I interviewed Richard Sharpe who discussed Realizing True Value Out of Analytics.
Can you provide a brief background of yourself?
Certainly. My formal training is in Operations Research Industrial Engineering, and I have been involved with analytics for 27 years. I started after my graduate work at Georgia Tech to work for AT&T Western Electric, then moved down to what was to become BellSouth, the regulated Bell Operating Companies for the Southeast part of the U.S..My assignment was in the area of analytics and creating supply chain systems for supply chain operations for the company, I then left that assignment to became president of CAPS Logistics. CAPS was the forerunner for Supply Chain Optimization.
At CAPS we began the application world of looking at different ways that people could redesign their networks and be more efficient for companies like Coca-Cola, Waste Management, and other companies. So, I've been in the field for quite a long time.
Competitive Insights is now focused on taking analytics to a higher level, and truly trying to make them part of everyday decisions in a company.
How should supply chain data be used effectively?
That's a great question. Supply chain data has a wealth of information. It's truly a gold mine if it can be used correctly. If you think about products that are being sourced or manufactured anywhere in the world, through all the ways that they traverse the operating network and move into each of the regions where they are being sold, there's a lot of data associated with the movement of those products and the other activities associated with operating the supply chain network, until finally they get to the actual delivery to the end customer.
So, being about to effectively handle that data, to look at ways to better manage the business, and especially in new and growing fields like e-commerce is going to be the difference between winning and losing for a lot of companies.
So, supply chain data is a great source of that information if you can use it effectively in the various forms of analytics that are appropriate for your business.
Why isn't it being done?
Another great question. If you think about the operation of any company, generally speaking, that operation has a variety of different systems that are involved. You'll have your point of sales systems, you'll have, obviously, your transportation systems, third parties that are involved in helping you run your supply chain, and then all of your warehouse management and other systems. So, there's a whole host of systems. And even when companies have ERP systems, Enterprise Resource Planning Systems, it's very rare that all of the data that is associated with that operation is in that one system.
So, we find silos of data. Especially if the company has been built through acquisition, they may have different versions of software. And people have found it to be difficult get that kind of significant value because of the fact that the data is siloed.
The second big issue is a handicap in the process of gaining consensus on the data. Even if a company has a way to tie the data together and be able to create that one version of the truth, getting the organization to have consensus that the information is correct is another major hurdle.
It's one thing to be able to have all the data together. It's another to make sure that people are going to trust the information. Because if they don't trust the information, then it's really not actionable because people will question the decisions that are being made. And you'll find yourself being in somewhat of a stalled pattern, if you will.
So, those are two major obstacles that are handicaps but can certainly be overcome if you put your focus on those efforts.
Can you share where you have seen some success?
Absolutely. What we've seen with regard to really getting value out of analytics is across multiple industries. I'll site two.
One is in specialty apparel. When you think about how fast the actual products can change in specialty apparel, and the fact that they have very extended supply chains. Specialty apparel has to manage the sourcing of the cloth, cutting centers, etc., as it goes through the actual finish good process in addition to the other supply chain consideration. It is a very complex supply chain. And being able the have the visibility of understanding the cost components associated with all of those by every product that you're actually bringing to the market can be a huge gain. Understanding not only how performance is working in one channel versus another from a profit or financial perspective, but also thinking to the future with regard to if we make certain changes, what can they anticipate seeing in a particular style or a particular channel's performance.So, specialty apparel has been a really big area to adopt this.
Another one is specialty pharma. It's a completely different type of supply chain. You have cold chain. You have a variety of different requirements in order to be able to handle pharmaceutical products. But again, the same thing about having visibility when it goes across channels, being able to use the data from a variety of different sources. And then being really smart about making decisions with regard to how to increase the service for customers while also increasing profitability.
Another big area that I'm sure that a lot of people would be interested in is e-commerce. As we all know, that is rapidly growing area for most businesses. And a lot of people are trying to think through how to get their hands around e-commerce, how to actually make money at e-commerce. So having this type of visibility and using the appropriate analytics to help answer the questions is a huge advantage of companies to embrace that and take advantage of that.
Well, thank you for sharing today, Richard. I look forward to staying in touch for if you have other topics that we could share with the community.
Thank you, Dustin. I'd be more than happy to do that. I do appreciate your time.
About Richard Sharpe
CEO at Competitive Insights, LLC