RESEARCH@DBTA: Where’s the Data? Three-Fourths of Supply Chains Suffer From Data Blind Spots

Data makes the world go round, but there are gaps in the data needed to make the products and raw materials that move around the world.

Unforeseen events around the globe—such as weather, wars, ships running aground, or infrastructure issues such as the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse that closed the main shipping lane in and out of the Port of Baltimore—can wreak havoc with even the most carefully planned supply chains.

It isn’t just the major events. Relatively minor issues such as software glitches or shifts in consumer demand can throw supply chains into chaos. That’s why companies are increasingly relying on data—prefer- ably real-time data—to be able to predict and assess potential situations and invoke alternatives to keep their pipelines moving. It’s important to keep data pipelines moving as well.

More than three-fourths of supply chain, inventory, and planning executives (76%) report they are hindered by critical blind spots in their data and lack the predictive insights needed to make decisions.

That’s one of the takeaways from a recent survey of 250 supply chain, inventory, and planning executives by Wakefield Research done on behalf of LeanDNA, which finds manual processes are slowing down the movement of data through their organizations.

Supply-chain workers can spend, on average, 35% of their time manually entering, tracking, or managing data, the survey shows. “This represents nearly 14 hours—almost two full workdays each week,” the study’s authors added. “These are outdated and unnecessary manual tasks that take away from proactive supply chain management—raising concerns that they’ll be unable to keep up in the turbulent 2024 ahead.”

While 82% report having some level of a real-time view of supply and demand, less than 1 in 4 (24%) have a predictive view, giving those companies a leg up when it comes to being able to act and make decisions based on the insights.

With a lack of a predictive view of supply and demand, more than 9 in 10 executives (92%) are relying on their gut instincts to make decisions at least some of the time.

Providing access to real-time data can open up greater predictive and analytical power to supply chain decision makers and workers. Executives see many benefits of having access to real-time data to inform their business decisions, including improved logistics and inventory management (47%), the ability to identify changes in demand (45%), enhanced collaboration (44%), and better planning ability (43%).

Real-time data is considered essential to today’s supply chains, but it must be linked to pressing business requirements. Tellingly, this remains an elusive goal, the survey finds. Executives appreciate real-time data, but more than 4 in 5 (82%) agree that the effort their organization must go through to generate real-time data is a waste of time if that real-time data does not provide actionable insights for decision making.

Nearly all executives (96%) report barriers to using real-time data to make decisions. The main concerns center on organizational preparedness versus technical concerns.

More than half (58%) cite budgetary issues: The cost to implement is the number-one barrier to real-time data. Similarly, the skills and training needed to support real-time data pipelines is a barrier for 55% of respondents.