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A Data Scientist Can Only Be As Good As The Data They Have

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A Data Scientist Can Only Be As Good As The Data They Have

A Data Scientist Can Only Be As Good As

One of the reasons I invest so much time and resources of our company in keeping current with the information technology is that good supply chain depends almost entirely on good information.

And, your information is only as good as the technology deployed to collect, collate, store, parse and reproduce the information on demand.

It is no secret that most of our supply chain transformation projects are highly time intensive and heavily data driven.

We trust all participants in the supply chain, and we verify everything – from several angles.

However, if you have been working in freight cost reduction for over 30 years like I have been, you know the reality on ground. But that raises a big question about the data.

A Data Scientist Can Only Be As Good As The Data S/He Has.

In most projects the data is woefully inadequate – even today in 2016.

Rather than talk about our current freight cost reduction projects, I will give an example from several years ago (for sake of propriety and confidentiality I will disguise some details).

When our team completed the initial 8 week diagnostic on that project for an industrial corporation with $1.3 Billion supply chain, it was clear that despite heavy investment in SAP, supply chain data was far from adequate.

In fact for ocean shipping it was so inadequate that we had to employ temporary staff in to digitize a paper trail of transaction details in order to conduct our analysis.

I could probably spend another 5,000 words just writing about how difficult it was to get hold of the data, and then how difficult it was to verify the veracity of that SAP extracts.

After all my team was sharing their travails with me on a daily basis.

We had signed a fixed price 10 week contract for completing the work.

We anticipated the usual data problems for the first week or 2. What we did not anticipate was a 5 week run around to get hold of the SAP extract, and then another 2 weeks to verify its veracity.

As a result our team had to find additional resources, and time, to conduct a 6-7 week analysis in 3-4 weeks in order to meet the deadline for senior executive off-site meeting scheduled for the end of the diagnostic.

I asked the team to make full record of all the inadequacies they found in the SAP set-up so that we could provide recommendations on system upgrade to facilitate good supply chain planning, control and decision making.

While this was not something our company worked on, and it was not even part of the project brief, it was going to be extremely useful for future SAP upgrades in the company.

The Limits Of Any Machine Are Only Discovered When It Is Being Used At Its Limits on Data Scientist

(Now that upgrade is a subject for another blog, at some other time). It was clear to all that SAP was set-up mainly for financial reporting purposes, and supply chain management was an afterthought to the transaction recording.

As a result, the system did a marvelous job of providing aggregate data on financial well-being of the organisation. It also facilitated adequate drilling-down of financial transactions.

Yet linking those financial details to actual supply chain movements was less than adequate.

In fact, for ocean shipping, nearly 25 hand-over points in the transaction workflow were all aggregated into one single SAP transaction.

Our team diligently recorded all the issues with supply chain transaction processing that we found during our strategic diagnostics of supply chain.

Several pages of tables similar to the one below were cross-checked, verified and created.

Some Way of Data Scientist

Global Supply Chain Group - werae

Not just that, an annex report with high level requirements for future upgrade of SAP was also created, even though this was not part of our original project brief. Unfortunately, I am disinclined to publicly share even sanitized version of a sample extract out of this report .

Privately, I Might Be Able To Share Sanitized Extracts In Case Your Team Is Going Through A Process Of Making Your SAP Installation More User Friendly To Your Digitized Supply Chain.

I chose this case example for several reasons.

Firstly, it has gone through a full cycle of business and information technology outcomes, which are now well known. On business side our supply chain transformation project was a massive success.

In fact the global head of supply chain (who later became the CEO) wrote this in the foreword to one of my books:

When I engaged Vivek’s services for supply chain transformation in one of the companies I was heading, we expected the careful and methodical approach that he was famous for.

Outsourcing was only one of the components of our supply chain, and at the time we did not think it was even a particularly important one.

I was already convinced that critical business turnaround can only be achieved by taking an end-to-end supply chain approach to this transformation.

I was pleased to note that the original target set for 3 years was surpassed by almost 70% in just 18 months – providing graphic evidence of the full power of these ideas in action.

On the information technology side, the supply chain requirements were never fully translated into a usable system resource base.

I will not go into the reasons in this blog. SAP has since invested in Ariba – a procurement management software.

Unfortunately, the confusion between procurement and supply chain management continues to persist.

A number of journalists, and even business professionals use the terms interchangeably. On the IT side the supply chain workflow still remains inadequately supported.

Limits of Data Scientist

Global Supply Chain Group - awsome

A few newer companies are starting to crop up, yet a great majority of them (to some degree) seem to be falling into the same traps that their predecessors fell into above.

In my next blog I will cover this in more detail. Meanwhile, share your experience with SAP, Ariba or other so called supply chain transaction processing software systems.

Not only will you add to the accumulated IP on supply chain system, but also you may earn a copy of the book quoted above.

You Can Find Comments On My Experience With Freight Cost Reduction Using Supply Chain Software On LinkedIn.

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Copyright - These concepts, frameworks and ideas are copyright of GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN GROUP from the time of their creation. Do NOT copy these without permission and proper attribution.

Notes:

1. These ideas and concepts will be usually expressed by our thought leaders in multiple forums - conferences, speeches, books, reports, workshops, webinars, videos and training. You may have heard us say the same thing before.

2. The date shown above the article refers to the day when this article was updated. This blog post or article may have been written anytime prior to that date.

3. All anecdotes are based on true stories to highlight the key points of the article - some details are changed to protect identification of the parties involved.

4. You are encouraged to comment below - your real identity and email will not be revealed when your comment is displayed. Insightful comments will be featured, and will win a copy of one of our books. Please keep the comments relevant, decorous and respectful of everyone. All comments represent opinions of the commentators.

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Table of Contents

ABOUT THE PRINCIPAL AUTHOR

Today, Vivek and his partners are among 20-30 people on the planet earth who have this deep understanding of supply chain systems, practices and tools. CEOs, COOs, executives and Boards call them in most challenging situations once they know the full potential of supply chain based transformations. Following are key milestones in Vivek's journey:

  • Started in 1983 as a merchant navy cadet at 18 years age, worked his way to qualify as a Captain – qualified to take command of any merchant ship, worldwide.
  • Earned a top tier MBA from UNSW at the top of his class.
  • Joined highly regarded strategy consulting firm Booz Allen & Hamilton, consulting to the CEOs, Boards and senior management of global corporations within Australia.
  • To learn and specialise in supply chain – against all odds, sought out the co-inventor of supply chain in Germany and convinced him to be a partner in his firm, GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN GROUP, launched in January 2000.
  • More than 500 successful blue chip projects with high impact business transformations in large corporations using the full power of SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT.
  • 4 Seminal and path breaking business books IN SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT – these are available in bookstores and universities and libraries worldwide.

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WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

Our Clients say it better than we ever could:

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OUR CLIENTS

Our Clients come from a variety of industries – yet they have a common element. They rarely rest on their laurels, and are always looking to do better.

OUR PROJECTS - EFFECTIVE TRANSFORMATIONS

In the last 20 years we have completed more than 500 projects. Click below to see a sample of our projects.

OUR TESTIMONIALS

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Our Books

5.0
5/5

THE 5-STAR BUSINESS NETWORK

If you are deeply passionate about the world of business and supply chain networks as I am, and enjoy digging answers to critical questions that will help build and steer your business with wisdom, then join me. This book is a journey of exploration through the world of business networks that run along the veins of today’s commercial world.

4.3
4.3/5

OUTPERFORM OUTSOURCE OUTPROFIT

The trend of outsourcing continues to grow unabated with the whole gamut of services, from simple to mission-critical tasks. There is not a single company on earth that does not outsource anything. It is not just about cost arbitrage, it is also a finer expression of division of labour at the organisational level. Like all leverage, outsourcing is a double-edged sword too. On one hand, it allows you to do more, faster. On the other hand, if it goes bad, it can easily kill your business. If you do not believe that is possible – you can google the Fox Meyer saga from the 90s and see for yourself.

4.3
4.3/5

UNCHAIN YOUR CORPORATION

Businesses Are Chained By Unseen Chains. If You Are Looking For Ways To “Unchain Your Corporation” A Successful Business Transformation Is Required.

Successful Business Transformations Are Difficult, Yet Rewarding.

Business Transformation Is Fast Becoming A Question Of Survival In The Modern Globalised Era.

Modern Supply Chains Integrate Businesses And Economies Faster By Systematic Information Sharing From Internal And External Sources.

Companies Can Multiply Profits By Progressively Ramping Up Cohesion And Collaboration Of All Moving Parts In B2B Network To Achieve Tighter Integration.

4.3
4.3/5

GREEN SUPPLY CHAIN – AN ACTION MANIFESTO

It is generally accepted that environmental consciousness is now changing to environmental proactiveness as organizations are discovering that it makes good commercial sense.

Boards are asking the management to review their policies related to environmental norms, not only to bolster their corporate social responsibility aims, but also because consumers are asking for greener supply chains

It is also widely agreed that consumers will increasingly prefer to buy more and even pay more for products or services provided in an environmentally sound manner.

FOR SENIOR EXECUTIVES AND DIRECTORS

YOUR HIGHEST VALUE ADDED IN YOUR COMPANY

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