Data-driven supply chains: improving your excursion rate and temperature performance in 5 steps
Data-driven supply chains
Good data helps tell the stories that we often struggle to see. For example, one of the main issues faced by supply chain, logistics and temperature management professionals is the number of excursions that occur when products arrive at their destination. Having more visibility and automating more of the manual processes that characterize activities at these warehouses or sites can not only increase site efficiency but reduce the number of costly quarantines too.
But where is the best place to start? Our colleague supply chain data expert, Marina Mladenovic, works with supply chain managers on using their data to drive improvements in their logistical processes.
Here are Marina’s five key steps:
Cleaning your data
The amount of data that companies are able to collect about their processes, internal resources and end users has never been greater. But without structure, this growing pool of raw data is not much use. And with a growing number of devices, data streams and users feeding into them, these pools of data are only going to get bigger.
A critical first step in increasing data efficiency is making sure that your data-collection processes are set up in a way that is going to help you achieve your goals. Often, this means cleaning up your databases and internal systems.
“I always recommend that clients take a look at the data they have before trying to collect more,” says Marina. “Often there are a huge number of duplications, inactive user accounts, outdated or incorrect data that are actively hampering the ability of these teams to enable effective data analytics.”
Automation is reducing the need for manual data input too. This not only reduces the amount of time needed to update and maintain datasets, but can also make its simpler to provide decision makers with a continuous stream of high-quality supply chain data.
Understanding your data
Implementing automation into the data-collection process can mean that information on regular shipments and freight forwarders can be added to the database. This makes comparing the performance of individual shipments and identifying areas that could be improved much simpler. This is one example of starting to use structured data to understand what is happening in the real world.
When your data is easily accessible and organised, you can begin to drill down to see specific locations or shipping partners. For shipments with multiple routes and temperature limitations, this removes the guesswork if an excursion does occur and allows you to move to address issues much faster.
“Companies need to specify their targets and what exactly they need to know in order to achieve them,” says Marina. “A common problem for supply chains, and temperature management in particular, is that people often don’t have a clear view of what the issues actually are. Without clear visibility, it’s much harder to create effective strategies for reducing excursions going forward.”
Developing data-driven strategies
Sites experience a range of different challenges and issues when it comes to temperature management. While there are some common best practice steps all sites can take, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that is going to work. This is where having accurate data really starts to add value. For example, in really hot locations, simply leaving product storage out in the sun while uploading for a few minutes can trigger an alarm. And while this excursion is unlikely to result in the need for a product recall or reshipment, it could necessitate a lengthy quarantine.
“Having data on specific sites and shipment routes lets us create tailored solutions to specific problems,” says Marina. “We may need to work closely with site teams to deliver targeted training solutions based on the issues they are having.”
Addressing weak points in your supply chain
At TSS, we help our clients with regular reporting on how their sites are performing. We then help them use this temperature monitoring data to address issues within their supply chains. One example of this is route and storage optimization. Often relatively small adjustments to the way that products are packaged during shipment, delivered to, and stored can have large-scale impacts on the number of excursions taking place.
But enabling clients to utilize their data is also critical. “We develop tailored data analytics and business intelligence dashboards for our clients based on their needs,” says Marina. “Ultimately, working with clients to develop their internal capabilities is what is really going to drive down the excursion rates in their supply chains.”
Building continuous improvement into your operations
Once your data is actively helping you optimize the delivery, storage and distribution processes of your supply chain and sites, you should start seeing some benefits. It’s important not to lose momentum though. Embedding the idea of continuous data review and process improvement into your regular business decision making is what separates innovators and market leaders from the rest of the sector.
“The dashboards we create for clients are important tools for enabling them to identify issues and implement solutions to address them,” says Marina. “When all of your data is locked up in complex spreadsheets and databases it can be hard to see changes as they occur. By pulling that data out and making it simple to understand, you don’t just remove manual work but you actively increase organizational agility.”
Innovations in temperature monitoring and IoT are helping pharma companies to see exactly what is happening at every stage of their supply chains. At TSS, we are working with the industry to help turn temperature data into actionable insight that reduces costs, site burden and waste and ultimately delivers better outcomes for patients.