Why Data Holds the Key to an Optimized Retail Supply Chain

Fixing the kinks in your retail supply chain can feel like playing a game of whack-a-mole: just when one problem is solved, another pops up. Tackling problems piecemeal may solve stand-alone issues and cut minimal costs, but this approach often misses the forest for all the trees.

In order to run the leanest and most efficient retail supply chain possible, the full scope of the problem must be visible to supply chain managers. That’s where data comes in. High-quality, real-time data can provide both a big-picture view that helps shippers conceptualize their entire operation and identify bottlenecks, and an up-close vantage point that allows them to pinpoint micro trends and anticipate emerging problems. Without both perspectives—birds-eye and boots-on-the-ground—they could be missing out on key information.

Many retail supply chain managers already incorporate some degree of data-driven problem solving into their operations. That’s a great start—but without an easy way to collect, synthesize, and analyze data, that data likely isn’t working as hard as it could for your company.

Here are a few ways that supply chain managers can optimize their operations by unlocking the full power of their data.

Pinpointing problems and waste

While good instincts are important in business, retail supply chain managers can’t rely on instinct alone if they want to make informed decisions about their logistics operations.

A shipper that only looks at overall freight spend and sees solid numbers, for example, might assume there’s no room to trim the budget. But granular data may tell a very different story. Drilling down into each facility’s spending may reveal that one or two facilities are using premium freight options wastefully, blowing thousands of dollars annually—thereby nullifying the cost-saving measures that other locations have implemented.

Without harnessing data to augment their instincts, some shippers may be blissfully unaware that small holes are sinking the entire operation. Alternatively, after looking at the data, they may realize their pace and spend in a supposedly “problem” area of the supply chain is actually consistent with industry benchmarks—and an entirely different link in the chain is broken. Shippers who make the most of their data can quickly shine a light on broken links and unnecessary waste, meaning supply chain managers can rest easy knowing issues aren’t occurring right under their noses without their knowledge.

Forecasting trends and predicting supply and demand issues

Spotting an emerging trend with the naked eye is nearly impossible. A sudden spike in demand gets noticed, but what about a gradual uptick in interest in a particular product? When staff are dealing with a thousand other tasks every day, they can’t be expected to mentally catalog these fluctuations—which makes it critical for retail supply chain managers to have an easy way to visualize their data to identify trends and forecast demand.

Instead of waiting until the demand for an item leaves your warehouse empty, your clients unhappy, and your facility scrambling, having the capacity to see a trend unfold in real-time and forecast future demand can help you avoid production and distribution bottlenecks—and give you a leg up on the competition. That requires both real-time data and powerful business intelligence tools that make it easy to spot an uptick at a glance, dip deeper for more information, and analyze future trajectory.

Unlock the power of your data

Before they can adopt a data-driven approach, shippers need the right tools. A cutting-edge transportation management system (TMS) with built-in business intelligence capabilities like Honeybee TMS™ by CTSI-Global can provide retail supply chain managers with the visibility and tools they need to harness their data—and use it to bring down costs and drive greater efficiency.

Don’t leave insights locked up in your data. Find the key by contacting us today.