Big Data and the supply chain: why a balanced approach is needed

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Big Data is a word currently on the tip of many a distributors’ tongue. Not limited to the supply chain industry, it is nonetheless a new tech that seemingly has almost unrestricted benefits for those of us in the business. Allowing for an unparalleled collecting and applying of data, it feels like a finite amount of time until it is adopted en masse by the industry. Where are we exactly in this process however, and what is the best way to integrate Big Data in reality?

Interestingly, the actual definition of what Big Data is, is still debated. Generally defined as the massive volume of both structured and unstructured data that can’t be processed using traditional methods, there is no strict definition of what actually constitutes Big Data. Needless to say, it’s still a new entry in the world of tech and distribution, and we need to make sure we understand fully the implications and benefits before we take to it wholeheartedly.

As with any emergent tech, there have been issues that have halted its mass adoption. Impediments so far have included the likes of technical issues, having to invest in software and hardware and security risks among others.

The primary benefits lauded by those advocating for the use of Big Data in the supply chain are generally its ability to provide unique insights into the likes of market trends, customer buying patterns, and maintenance cycles, as well as ultimately lowering costs. This in turn, in theory, will result in better forecasting, a greater bank of knowledge and better application of the data in real time. All things that, again in theory, will make our jobs as distributors more effective and enable us to provide a better service.

Where we believe the true value of Big Data really lies is in its combination of both human experience and the data collected to deliver a second to none service. Here at Westcoast Retail, we ensure we are smart in the ways in which we offer our services, and combine what we know from years of experience in distribution and in-store merchandising with the data we collect.

The time for Big Data will undoubtedly come, as we as an industry become more competent with the information collated and the algorithms used become more aligned to what we want to get out of it. At the end of the day, we can have as much data as we want, but until we are able to apply it effectively and in line with what our clients need it for, it isn’t going to be of much use

Our whole proposition as a brand is built on the importance of human experience in logistics and the supply chain, and as such we will continue to combine this with Big Data to deliver the best service possible. The race to the bottom in terms of price cannot negate the value of the service provided and, for now at least, a combination of experience and data is the most effective way of using Big Data.

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ben@raniericoms.com'

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