The big unifying trend in supply-chain planning, according to Greenbaum, can be summed up thusly: "data and information." Enormous quantities of it are residing inside and outside the organization, whether automated, human-generated or emanating from social media.
“Big data” is the buzzphrase of the moment, but Greenbaum prefers the term “big analysis.” It’s all about the quality of the data and how it’s analyzed, he says. And it doesn’t require huge volumes of data in order to reach valuable conclusions.
“I’ve seen in numerous environments people starting to think in unique ways about relatively small amounts of data,” Greenbaum says, adding that “accumulating data just for the sake of having it is a bad idea.”
Miles says the data available to companies today is not only more plentiful, but is taking a greater variety of forms. Greenbaum adds that the Internet of Things is about companies combining industrial and sensor data with that originating from within the organization.
Ramirez cites as one of planners’ biggest challenges today the availability of “so much rich data from so many directions.” The question, though, is “What data do you really need? That depends on your business strategy, and the outcomes that you want to derive.”
The huge volumes of data available to companies today raise the possibility of “data paralysis.” They can find themselves inundated with information, without a sense of its accuracy or relevance. Miles says it’s important to “point a spotlight on where that data needs to improve.” A problem for companies up to now, he says, is a lack of a consistent means of bringing all relevant data to a single location and making it visible across the network.
Ramirez says Trinity Rail found simulation to be a more important initiative than factory optimization. The company needed to devise multiple scenarios and model its business according to a variety of possible outcomes. Only then could it “collaborate to determine what we’re going to make and when.”
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