Building Resilience with Supply Chain Technology: Big Data, Digitalization, and Data Management

Building Resilience with Supply Chain Technology: Big Data, Digitalization, and Data Management

The volatility of recent years has made one thing crystal clear: traditional supply chain models struggle to cope with disruption. The interconnectedness of global supply chains amplifies the impact of even localized events, as evident with the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions, and recent natural disasters. To navigate this uncertainty, businesses must rethink their approach, leveraging technology to build resilient supply chains capable of withstanding unexpected shocks.

This blog explores three critical areas for supply chain innovation that help build resilience in the face of unpredictability: big data, digitalization, and data management. 

Navigating Uncertainty: The State of Todays Supply Chains

Supply chains are riddled with risks and seemingly unending disruptions, including labor disputes, climate extremes, and geopolitical turmoil. Yet, as APQCs report reveals, the greater threat may lie in the “unknown unknowns” — unpredictable events with far-reaching consequences that defy planning.  The impact of these disruptions is clear: in 2023, supply chains failed to meet their targets, with fewer than four in ten organizations achieving their annual business goals.  This stark reality underscores the urgent need for supply chain resilience. 

The research also highlights the ongoing challenges businesses faced in 2023. Big data, analytics, and digitalization topped the list of concerns, demonstrating the complexity of translating vast amounts of data into usable insights. And though new technology offers potential solutions to data management, many companies still struggle with implementation, adoption, and achieving a rapid return on investment.

However, that doesn’t mean these challenges shouldn’t be addressed. Supply chain professionals can position themselves as strategic drivers of success by harnessing analytics, robust data management, open communication, and bold innovation. This involves focusing on the following areas to improve supply chain resilience:

Improvement Areas to Focus on for Supply Chain Resilience

  1. Harness Data
    Leverage advanced analytics and digital tools for informed decision-making and navigating complex scenarios.
  2. Build a Strong Foundation
    Prioritize data management and standardized processes for greater efficiency and future adaptability.
  3. Stay Informed
    Monitor emerging technologies, regulations, and global trends for proactive planning.
  4. Foster Collaboration
    Promote open communication with all supply chain stakeholders.
  5. Embrace Innovation
    Make innovation a continuous priority to stay ahead of disruptions.

    Source: 2024 Supply Chain Priorities and Challenges: White Paper by APQC

Key Obstacles to Supply Chain Improvement

Internal challenges often hinder the path to greater supply chain efficiency and effectiveness, even without external disruptions present. The APQC survey reveals that supply chain professionals face a myriad of obstacles in improving supply chain processes, including:

Implementing New Technologies

The benefits of AI, IoT sensors, drones, and advanced analytics are undeniable. Gartner predicts the rapid adoption of generative AI in supply chains, with 50% of organizations planning to implement it this year, as GenAI can be tailored specifically to a company’s unique processes.

However, the path to implementation is typically not simple. Organizations face a complex web of legacy systems that are frequently incompatible with cutting-edge tech solutions. Retrofitting modern tools into existing infrastructure requires careful change management to minimize disruption to daily operations. 

Even after successful integration, organizations may struggle to fully benefit from new technologies because of insufficient internal knowledge and lack of training.

Governance and Data Management Deficiencies

Data is the lifeblood of modern supply chains, yet without proper management, it becomes a liability. Inconsistent data standards, decentralized collection, and outdated manual processes all contribute to poor data quality. This undermines decision-making, as inaccurate or unreliable analytics deprive decision-makers of the information they need to navigate change and ensure continuous improvement.

Poor data management practices also increase the likelihood of breaches and regulatory compliance violations. By putting sensitive data at risk, organizations open themselves to potential financial penalties and reputational damage.

The Collaboration Gap 

Collaboration is fundamental to supply chain efficiency, yet many organizations still operate in isolated silos that restrict visibility and impede data sharing outside their immediate operations. This isolation affects internal processes that extend throughout the supply chain. Enhancing communication and collaboration between suppliers, carriers, and other stakeholders is crucial to avoiding unnecessary delays and ensuring a cohesive operation.

The ability for partners to add details and notes to shipments is key to bridging these gaps and creating a culture of shared responsibility and insight. This is vital for maintaining real-time, accurate communication across the supply chain and minimizing errors caused by outdated or isolated data. Interaction between supply chain parties helps streamline processes and significantly boosts overall efficiency and responsiveness.

Resilience Through Supply Chain Technology Innovations

Supply chain challenges reinforce the importance of flexibility and a willingness to adapt. The same survey reveals a positive trend—most organizations are actively modifying their strategies in 2024 in response to obstacles. This responsiveness, particularly in sectors with the greatest complexities like aerospace and pharmaceuticals, is a promising sign. 

Source: 2024 Supply Chain Priorities and Challenges: White Paper by APQC

Below are three innovation areas driving resilience in the supply chain:

Big Data and Analytics
Big data analytics offers detailed insights hidden within historical supply chain data. Carefully analyzing historical data allows organizations to improve efficiency, resilience, and customer satisfaction, especially with the help of:

  • Accurate Demand Forecasting
    Big data analytics integrates various factors—historical sales, market data, and external influences like weather patterns—to create highly accurate demand forecasts. This feature enables optimized inventory management and improves working capital utilization.
  • Identifiable Operational Bottlenecks
    Big data reveals inefficiencies impacting your supply chain. It helps pinpoint process bottlenecks, supplier constraints, and underperforming transportation routes.

Companies embracing these features gain the ability to anticipate, adapt, and succeed in a constantly evolving environment.

Supply Chain Digitalization
Siloed systems are the enemy of supply chain efficiency. Digitalization offers the solution, breaking down barriers and creating a connected ecosystem.  Here’s how this transformation impacts operations:

  • Breaking down Silos
    Digitalization breaks down barriers between systems, connecting ERP, TMS, WMS, and even external partner platforms. A unified view provides stakeholders with a single source of truth, enabling them to track shipments, manage inventory more precisely, and anticipate future needs more accurately.
  • Proactive Collaboration
    True supply chain digital transformation empowers supply chain partners to collaborate in real time. Permission-based private networks eliminate the need for error-prone email chains or phone tags, allowing stakeholders to share relevant data confidently. For instance, suppliers can automatically receive updates based on production schedules, reducing excess inventory, while carriers can proactively communicate route disruptions.
  • Full Visibility
    The ideal supply chain tech stack prioritizes end-to-end visibility, cost optimization, and secure data management. Key components include in-transit visibility for real-time shipment tracking to proactively address disruptions, transactional visibility to uncover inefficiencies across the order-to-cash cycle, financial visibility for forecasting and auditing, and robust data ownership practices for compliance and strategic decision-making. 

Digitalization empowers collaboration that goes beyond systems. Putting the right information in the hands of the right people enables proactive problem-solving and strategic decision-making across your entire supply network.

Data Management
Robust data management practices directly impact an organization’s ability to make informed decisions about inventory, procurement, and supply chain resilience strategies. It also fosters seamless collaboration with suppliers and partners, reducing errors and speeding up decision-making.

  • Data Governance
    Well-defined governance establishes the standards, rules, and responsibilities for collecting, storing, and accessing data.  A clear data governance framework facilitates secure, controlled information sharing across the supply network. This is necessary for higher transparency, allowing partners to collaborate more effectively and respond quickly to changing circumstances.
  • Quality for Reliability
    Analytical insights are only as good as the data they use. Prioritizing data quality involves processes for validation, cleaning, and ensuring consistency. These steps ensure your data is trustworthy, from eliminating duplicates to standardizing formats.
  • Top-Notch Security
    The interconnectedness of supply chains increases their vulnerability to cyberattacks. Rigorous security protocols, encryption, access controls, and regular audits are critical to protect the company and its partners.

Beyond these operational improvements, rigorous data management mitigates risks by ensuring compliance with regulations and protecting the company’s reputation.

Agistix: Driving Supply Chain Transformation

Today’s supply chains demand solutions that go beyond basic tracking. As a forward-looking supply chain management company, Agistix understands this, offering capabilities in big data analytics that boost digitalization efforts and improve data management.

Agistix is purpose-built for complex industries, such as aerospace, defense, biotech, and high-tech, that face unique global supply chain challenges. The intricate interplay of regulatory requirements, globally sourced components, and the constant pressure for innovation calls for solutions that go beyond standard visibility offerings.

With a focus on effective data governance and quality, Agistix provides:

  • Robust integration capabilities and customization options to ensure a smooth transition without disrupting your existing operations.
  • Effective collaboration, as customized, browser-based microsites foster transparent communication. With microsites, partners can access real-time updates and add crucial details and notes to individual shipments. These tools empower stakeholders to access, update, and share real-time shipment information for swift, proactive responses.
  • Reliable data governance that prioritizes data integrity, integrating with your existing governance protocols or supporting the creation of new ones to ensure accuracy and consistency.

The Agistix visibility and data management platform simplifies compliance and record-keeping, ensuring companies have the necessary information, allowing stakeholders to track KPIs, identify potential improvement areas, and make better business decisions.

Final Thoughts

Supply chain professionals can no longer afford to be reactive–they must focus on building resilience through innovative strategies and advanced technology.  Embracing big data in supply chain analytics, digitalization for seamless collaboration, and robust data management empowers organizations to make informed decisions, mitigate risks, and optimize their supply chains in the face of any challenge.

Ready to explore how Agistix can bring end-to-end visibility to your supply chain? Request a demo today!


Trevor Read

President at Agistix based in San Francisco. I am an entrepreneur with a passion for data, and technology. I am results-oriented and committed to developing fast-deployment solutions to help customers seize the new opportunity coming from big data in the global supply chain.