Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Big data!

(Thanks to The Planet for the picture of the working side of their data center)

Supply Chain Managers are awash in more data than ever before.  Each system implementation or process change is likely to create more granular information than previously thought possible.  This explosion of data comes as we may still be managing through legacy system issues remaining from acquisitions, 'not quite perfect' system implementations, poor master data management, or several other data challenges (do you have hardware that wasn't scaled to handle the amount of data you're now creating?  You're not alone)  - welcome to the Age of Big Data.

At the eyefortransport 14th Annual Logistics CIO & Supply Chain Technology Forum this afternoon I heard six Supply Chain thought leaders participate in a panel discussion on "Visibility, Technology and Methodology for achieving End to End Visibility".  Jeff Jones, VP of IS at UPS conveyed that UPS has petabytes of data (I think it was petabytes, it might have been exabytes or zettabytes, I know it was a very large number).  Try to imagine the amount of data UPS creates every day - every container they move, every order they pick, every parcel they sort, ship and deliver.  There are datapoints collected from their own systems, their transportation partners (subcontracted ocean, air, rail and truck freight), GPS tracking information on their rolling assets, structured data and unstructured data (images of bills of lading in addition to electronic file transmissions), they must literally be drowning in data.

Well, maybe not drowning in it.  Jeff also said that UPS is investing just under a billion dollars (billion with a B) in IT this year and much of it is focused on supply chain visibility - using all of that data to drive supply chain improvements.

Are you thinking that UPS is in a different league?  Your organization doesn't have a billion (with a B) dollars to invest in IT this year?  Well, neither does mine but that can't stop us from making progress.  I draw your attention to the City of Chicago's data portal which has a wealth of datasets easily accessible for ad hoc reporting via browser as well as API.  The City of Chicago isn't bursting with cash to spend on frivolous IT projects and it's just about the last place I'd expect to see implementation of systems that drive data visibility but they've done it.

What are your organization's plans for harnessing big data?  What types of data challenges do you commonly run into as a Supply Chain Manager?

1 comment:

  1. As my company sends more and more engineering work around the world, we're faced with moving vast amounts of data quickly. One solution is to maintain caching servers at various locations around the world, essentially increasing our inventory of data, because we otherwise can't move it fast enough.