When It Comes to Supply Chain Data, Is Less More?

There is no disputing that today’s supply chains are data driven, faster and leaner than before, some industry experts are starting to question whether too much data can be counterproductive.  Instead of searching for ways to tap into more information, would time be better spent analyzing existing data to find learnings?

Guy Courtin, director of industry solutions at Supply Chain for Progress Software, took on the issue in a recent issue of EyeForTranport.com.  Noting that “visibility” has become the term du jour among supply chain managers, Courtin wonders if rather than “seeing” or “possessing” more data, supply chain managers might find it more helpful to focus on “what it is we are already observing and how it impacts our supply chain.”

He uses as an example a retailer who wants more POS data.  “What if they could collect greater detailed information about how their stores are doing, what units are selling and at what volume and mix.  If they could get more visibility down to the SKU level…how fantastic,” he writes.

“But,” he adds, “what if that data is too old once they received it?  Have you really gained more ‘visibility’ or just more noise, information that might have once been valuable but now is lost due to a host of factors?”  Instead he posits,  “Supply chains need to focus on the data they are already viewing, understand what they are observing and determine if there are any causalities that can be identified.”

Jace Davis of IBM Sterling Supply Chain Visibility seems to echo that point by arguing that businesses need to focus on “quality” of data rather than quantity.  “The better data you have, the better decisions you can make,” Davis wrote in his The Social Business blog.

He also warns that “today’s complex supply chains create too much data for manual processes to absorb.  This causes a lack of real-time visibility into supply chain events as well as an inability to detect and resolve exceptions in a timely manner.”

So it would seem that businesses looking to build greater visibility into their supply chains should think carefully about the volume and categories of data it needs to capture.  It may well be that “less it more” when it comes to meeting visibility needs.