Big-data is about to have a big effect on a lot of industries. Will it impact the electronics supply chain anytime soon? Not likely. In fact, the supply chain seems to be choking on the data it already has. It's hardly ready to digest even more data in many different forms.
That's what Lora Cecere, founder of the research firm Supply Chain Insights, found in a recent survey of 53 IT and supply chain managers. That's a very small sample, but it does capture something that I've noticed lately. As a journalist, I'm covering big-data stories in all sorts of industries, but I haven't heard of any big-data projects in the supply chain. The survey found that supply chain managers recognize they should be doing more to take advantage of their data. A few respondents said they are launching big-data initiatives, but even they admit they cannot manage all that data.
Thirty-six percent of the respondents said they have cross-functional teams evaluating the potential of big-data for their supply chains. But the average respondent is dealing with four different enterprise resource planning systems. The 53 organizations had a total of 150 systems supporting their supply chains.
The data in at least some supply chains is growing to the point that companies should be able to crunch it for competitive advantage. Eight percent of respondents had at least one petabyte of data in a single database, and 47 percent expected to have a one-petabyte database within five years.
The respondents said they were best able to use data from several sources, many of them on the supply side, such as chain visibility, geolocation and mapping, and product traceability. In fact, the most common type of big-data initiative focused on supply chain visibility. But they also said they thought the biggest potential benefits could come from demand data, including mobile application, blog, voice, video, and social media data.
Most strikingly, there was a wide gulf — for all kinds of data — between how important respondents felt the data was and their ability to use it. Among respondents who reported having a big-data initiative, 95 percent said their most important data source was supply chain visibility, but only 58 percent said they had a good ability to take advantage of such data. That's a pretty big shortfall, and yet it turns into a gulf when looking at demand data sources. Seventy-four percent of respondents said user comments on ratings, reviews, and blogs were an important data source, but only 22 percent said their organization had a good ability to use that data. For data from social media, 68 percent said it was important, but only 17 percent said they could use it well.
“Clearly there is a lot of work to do for supply chain leaders who are already dealing with complex systems and now want to access new data types,” Cecere wrote in a report on the survey.
Are you doing anything with big-data in your supply chain? How soon will supply chain managers be able to mine their data for competitive advantage?