Recently returning from APICS 2016, the conference for the #1 trade association of global supply chain professionals, we’ve walked away thinking about data as strategic.

SAP’s CEO Bill McDermott spoke about the value of data in his keynote presentation. Of course, you wouldn’t be surprised that SAP’s CEO would think data is strategic however, he made some compelling arguments to support this concept. Let’s just think about a few ways to leverage data and decide for ourselves:

  • Understand the customer – every company has data about its customers’ preferences. What have they ordered? What is increasing in popularity? Are there trends in different geographies? Different market segments? If you mine your data, you’ll learn quite a bit about your customers.
  • Understand your end customer – certainly, some of us ship direct to end customers; however, most don’t. Have you asked for demand data into your supply chain? If you ship direct, jump on this! If not, jump on this! There is invaluable data with your end customers. Someone in your supply chain can give you some sort of data. What do your end consumers favor? Recently, I gave a speech at PMI about the Amazon Effect, and there were several professionals in the healthcare industry attending. In their case, what does the patient need? Learning about the consumer is like hearing it straight from the top!
  • Understand your margins – what could be better than understanding which products and customers make the most margin? And those that don’t? We bet you are spending “too much” time on those that don’t, similar to 80% of our clients.
  • Understand your capacity – should we hire? cross-train? purchase new machines? upgrade and speed up already existing assets? Unless you understand your capacity, there is no way to make the best decisions for your success.
  • Understand your resources – Similar to capacity, do you know what cash you’ll need on hand to support your business growth, inventory investment and customer service commitments?

Data can be just an item requiring storage and memory or data can be strategic. Are you thinking about how to leverage your systems and how to put the ‘right’ collaboration tools in place to gain data from your supply chain partners?