supply chain moving efficiently from the receipt of materials to the manufacturing and storing of the product, to shipping it to customers.

Supply chain management has always been a priority for businesses, but with the growing prevalence of Big Data, striving for a completely optimized supply chain has become a realistic goal. It’s just a matter of how a company uses the data now at their disposal to determine how much it can benefit them. Here at LTX Solution’s, we pride ourselves on our innovative technology and personalized data & analytics for each of our customers. Contact us today to see how we can help optimize your shipping with Big Data.

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