Data

Data hunger leading to the digitization of the supply chain

“Data is the new oil,” just like oil changed the fortune of many countries and companies involved, data is driving a similar upshot. Today, there is a hunger to collect increased data at every milestone and of every activity or transaction for refining, analysing & extracting actionable insights to convert for competitive advantage. It is a new cardinal theme running across the business world, and rightly so.

The companies which have been at the forefront of building capabilities to collect and analyse data have revenues much larger than the GDP of many countries. The ability to gather and mine data to build a long-term competitive advantage that would not be easy to break is additionally fuelling the frenzy around enabling businesses with digital ability.

E-commerce companies that had point-of-sale data from the first day are not only able to analyse customer buying behaviour to optimise their product mix but could also predict what the customers will buy, when, and in how much quantity. This is helping them in solving the age-old problem of better demand forecasting and hence decreasing the bullwhip effect of demand fluctuations into the supply chains, making it leaner and more efficient.

Companies also quickly realised that prompt and dependable fulfilment of orders is as necessary to build consumer trust and create repeat purchases. This realisation led to the digitalisation of supply chains right from raw material suppliers to the end-consumer, with an effort to leave nothing to chance. Companies thus aimed for the utopian state of delivering a product to a consumer the moment she wants it.

Inspired by the success of e-commerce players, other industry verticals also started digitalising their operations to collect demand and supply data till the consumption point. The consumer-driven segments also looked at the enormous opportunities provided by online channels like marketplaces or their own webstores. Many realised that even if online was only a small part of their strategy, the data collected supplied deep insights into the consumer buying behaviours and patterns. These could be applied for improving even offline sales through their exclusive stores, multi-brand stores or distributor/dealer network. Consumers somehow are more willing to share data online than offline.

Omnichannel sales have brought in much more complexity in the fulfilment of orders, and it is becoming impossible to manage these complexities without the help of technology. Generating an order is one challenge, and the ability to fulfil it as promised is another, this is what drives the digitalisation of supply chains. The data generated through digital supply chains is used to generate predictive insights, do scenario planning, what-if analysis, real-time monitoring, and exception management in the supply chain. Data collected over the months and years help build better distribution models and improve fulfilment forecasting all with the holy goal of keeping customers happy and loyal.

A leading 2-wheeler brand digitalised the vehicle ordering, loading, dispatch and delivery to make the process efficient and to capture the milestone data. The resultant visibility, and transparency to make improvement in their downstream supply chain, led to an improvement in product availability and sales by substantial numbers.

An automotive customer digitalised their entire ordering and dispatch process. Earlier, due to millions of data points involved, it was an enormous manual effort taking several days of analysis on excel sheets and still not achieving desired results. The digitalisation of the process resulted in 16% (estimated) cost-saving, 27% (estimated) improvement in order fulfilment and 67% (estimated) improvement in process time.

The wave of data collection through the digitalisation of supply chains have not remained an initiative in consumer sectors only. This effect is seen in B2B industries too. These industries are realising that the data can help them improve their operations, make their supply chains efficient and make their customers happy.

A leader in the tractor industry exporting tractors to global brands and dealers was facing issues with real-time visibility. They were not being able to keep the end customers updated about the fulfilment of export orders. They went for digitalisation of the packaging, stuffing, and transportation process, providing real-time visibility, issue resolution and enabling process improvement. Packaging speed and their export sales improved and the overall experience of the importing customers was enhanced.

During the pandemic, digital-first companies could quickly analyse the data and make data-driven decisions thus recovering faster compared to their offline counterparts. The imperativeness of having data has been reinforced and we expect this end-to-end supply chain digitisation trend to accelerate for the benefit of not just the companies but also for consumers.

By Rahul S Dogar, Managing Director and Co-Founder, Holisol Logistics

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