What you need to know about big data in freight forwarding.
Predictive analytics are changing the logistics game. Managers are increasingly struggling to structure their data, let alone to leverage it into useful insights. Heavy ERP systems are perfect to carry the information load, but don’t be afraid to use lighter tools to steer your processes. The struggle lies in using the data, not in capturing it.
It’s a trend in almost every sector imaginable: data is becoming the most important comparative advantage to outrun competitors. When you’re able to get a firm grip on your information in- and outflows, you’re more likely to generate useful insights. And it doesn’t even have to be that hard. New tools are created everyday to support your claim on your own data. Hubspot, Zapier, Salesforce and Teamleader are just a few examples of how sales technology is leaning towards simple and intuitive use of sometimes very complex data relations. Why should it be different in logistics?
Airbus is one of the global leaders in the highly-competitive aerospace industry for many years now. And to maintain its position at the adult table, operational efficiency is essential. Big data and analytics are helping the company in that respect. Using the IBM InfoSphere Data Explorer, Airbus integrates data discovery, navigation, analysis and contextually-relevant view of more than 4TB of indexed data, that is spread across different business units. All this data is then centrally accessible for people working in the service department, equipping them with valuable information to execute timely airline maintenance programs.
Leonard Lee, the vice president and head of new business models and services at Airbus Group, said in a recent interview, “We have tons of data. An aircraft is a very talkative machine. It produces petabytes of data. And today, in general, in the aerospace industry, only two percent of that data is used in any constructive way. So, our plan is to leverage all the richness in that data, to help improve our customer experience by driving initiatives like predictive maintenance. This way our customers can get airplanes back in the air as quickly as possible.” Just one application of big data and analytics has accounted for savings of more than $36 million for the company in a single year.
Big Data Transforming Logistics For The Better
To fully understand the analogy between Airbus and the logistics industry, it’s essential to grasp our one and foremost important rule of data: every process produces precious data.
The arrival and spread of big data usage dramatically changed the way businesses work with their analytics. Companies can anticipate slow and busy periods, potential future supply shortage and act accordingly. The supply chain is more transparent, but also automated, deliveries are optimised, and inefficiencies reduced. All these insights help in making better strategic decisions that provide a real competitive advantage.
3 main approaches to get a grip on your data, without touching your current ERP.
Look for a light tool. Something on-top.
Most companies are struggling to create an overview on their data. Analysts are working hard to extract useful insights from large piles of unstructured information. And very often, information managers are reluctant to refresh their way of working because “our system is way too complex to integrate another tool”.
And they are right. But not completely. We believe it’s a good thing to have a protectionist policy around your ERP system. Adjustments are costly and it’s hard to measure what the exact impact will be. There are, however, ways to talk with an ERP without transforming it. In an ideal scenario, API’s are clear and your on-top tool can communicate with your ERP almost seamlessly. But even when that’s not possible, current technologies, such as Mileviewer, use parsing and flat file mapping to make computers read and understand excel-, CSV- and XML-files. With the right email-server integrations and by gathering all user and supplier data, these kinds of tools are managing all your data. And once again, without harming your corporate processes.
Steer your data, don’t run after it.
There’s an abundance of dashboards on the market to give logistics managers an overview on their supply chain. Most of these visualisations are nothing more than static representations of what has been going on in the past. Think of this as an outdated excel-file with a nice lay-out. Tools like Mileviewer, however, work in two ways. You look at your shipments, but you work with them as well. Mileviewer is an interactive control panel.
Think of it as finding yourself inside the cockpit of your supply chain, steering your shipments, managing your staff, anticipating changes, … By being on top of your shipments, you could easily communicate real-time shipment updates to clients. You could make sure all your agents know exactly what their workload looks like for the rest of the day. We believe that real-time control provides peace-of-mind.
Choose your security battle.
Since the giant cyberattack against Maersk Line, which had left around 800 vessels dead in the water and caused the destruction of more than 15000 PCs, logistics companies have closed their gates to external software. Software companies, in their turn, had no choice but to start building apps that run on inherently secure cloud based server networks.
Such single global architecture is perfect for international vessel operators or freight forwarders who need a real-time intercontinental overview of all processes. The initial investment is overall lower, switching costs close to zero and training period no more than a week. The impact, however, could take Silicon Valley-like proportions.