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Kale’s turnkey IT solutions have stemmed from our never ending quest for industry knowledge. We keep ourselves abreast of the latest industry trends, innovations and bring the same to our valued readers through our article segment. Read what is brewing in the Logistics domain and our take on it, in this section.

The significance and scope of Smart Data application in Supply Chain and Logistics domain

The concept of Smart Data has gained tremendous importance in the contemporary business scenarios. Every domain is seeking Smart Data capabilities to enhance business and gain a winning edge over their competitor. Smart Data enables the industry to perform several informed strategic decisions based on simple logic and common sense. Industry in general often confuses between the concept of ‘Big Data’ and ‘Smart Data’ and uses both terms interchangeably. However in reality, while the concept of Smart Data is related to the qualitative aspect of data, the Big Data refers to the volume or the quantitative aspect of data. The challenge surrounding the availability of enormous volume of data is real. Strategy makers are chasing every possible data snippet with an objective to make a tangible benefit to their existing business, without adequate understanding of what might be impactful for their business model and what might not. This has caused enormous data noise. The concept of Smart Data enables to eliminate this ‘noise’ and only bring forth the information that is pertinent, strategically important and is likely to result into positively impactful decisions.

The Supply Chain industry has witnessed significant growth owing to the advent of E-commerce and relaxation in cross country trade policies. The development of Logistics channels, multimodal transport avenues and trade partnerships among Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) across the globe has enabled expansion beyond the traditional geographical boundaries. However, with this increase of business and the resulting increase in competition, Supply Chains and manufacturing operations are facing myriad operational and business challenges. These challenges have resulted from the changing business environments that have led to decreasing lot sizes, increasing demand of individualized and customer-specific products and an increasing demand of complex manufacturing equipment. Most of these challenges demand an agile and highly integrated business process and technology that enables seamless and result oriented connection between various Supply Chain milestones. This includes establishing a systematic flow of transactions in product development, Supply Chain and manufacturing, including partners from ecosystem as well as “intelligent products” that communicate with all involved parties at each level of the value chain.

Application for enabling infusion of Smart Data has already been found in domains like inventory management, forecasting, and transportation Logistics. In warehousing too, digital cameras are routinely used to monitor stock levels and this data provides auto generated alerts when restocking is needed. The ‘last-mile’ Logistics refers to moving the package from the distribution centre to the customer’s home is one of the main pain points of the LSP. Interferences such as road congestion, availability of resource and varying consumer schedules lead to plenty of confusion and wastage in the last-mile operations.

However, by exposure to Smart Data, companies today can envisage the most profitable routes to choose for their last-mile operations. They can make cognitive decisions on the most profitable routes for each day of the year inferred from Smart Data. By having this knowledge, Logistics companies can make the final leg of the shipping journey a painless one for consumers and a productive one for themselves. Smart Data has not only affected the operational side of Logistics and Supply Chain domain. It has also enabled the companies to comprehend the demographics of their end-customer base. This insight is also enabling companies to tap into social sentiment data generated from social platforms viz. Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, resulting in deeper understanding of customers. Companies are further are using these social platforms to leverage their brand equity by demanding feedbacks on excellence of services and publicising grievance addresses on a public domain, so as to increase the perceived integrity of their business among potential end customers. Supply Chain players are utilising Smart Data to create innovative expansion models for companies looking out to innovate and escalate their market presence. For instance, Amazon identified the profit increase they would incur if they had an in-house warehousing capacity, based on Smart Data reporting. This led them to invest and extend their business to warehousing. An increased database of categorised and smartly curated information has led companies to engage Smart Data to act as a basis for making strategic growth decisions. Companies are hoping that appropriate use of Smart Data will enable them to create new customer base, engage in transformational business models and explore innovative avenues of allied business ideas that would ensure their profitability and sustenance. Increased productivity through better planning is another area of future potential for Smart Data transformation. This kind of productivity increase is related to and strongly depends on the availability of relevant sales and production related internal and external data.

Analysing Smart Data trends and utilising their potential will enable organizations in industry to align demand and supply with precision, enabling them to react faster to changing market conditions or to even influence market conditions by driving demand-increasing activities in the market at the right time. This will lead to optimization of asset utilization, enabling organizations to optimize their asset utilization, reduce their inventory and distribution costs and provide higher level of service to their customers. Hence, organizations will be more productive and Smart Data transformation will be a value addition.

The Supply Chain domain provides multitude of opportunities to infuse Smart Data in daily operations. The application is limitless and the reaping benefits are myriad. Supply Chain can profit immensely from the business intelligence that Smart Data can bring. Concepts like Internet of Things (IoT), Data Analytics, Smart Sensor Networks and Single Window Platforms are the immediate applications of Smart Data that are ready to promise a gamut of business benefits to the Supply Chain industry. By virtue of IoT LSPs are able to monitor a multitude of assets within a Supply Chain simultaneously using interconnected technologies. This further offers insightful data to drive new business solutions. However, IoT applications currently focus only upon improving capacity, efficiency, manageability, reliability and reducing cost. Increase in data and devices such as GPS, RFID tags, sensors and scanners is warranting a shift in the business model, fusing multiple data sources and integrating business judgement and complex calculations to provide real-time or near real-time insights for timely decision making for operational efficiency. Business Intelligence on cloud an attractive proposition for Logistics providers as it can enable business visibility on a real-time basis. Smart sensor network comprises of devices that are equipped with sensor nodes for monitoring physical conditions such as temperature, humidity, pressure and motion etc. at different locations. Smart sensors offer easy ways to collect data across the Supply Chain via sensor-based technologies that can be attached to products or machinery. This technology can be used to track Cargo around the world in real time. By analyzing this data alongside historical data for a Cargo’s planned route, it can identify likely bottlenecks and shrinkage areas, alerting shippers to potential disruptions. With the advent of single window platforms , which have already found their presence in many Supply Chain networks, the visibility and flow of information across the pertinent stakeholders has expedited and simplified greatly, eliminating fraud. This integration has not only resulted in connection between B2C but also enabled Supply Chain enablers to be in line with transfer of information across government bodies such as Customs , thus bringing a greater harmonization across the domain. Thus, single window not only decreases the amount of time needed to clear goods, but also saves business money by reducing overheads.

In spite of these applications of Smart Data, the synergy of entire Supply Chain which involves the journey of goods from manufacturing to end customer, is not yet completely ‘smartened.’

The biggest challenge is that many players across the Supply Chain, especially those who seek to limit their businesses only to profit catering rather than bringing quality to operations, or those in dearth of capital are not completely open to the idea of Smart Data. Another hindrance in the acceptability and use of Smart Data is the preconditions that effective Smart Data application needs. Most players exhibit reluctance to change of legacy systems, have no organised historical records and are reluctant to invest in newer systems.

Having pertinent analytical skills, and an understanding of processes and business concepts and the ways to turn data and insight into a competitive advantage, is another grey area faced by the LSPs. In order to generate business benefits, the obtained data and analytics have to be an integral part of the relevant processes. To realize those preconditions, responsibilities and priorities need to be defined and budgets (investments) need to be allocated. Moreover, skilled workforce needs to be placed to equip organisations to make the most out of Smart Data adoption. All these obstacles greatly affect the reach and impact of Smart Data technology on the Supply Chain and Logistics domain.

Smart Data transformation can only be a reality if businesses are optimistic about investing in the structural, financial and functional prerequisites and are consequently aligning their processes and responsibilities based on this realisation. Evidently many Supply Chain enterprises are atill struggling to reap the benefits of Smart Data. Prompt implementation of transformational initiatives and risk to fall behind their competitors are the intimidating factors. Apart from these factors, the quality of data that is being used and the purpose for which it has been utilised are the deciding factors to decode the success of Smart Data application. Relevant data needs to be extracted and inserted into a business workflow to automate the specific business transaction. With enormous amount of Big Data scattered across a host of sources, identifying relevant data, maintaining repository of it and applying it to the daily transactions needs intelligence system and analytics.

Today, in the industry many organizations have started using Smart Data transformation to increase their revenues and to strengthen customer loyalty which is turn is giving them a leading edge in terms of customer and market understanding.

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