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Big Data is the term given to the immense supply of quantitative and qualitative information produced by people, tablets, laptops and smartphones every day. This blanket term also refers to internal data generated within your company and external data from the market. It includes information produced by your closest and fiercest competitors.

If you can get a handle on Big Data and use premium-grade analytics technology to scrutinise and better understand the trends, you can revolutionise the efficiency of your company’s supply chain by investing in a high-quality container and packaging supply for your shipments and managing inventory using customer buying information.

4 key ways big data is changing supply chains across the world

More major companies are using Big Data to cut costs and gain valuable insights into changing customer trends and shopping habits. Here are four of the main ways in which Big Data is transforming supply chains around the globe.

1. The introduction of rewards apps and loyalty schemes

Loyalty schemesSource: koonsiri boonnak/ Shutterstock.com

Many of the largest brands in the world use rewards apps to collect their customers’ data and track their clients’ spending habits. For example, Starbucks’ innovative loyalty and rewards app has over 16 million active members worldwide. In 2018, the standard Starbucks app was the most popular mobile payment app in the United States, with just under 24 million Americans using it every six months.

In the UK, data indicates that three-quarters of the population uses some sort of loyalty rewards program and as many as 8.2 million people in the UK use some form of mobile payment app, comprising around 20% of all UK mobile users. Mobile payment app usage in the UK is projected to increase to 25% of all UK mobile users totalling 11.9 million users by 2023.

Companies, like Starbucks, use Big Data to see what's working with customers. For example, Starbucks can see what’s selling and what isn’t, and what’s popular or unpopular in different countries across the world.

This type of information is crucial in allowing businesses to target specific customers and entice new ones into investing in their product.

2. Creates more proactive and actively responsive supply chains

Proper analysis and use of Big Data enable companies to develop more responsive national and international supply chains. There are several ways analysing this vast amount of information can make your supply chain more efficient.

Retailers or suppliers can use Big Data to revolutionise their planning and operations processes. If you have access to data-intensive forecasting technology, you can use this to predict future trends and decrease the likelihood that your products will become obsolete or irrelevant.

Some food, beverage and clothing companies even analyse customer spending habits throughout the different seasons, allowing them to be fully prepared in anticipation of increased spending at a particular time of the year.

Companies can also use Big Data for predictive risk management. Businesses analyse current trends and forecast future strikes, liquidations and other potential disruptions to the carrier, manufacturer or supplier sections of their supply chain. This type of analysis enables companies to take proactive action whenever disaster strikes and react far quicker than competitors.

Manufacturers can analyse the large amount of internal data transmitted by their production equipment over many years. This analysis allows them to get a better sense of which machines are the most cost-effective, which consistently create products of the highest quality and which ones are most likely to develop a severe defect or fault.

You can also use Big Data trends to optimise your warehouse logistics. For instance, you can analyse a vast array of data collected by different forklift models like the route each machine takes around the warehouse floor and how much weight each unit can withstand.

Understanding this data allows you to develop a more efficient picking and materials-handling strategy within your warehouses. Shippers responsible for packaging and labelling their products correctly can use external data sources to determine which hazardous material label should go on which package.

Many companies are using Big Data to make informed decisions regarding shelf-space optimisation in warehouses, shipment and retail stores. If your company owns in-person stores, you should analyse customer shopping habits to figure out which products to place where.

For instance, it’s best to put your special offer items at the end of an aisle to entice customers or your most profitable items at eye level since most shoppers make a purchasing decision in less than eight seconds.  

3. Optimising routes for more efficient package delivery times

DeliverySource: fizkes/Shutterstock.com

Another critical way Big Data is revolutionising supply chains is by allowing courier companies to optimise their routes in real-time, so they’re delivering packages to customers as quickly as possible.

Carriers use Big Data to monitor changing traffic patterns and weather trends, helping them to choose the least congested route to their destination. Companies can also scrutinise external data on customer habits to determine when these clients are most likely to be at home during the day.

This means you can increase your proportion of successful first-time deliveries, saving costs on labour and reducing the chances of losing your customers’ packages.

You can also create a more efficient supply chain and cut transport costs by using Big Data to choose the most suitable form of delivery. For example, analyse the available data to see where you can decrease your company’s carbon footprint by delivering products via slower transportation methods like a cargo ship, train or barge.

These methods tend to be much cheaper than faster modes.

4. Optimising vendor management

Before a product reaches the consumer, it passes through numerous vendors along the supply chain responsible for packaging, transport, third party logistics and much more. Without relevant data on your product vendors, there is a huge risk of errors occurring at any stage of the chains, from delays to incorrect deliveries.

Big Data and AI allow companies to assess vendor key performance indicators (KPIs), such as customer reviews, return rates, shipping times and profitability.

By inputting this data into supply chain management software, companies can create KPI parameters that can send alerts when vendors are under-performing and, if the data shows consistent poor performance, companies can make a proactive choice to switch vendors.

Use big data to your advantage to revolutionise the efficiency of your supply chain

When you use premium-quality analytics technology to scrutinise Big Data, you can access a vast amount of useful information that allows you to cut costs, improve your customer satisfaction ratings and even decrease your company’s overall carbon emissions.

You can use Big Data from all sections of your supply chain to create a far more profitable business. Improve your operations process, strengthen your defences in preparation for future unforeseen risks, develop your warehouse picking strategy and optimise your carrier company’s routes.

Learn more about how you can strengthen your supply chain by downloading our checklist below.

How to improve your supply chain

About the author:

Cory Levins serves as the Director of Business Development for Air Sea Containers. Cory oversees the development and implementation of ASC’s internal and external marketing program, driving revenue and profits from the Miami, FL headquarters.

Before joining Air Sea Containers, Cory Levins was the Director of Business Development for Marketing and Real Estate Lending Companies.

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