logistics digitization

Shipment is gone – data must stay

Businesses are digitizing their supply chains step by step. Why it is important to look beyond operational efficiency to ensure future success.

Data maintenance and record administration are definitely not sexy topics to talk about. Hearing about latest technological advances in supply chain management – for example in robotics or drone development – is surely more attractive and fascinating. But just because something is not cool does not mean it’s not important – a fact, by the way, that’s also valid for many other areas of life.

So, I’d like to share with you today why data management capabilities are an important aspect when looking for new software solutions in global trade and logistics. It may be a neglected area of scrutiny in the process, but it is an important part of the whole package just the same.

Caught up in the digitization challenge

Everyone seems to have (more or less 😉 ) woken up to the age of digitization. It’s on every company’s agenda these days and annual budget provisions are also made for it in supply chain management. So, in the midst of highly dynamic and competitive markets, supply chain managers need to strike the right balance between delivering excellent service on a daily basis and at the same time driving digitization and building the right foundations for future success.

As a result, it has become a great priority to come up with the best possible IT landscape to deliver both: support today’s challenges and also cater for tomorrow’s demand. Part of this process is a thorough analysis of current system environments in global trade and logistics. 

Examining these IT landscapes involves a comprehensive map of involved systems, their accessibility, number of providers, internal and external users, integration scenarios, business requirements, and more. It’s definitely a complex picture that emerges. What is the best set-up for high performance, low costs, and full compliance? And which IT provider is the best to partner with?

Looking at this thicket of systems, parties, data flows, and business requirements, I admit it’s fairly easy to overlook the area of data maintenance and record administration when discussing options and talking to potential new providers. After all, the focus is on running and expanding the business – who cares about historic data, right?

Once the job is done, no one cares about the data?

Nope, not right – wrong, very wrong in fact. Data management and record maintenance is definitely worth a second look because it very much impacts both your business today and that of tomorrow. It also involves all areas of your supply chain – not just those with legal data and record keeping requirements.

Just because the shipment was delivered, the customer is happy, and the market share is up, it does not mean that the job of the data is done. And it matters very much if your new IT provider can manage your transactional business data along the supply chain seamlessly, efficiently, securely, and compliantly – for as long as and in whichever form the business needs it. Some areas this applies to include:

Planning and forecasting

Analyzing and evaluating historic data is essential to understand and learn from performance indicators, trends, and developments – all of which are required to, for example, successfully run the business, staff operations, forecast volumes, and negotiate new contracts. Unless you want to grope blindly in the dark, of course, and hope for good guesses ;). My colleague Torsten Mallée has published several posts on the related topic “big data” in this context on this platform – just search for the topic here in our magazine, if you are interested.

Legal obligations

And, of course, data management also involves legal aspects and record keeping requirements by law – all different kinds of them across the globe. Depending on the sensitive nature of documents, these record-keeping requirements often average at about 10 years – while considering applicable data privacy laws. Any new IT solution must be capable to meet relevant requirements for all areas of your supply chain – including collecting data from other supply chain partners and systems, if needed.

Compliance audits

In addition, international supply chains include many regulatory requirements in the area of customs management and export controls. All imports and export deliveries as well as associated documentation are subject to frequent audits and compliance checks by customs authorities around the globe. 

When considering new IT providers for global trade, ensure to ask for compliance beyond the initial global trade process and confirm the availability of revision-safe archiving features to pass audits in all markets without preparation or additional efforts.

Single source benefits and asking the right questions

So basically, to master the challenges along a supply chain both today and in the future, you need to consider data flow optimization, data evaluation, and data maintenance in addition to all your other business requirements.

Naturally, the fewer systems are deployed along a supply chain or the higher the level of integration between deployed systems is, the higher is the level of data integrity. This not only prevents errors and ensures data accuracy, it also enables the data to flow smoothly and to be processed and managed efficiently throughout the entire supply chain.

And we all know what a hassle it is – and a costly one at that – to come across data discrepancies, wrong file locations, missing data, expired data, or simply data that has not been processed and presented in the way the business needs it – be it to manage daily operations, or plan for the future.

So, when talking to potential new IT partners for your supply chain – don’t forget that the job of the data is not done once your customer has been served. Make sure to consider the future of your business and include IT providers in your selection process that offer modular supply chain software suites and own data centers – like AEB 😉 – with powerful functionalities to support your operations in all areas of logistics and global trade, and to efficiently and compliantly analyze and manage data even long after your goods have been delivered.

I look forward to your comments on LinkedIn.