News & Blog

Intelligence, resilience, and visibility – BI for stronger supply chains

Back when the news was full of people stockpiling toilet roll and pasta, who knew that so many of us would so quickly become supply chain experts? But the truth is that over the past few years we’ve become much more aware of ‘supply chain issues’ made worse by COVID and container ships getting stuck in the Suez Canal.

Manufacturers are trying to deal with these problems by sourcing production materials from diverse sources. Business intelligence systems – reporting, visualisation dashboards, and more – can make solving problems easier. In this blog, we look at the challenges, and the difference that business intelligence (BI) can make.

The fallout of bad supply chain management

If you’re not using BI in your supply chain, then you’ll be hit with three main problems.

First, if you don’t have business intelligence tools in place, then you won’t be able to deal with disruptions. You may be stuck not knowing what to do because you don’t have reliable data, or because you lack data analysis and reporting tools for your decision makers to respond to challenges in an informed way.

Second, if you can’t see what’s happening, it’s hard to know what your next steps will be. For instance, without a network map, your supply chain managers won’t be able to correctly route materials, and products won’t arrive at their intended location. If there’s a major disruption due to a logistics error, then without analytics tools in place, how will you know how to react?

Third, if you’ve got poor data management, you’ll magnify the impact of any disruption that does happen. If your data is siloed and inaccessible, you won’t be able to make centralised responses. The information you need will be trapped in different locations. This could end up with your resources being improperly allocated, making the problem much worse than when it started.

An eye on supply

Still, all problems have solutions. You can address these issues by using good data warehousing, analysis, and reporting. Together they’ll let you to see what is happening in your supply chain network. Crucially, they’ll give you structural and dynamic visibility.

Structural visibility gives you a bird’s-eye view of your supply chain network. You can see where goods are sourced, the logistics routes they take, and other static pieces of data you need. Dynamic visibility lets you see how those static features change over time. You can see how things have gone in the past and, importantly, you’ll get predictions of how they’ll develop in the future.

Because you can see more, you’ll be able to better react to the changes and shortages in the supply chain. You can make more informed decisions, and you won’t run the risk of making your problems worse. Overall, you’ll have better resilience.

But remember, you don’t need to be able to see absolutely everything. Seeing more in one area is enough to start making improvements. You can greatly increase your resilience with focused visibility into certain areas of a supply chain. For example, having a better picture of raw materials supply will help you identify new sources and new suppliers.

Embedded intelligence – fast decision making

Your c-suite decision makers need visibility over the whole of the supply chain network, and your ‘on the ground’ decision makers need it too.

To give more people greater visibility, you might consider embedded business intelligence systems. These are dashboards, with mostly real-time data, that you can manipulate to focus on specific areas or pain points of the supply chain.

You can also use them for more focused help. If you’re an inventory manager, you can easily see what is entering and leaving an individual warehouse and adjust your strategy, avoiding overstocking or shortages. Likewise, if you’re a distributor, you can oversee environment information, like temperature and location, to ensure your perishable assets are preserved.

The moral of the story is clear: business intelligence is essential to dealing with the ongoing disruptions in the supply chain – it lets you roll with the punches.

If you want to find out more about our supply chain BI solutions, have a look at how we solved the problems for Noble Foods.