Social media, from Twitter to Facebook, have completely changed the way people communicate. Digital information sharing also, in its best moments, has the potential to become a powerful force in the supply chains of electronics manufacturers.
"Data is the new oil," Andreas Weigend, lecturer at Stanford University, said at the recent Responsible Supply Chain Conference. "Today, distribution of data is mostly social. By creating, distributing, refining, and consuming data products, suppliers can help people make better decisions." Weigend spoke about how supply chain organizations can leverage connection with customers, whether OEM or end-user, to enhance and grow business opportunities.
The conversation is well underway about how big data can help the electronics supply chain. Today, through shared systems, partners can understand what products are on the shelves and even track the movements of competitors. Social media and online information distribution, however, are rapidly escalating the sharing of data of all types. "You can think of it as a data ecosystem," said Weigend. "In the old world, communication was expensive, but that's changed. The balance of power is shifting there."
In his talk, Weigend traced the evolution of data management. In the 1970s, the focus was on building computers, while in the 1980s technologist worked on connecting computers together with networks, he said. The 1990s shifted that focus to connecting pages (which eventually led to the birth of Google), and at the turn of the century, connecting people (via social networks) became the big push. Finally, by 2010, the focus has come to a time when we have started connecting data.
"Connecting is what really matters," said Weigend. "If everything was connected, what would you do? We are reaching a time where there's so much transparency of data that there's no more spinning a story. We are making it trivially easy to contribute data and connect with each other and collaborate."
So much data is available that the ways we measure the value of supply chain data has begun to shift. Weigend offers four rules for this new data world:
- The value of data is its impact on decisions. "Data is only valuable to the degree that impacts decisions."
- Start with the question, not with the data. "We need to focus on actions. Nothing changes unless people act."
- Focus on decisions and actions. Organizations are often tempted to make decisions based on inside information and knowledge, rather than what the external market is saying.
- Create systems design for fast feedback. Then base decisions based on the metrics that matter most to your customers. Possible analysis focuses include country, customer, supplier, manufacturer, transport, etc. Ensure that your customers understand the value that they get from sharing information with you. Measure results to ensure that the data leads in directions that make your organization's products and services better.
Today, electronics companies need to get more data savvy. "It's no longer a world of milking the last bit of information from data," said Weigand. "Very few companies are addressing the new, data-rich world. On the Web, everything is significant, but we have to make sure it's relevant."
Let us know how you are managing the deluge of data in your supply chain. What do you find relevant and usable? What data are you discarding?