Managing mountain of data a challenge to visibility, IT experts say

Managing mountain of data a challenge to visibility, IT experts say

LONG BEACH , California — The quality, availability and management of data has to improve if the supply chain is to efficiently handle the mountain of information that is now available to carriers and their customers, panelists said at the 15th annual TPM Conference in Long Beach, California.

Bill Schwebel, president of INTTRA Data, said the information management business was at a “lucky” time, with the cloud based technology and all the analytics that were available.

“At a previous company we were able to calculate average truck speeds on the road and it took over a week to run that calculation three years ago,” he told delegates. “Now that calculation can be run in under 10 minutes. I can see that in a year that will be done in sub-seconds.”

But with so much data available, one of the greatest challenges being faced by carriers, forwarders and software providers was how to manage it without being buried under the tsunami of information.

“By 2020 there will be 50 times more data on what is happening in the supply chain,” Schwebel said. “We have the technology that can actually process that. You can get lost in that data, but the fact that we can actually drive insight and improve the reliability of something from 70 percent to 90 percent, that has cascading value across the supply chain.”

So what can the industry do with data science and use the tools that are available to fill in visibility gaps? Maurice Stratton, vice president of IT for Yusen Logistics, said the first step was making sure the data was correct.

“You build into your business processing system steps that help you address recurring data issues, such as incorrect codes, and use analytics to enforce your business rules,” he said.

Todd Rives, senior vice president and chief commercial officer for CMA CGM America, said the carrier was spending a tremendous amount of time and effort to ensure the accuracy of the data.

“We know the issues and are trying hard to fix them, because if we don’t, someone else will and we will lose the business as a result,” he said.

Jim McGinness, regional head managed solutions for Panalpina, said there were two schools in the analytics camp: those that love it and those that would love to have someone translate it for them.

“We have found that when you start getting into the business of analytics and you start migrating people off the spreadsheets and into real algorithms, there are those that adopt it and those that run away from it. But the algorithms out there make it easier for us to see the invisible,” he said.

Collaboration was another key word in the push for complete supply chain visibility, and a big part of that was just having a conversation with customers on what their goals are.

“If you can sit down with your service providers and say you are at this service level while others are further ahead, that can help you in your demonstration and help drive collaboration,” he said.

“To get there you need to have those conversations about goals, but when you engage a 3PL it is not always clear what those goals are. Often you have to engage that 3PL and give feedback about what other people in the industry are doing and in that way sharing the best practices.”

McGinness said a company could not only look at today when devising a solution. “When we start getting into supply chain management and we start taking that step on the journey, you quickly realise that the level of service that you are looking at today isn’t going to be what we are looking for next year,” he said.

“It is about looking towards the future and developing a system that is scaleable. We know that today we have to solve a problem, but we can’t reinvent the wheel to solve it. So the solution must be scaleable and the customer must realise that what they are doing today they may not be doing tomorrow.”

Contact Greg Knowler at and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.


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