Supply Chain Analytics: Empower Your Business With Data-Driven Logistics

Discover the value of supply chain analytics and learn how to implement the necessary processes effectively.
A close-up of a data dashboard.

Data is the driving force behind today's business climate. It's no secret that large, fast-moving and often unstructured data has become the critical decision-making tool for companies of all kinds. Your company's competitiveness can depend on how widely you apply data-driven thinking to your processes, and you shouldn't overlook the supply chain.

There are two key reasons to use business intelligence (BI) and advanced analytics to crunch supply chain data:

  • Large, rich data sets are readily available: With every supply chain process largely digitized, there's ample data to use as fuel for analysis. Each invoice and delivery generates more raw data points that can inform decision-making.
  • Improved processes can save money: Between freight and parcel shipments, companies pour a significant percentage of their budgets into logistics processes. By improving these supply chain operations with data-driven optimization, you can safeguard your bottom line.

It's a natural fit: BI and analytics in the supply chain have a ready supply of raw data to act as fuel, and they can provide real value by granting useful insights.

To turn this latent potential into real value, your organization needs to develop an effective supply chain analytics strategy, one that encompasses all modes of transportation and targets impactful issues such as optimizing spend levels. With the right combination of partnerships and technology, your business can rise to the occasion.

What Challenges Can Supply Chain Analytics Address?

Every tech investment requires a motivating factor, a projected outcome that will make the effort worthwhile. In the case of analytics, you have the potential to solve one of the most pressing problems facing today's businesses: Supply chain operations have grown so large and fast that visibility is often lacking.

In that opacity, there is ample opportunity for expenses to build up over time. If this happens to your organization, you have little recourse. If it's too difficult to determine the source of escalating costs, it's hard to take any corrective action.

Problems with data today, addressable through a supply chain analytics tool, include:

  • Data volume is too great for manual analysis: Every invoice is a source of data. This means there is plenty of raw material to power analytics — but also that there is far too much information to analyze manually. An employee attempting to make sense of patterns in data without automated tools would be unable to make much progress in today's fast-moving supply chain. Important actions such as demand forecasting or optimizing inventory levels are harder, slower and less precise without automation.
  • Different levels of the business need different views: A dashboard or visualization that is meaningful to one team might be wrong for another. Some cases call for high-level views that take in worldwide delivery trends for a whole quarter, while at other times, it's much more relevant to slice the numbers and focus on one specific time frame, carrier or region. Analytics systems can provide these views, enabling better decision-making overall.
  • Service issues can have obscure root causes: When an end customer experiences a slow delivery or receives damaged goods, tracking the source of the issue is important for improving service. Without the right BI and analytics tools, however, patterns behind issues may be lost in a flood of invoices and other data sources. To take action, your organization needs a clearer view of the moving parts within its supply chain.

Globalization in logistics has only intensified issues with data complexity and the resulting lack of visibility. Your company's partners, on both the freight and parcel carrier sides, are part of a complex, interconnected network of businesses. Untangling these threads and making accurate decisions about your best course of action is a major challenge without modern business analytics tools.

To add urgency to data analytics use, it's important to remember that companies throughout industries are investing in better BI solutions and data management. Unless your organization joins them, it may be hard to keep up.

Learn more about the state of supply chain visibility and the importance of improvement.

Why Is Supply Chain Analytics So Important?

Supply chain analytics and big data tools are so vital because they turn a disadvantage into an advantage. With the right technology in place, suddenly your vast, fast-moving information resources aren't a hindrance or a liability, they're a fuel source that can generate insights.

The key question to ask regarding supply chain analytics is how your employees make critical decisions. The process changes significantly with an infusion of supply chain analytics software.

  • Without analytics: In the absence of actionable insights from data tools, leaders may need to make their choices based on intuition. This is a highly fallible method, especially when there are no projections available to back up each individual decision.

    Attempting to perform some analysis manually can simply add to the difficulty and frustration facing your team. Crunching the numbers by hand will naturally require professionals to take more time and use less information than if they had access to advanced analytics.

  • With analytics: Today's BI and big data tools can provide several views that help employees make choices big and small. This might mean checking a frequently updated dashboard to gauge the current performance of one area of the supply chain or consulting a predictive analytics algorithm to engage in supply chain planning with a greater chance of success.

    Automation means the numbers are ready when employees need them, allowing them to get more done in their day because they're not wasting time on manual analysis. Customization of dashboards allows every group of decision-makers to see just the numbers that matter to them, in clear visual form, further streamlining their work.

The ability to see both the big picture and the granular details of supply chain performance can be highly relevant for your business. If there's a need to adjust a carrier agreement or investigate a performance issue associated with a specific time frame, region or partner organization, you can see the pattern clearly through advanced analytics dashboards.

What's the Role of Third Parties?

An ideal approach to analysis doesn't have to reside entirely with your team. In addition to using self-service dashboards, you can collaborate with a logistics partner to receive additional reports on your supply chain performance.

These reports can unlock insights your teams may be missing. Through these recommendations, you can understand where your supply chain processes are failing to live up to their potential and take action on improvements.

A what-if report generated by predictive analytics tools can reveal an ideal path forward for your organization. Using this type of data-driven advice as part of your strategic and decision-making framework can help you stay competitive as companies overall put ever-greater trust in business analytics.

Discover the value of data-driven supply chain optimization.

How Do Modern Supply Chain Analytics Systems Work?

The supply chain analytics tools available today have gone through years of development and advancement to reach a high level of performance. Even if you have some data management or BI capabilities in place, an update to a more modern system — one designed with supply chain challenges in mind — can represent a major upgrade.

The following are the supply chain data analytics and BI features of the FreightOptics platform, demonstrating just how many powerful capabilities today's technology platforms can offer:

  • Cloud-based architecture: Cloud computing has changed the way companies think about software, with automatic updates, flexible processing power and convenient access. Cloud applications are available around the clock from any location with a simple login, allowing your teams to stay productive no matter where they're working from.
  • Dozens of customizable visualizations: Rather than limiting users to a few views of their data, FreightOptics offers over 50 customizable dashlets that can address your organization's specific challenges, needs and objectives. Users can get an at-a-glance view of the numbers that matter most to them.
  • Geographic mapping: Since the supply chain is all about the movement of physical goods, map views can deliver the most salient insights about some challenges. Maps that can zoom out to a country view or drill down to show individual county performance let your supply chain managers understand the company's performance at a close-up level.
  • Granular analysis options: To truly understand what's happening in your supply chain and see opportunities for improvement, you can slice results by carrier, time period or region. The analytics tools within FreightOptics allow your personnel to zoom into these highly specific views.
  • Risk management solutions: Analyzing and planning around leading supply chain disruption risk factors can have an outsized effect on your organization's ability to survive local or global market challenges. Modeling potential outcomes with BI tools allows you to detect potential points of failure in your global supply chain connections and respond via inventory management, diversification and more.
  • Automated rate calculation: By using the data points available within your supply chain, the FreightOptics platform can perform precise calculations about ideal service relative to your agreements with carriers. When your customers ask you about the relative costs and timelines of various offerings, you can offer them highly informed answers.

With the right combination of reports, dashboards and visualizations, your team can take decisive action based on comprehensive, up-to-date data. These ways of viewing data are customizable and user-friendly, ensuring they act as enablers rather than getting in your team's way.

See a breakdown of the FreightOptics platform's data analytics features.

How Does a Supply Chain Analytics Solution Fit Into Transportation Spend Management?

The FreightOptics platform isn't just a supply chain analytics tool — it's part of a powerful class of technologies called transportation spend management systems (TSMS). The concept of transportation spend management is about combining freight and parcel shipment analysis under one roof and viewing supply chain management through a budgetary lens.

Other services associated with transportation spend management include:

  • Auditing: By using automated tools to audit your freight and parcel carrier contracts, you can discover hidden opportunities for value. Common issues include unclaimed reimbursements and refunds due to missed service levels as well as simple misalignment with the terms of the agreement.
  • Contract Negotiation: Working with an expert logistics partner, you can use data analysis and related capabilities to negotiate more confidently with freight and parcel carriers. As rates continue to rise across the board, these negotiations represent a chance to reclaim some value and strengthen your bottom line.
  • Bill Payment and Claims Management: Automating everyday interactions between your business and carriers can have a powerful effect on overall efficiency. When these processes are handled quickly and accurately, your team has more time to perform skill-intensive work rather than rote processes.

A unified TSMS is the single source of data truth a modern organization needs. This platform allows you to reach every corner of your logistics operations, dealing with partner organizations and customers in a more informed, data-driven way.

Data analytics plays a leading role in the overall suite of TSMS features. By providing data visibility and turning your invoices into a powerful source of insights, this technology is a key to unlocking a more cunning and efficient version of your organization.

The pressure to deal with the supply chain efficiently is always mounting. Carrier rates are rising and global logistics networks have shown themselves to be brittle in recent years. Responding to these issues by building more efficient and unified systems into your business is one way to stay competitive amid these conditions.

Find out how modern organizations can use data to control their risk profiles.

Ready to Get Started with Supply Chain Analytics?

Having the right TSMS in place is the first step in transforming your business for the better. With an infusion of cloud-based, automation-heavy technology, you're ready for whatever may come next in the fast-moving world of logistics.

FreightOptics can be that platform for your business, connecting all the data from your carrier contracts, invoices and deliveries. This raw information powers insights displayed through a variety of visualizations, reports and dashboards to suit all supply chain managers.

A supply chain analytics solution can make your organization better informed, more proactive and capable of reacting quickly to global, localized or carrier-specific supply chain disruption. A platform that can deliver this new level of insight is a must-have to keep your business competitive amid mass logistics digitization.

Want to know more about BI in the supply chain? Contact us.