The Era of Data Services


You work hard and most likely wear many hats. You should require the same of your data, and more specifically, you should expect the same from your technology partners who manage your data.

There is an outdated notion that suggests data is the new oil. This analogy might have been great if your data was dirty, difficult to find, could only be used once, and was controlled by a few powerful companies. Fortunately, nothing can be farther from the truth. Your data should always be available, easily accessible, controlled by you for your purposes, and used in as many different ways as you can imagine. Your data is more like the sun than oil. The sun is clean, cheap, always-on, and used limitless times in a variety of ways. This is how you should think of your data.

Welcome to the World of Data Services

Data Services offers you a technology to use the same data set repeatedly to deliver multiple value streams to your specific business. I specialize in supply chain and logistics data, and many supply chain professionals and technology companies want you to believe that data is all the same. They want you to accept that all you need to do is to apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to massive data repositories. Then you would be able to solve all of your global supply chain questions. Nevertheless, AI is not magic, it cannot solve all your problems, and ML is not easy and requires significant human iteration. Plus, the vast majority of data repositories built so far have not been very successful in our industry.

Data Services provides your operation with a full technology stack that ingests, harmonizes, and stores your data. This full-stack allows you to analyze your data at scale easily and enables you to use your data affordably and repeatedly. A Data Services approach is similar to a Data Hub, but it provides added benefits of simple data ingestion and visualization. Since Data Services provides value streams to your specific operation, it is essential to work with a partner who has the background knowledge of your operation and data structure. We specialize in logistics; examples of the services we provide to our customers are analytics, business process optimization, quality management, labor management, benchmarking, and data archiving. All of these services are possible if your technology partner understands your operation and the data generated by your business. You need a technology that merges a relevant data set with the industry-specific expertise to apply to that data. Doing so prevents you from having to continuously start from scratch, which will save you months of work.

How You Should Be Working with Your Data

The most effective (time and cost) way to work with your data is to work with someone who knows your business. Enterprise Data and Analytics companies have no idea what perfect order or labor productivity is, or how to calculate OTIF. It can be very costly to pay them to figure it out. Not to mention, traditional BI platforms are not architected to handle your data volume growth.

I once heard from a presenter at a Gartner Data and Analytics conference that all the BI vendors start with a “Blank Sheet” – If anyone ever says this to you, run away! It just means that they don’t understand your business, and you need to teach them. Sadly, this is how corporate data and analytics works. You will be much better off, both financially and operationally, working with a partner who understands your operations, your challenges, and brings properly built software.

As a recent example, our Data Services Platform, Rebus, was connected to one of our food manufacturing customer’s WMS networks across North America. Since we are experts in distribution technology, we understood that products on hold were being managed within their WMS. They asked us to show them all of their holds across their network, and within a week, we built a dashboard showing them their holds in real-time. Not only did we build a custom dashboard, but every user also had access to it (we don’t charge for users). We didn’t need to go back and ask questions or clarify what they meant. We knew exactly what fields to use to provide the report. Our customer was highly impressed to see all of their holds in real-time. They had never seen it before, but there was a slight problem.

The problem – we were connected to data from their distribution centers (that’s how we showed it to them); however, they needed to see it by manufacturing plant. We took another couple of days and extracted the plant ID from the lot code and showed it to them in the new format. They were blown away. We knew the exact report they needed, and we understood the data structure of the warehouse management system. As a result, we were able to deliver quickly without costly back and forth. That’s the power of data services!

My example is from the supply chain industry, but the principle applies to all sectors. Once you understand how to think about data and realize the value streams that Data Services can provide to your business, you will demand more from your data. You will also demand more from the partners and technology that you work with.

By: Alex Wakefield

Implementing Top Supply Chain Softwares

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