As more and more tools and technologies become available, distribution companies are starting to realise the benefits of ‘big data’ and how it can be used as a tool to better their capabilities across every facet of their organisations.
What’s important to realise is that it is not necessarily the amount of data available which is key, but what you do with it that will have a big impact on your business.
What is big data?
Big data is a term used to describe vast quantities of data which is available to a business throughout their day-to-day operations. The data collected is usually divided into three main categories which include transactional, machine, and social data which can be collected through a variety of different technologies available throughout the distribution industry.
As more and more tools and technologies become available, distribution companies are starting to realise the benefits of ‘big data’ and how it can be used as a tool to better their capabilities across every facet of their organisations. What’s important to realise is that it is not necessarily the amount of data available which is key, but what you do with it that will have a big impact on your business.
How is big data gathered?
The emergence of new technologies such as IoT, Machine Learning and AI has enabled companies to collect data like never before.
Machine data is drastically increasing in the volume of data which can be obtained. With IoT technologies, businesses can attach different IoT sensors to machinery, products, shipments and much more to gain vast amounts of data on their usage, locations, temperatures, stock levels and much more. This can be particularly useful in understanding how to maintain good inventory management and demand forecasting. The capabilities of such technology is ever expanding which suggests that this form of data will continue to grow exponentially over the coming years. Web usage can also be a way to gather machine data which could track the usage of websites to track different types of customer behaviour which again could be utilised for many different departments including customer services and marketing/sales.
Transactional data comes in the form of day-to-day transactions made throughout a business which includes sales orders, invoices, delivery receipts, storage records from both an online and offline setting. This type of data alone is meaningless, but with careful analysis can provide key insights into customer behaviour which could benefit future inventory management and demand forecasting.
Social data is taken from social media sites in the form of likes, comments, and shares of videos, images, and general content which is uploaded every day. This data provides valuable insights into consumer behaviours and sentiments which can have a massive impact on activities such as customer service and marketing activities alike. Search engine data can also be obtained to gain an understanding of trends in different geographical locations which can be used to provide insight and also increase the volume of data you can have.
Unlock the value of your data with ERP software solutions and reap the rewards
Distribution ERP software technology enables distributors to make sense of the data they have which offers benefits throughout many areas of the distribution and warehousing process. Where some technologies may be useful in being able to collect data with higher precision and volume, other technologies allow for that data to be analysed and utilised to improve processes throughout the business.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are fast becoming leading technologies that can be used to improve the efficiency and capabilities of distributors. The power of AI and machine learning coupled with accurate raw data can be combined to provide distributors with outstanding insights and highly accurate forecasting abilities. Making sense of raw data and providing it to employees will enable them to make better decisions and improve their efficiency over time, thus improving the business.
It is near impossible for humans to manually analyse thousands of sets of data in a short amount of time and provide a high degree of accuracy which will benefit a company. AI and machine learning are designed to ‘learn’ and not only make sense of the raw data that distributors have but also provide guidance, suggestions and identify key trends and patterns which will enable processes to be improved with a higher level of accuracy.
Distributors can take advantage of:
- Turning raw data into real insights
- Improving customer service experiences
- Identify trends & patterns
- Accurate demand forecasting
IoT technologies and devices have seen a rapid increase in not only the capabilities which they provide but also their availability to many businesses. IoT incorporates different technology such as sensors, software and machine learning to collect data. This data can then be analysed and used to improve certain processes throughout the distribution process.
IoT technology can be used to better the experiences that you provide to your customers. Being able to enhance the experience distributors provide allows them to better compete in an already highly competitive market, not only in the UK but throughout the world.
IoT can be used to enhance areas of the distribution process including:
- Increased pick accuracy/quantity
- Improved inventory management
- Improved tracking and traceability of products
- Improved customer experiences
Automation is being able to automatically run simple and complex tasks or processes without the need for human interaction. This ultimately saves time and can also reduce errors within the system to ensure the accuracy of your data and to free up your employees so that they can utilise their time more efficiently.
Key tasks can be automated, although this relies on big data being involved. For instance in demand forecasting the data must be available in order for highly accurate forecasts to be produced. The higher the volume of data, the higher the degree of accuracy you can achieve across all automated processes. With AI/machine learning constantly improving, key areas of the distribution network where accuracy and efficiency is a challenge, will undoubtedly become more automated.
Areas of the distribution industry which can be automated include:
- Demand forecasting
- Inventory management
- Sales order processing
ERP software solutions for the distribution and warehousing industry allow your business to take control of your data and unlock the value it holds. Data visibility is a key challenge for many distributors which continues to hinder the success of many other areas including inventory management, demand forecasting and customer service capabilities and many more.
Gaining data visibility across different levels of employees, management and directors allows for better decision making. This can be achieved through the implementation of an ERP system which is directly tailored to your distribution or warehousing business. This can allow for:
- Reduced waste from over purchasing of stock
- Better decision making
- Better allocation of resources
- Reduce inventory management errors