A balanced approach to Big Data

It might be in the news for nefarious reasons with social media sites, but Big Data has a huge role to play in the Channel
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By Carl Oxley – managing director, Westcoast Retail

By Carl Oxley – managing director, Westcoast Retail

Let’s talk about Big Data for a moment. Certainly not limited to the supply chain industry, its benefits for businesses have resulted in mass adoption from companies of all sectors and sizes. Allowing for an unparalleled collecting and applying of data, it’s no surprise that it has become such a phenomenon in recent years. Despite this, there are two questions that continue to be asked; how well do we truly understand it, and what is the best way to integrate it into the supply chain?

Big Data is generally defined as the massive volume of both structured and unstructured data that requires extraordinary methods to process it properly. Despite this general consensus, there is some debate as to what actually constitutes Big Data. It’s still a relatively new entry in the world of tech and distribution, and requires greater understanding before we start applying it more comprehensively. There have also been a few problems that have cropped up, such as technical issues, the need to invest in software and hardware and security risks, which have sewn some feelings of doubt among adopters.

Let’s not detract totally from the fact that Big Data offers a number of benefits that will prove revolutionary for our industry. Key among these are its ability to provide unique insights into market trends, customer buying patterns, and maintenance cycles, as well as ultimately lowering costs. Such data allows for more accurate forecasting and a great bank of knowledge and application of the data collated in real time, all of which will improve our efficiency and accuracy. In short, Big Data will allow us to do a better job and improve the services we provide.

In order to achieve this, it is crucial that we ensure we act as consultants and experts in our fields and apply Big Data as it best suits us and our clients. At Westcoast Retail, we believe the value in such tech is in its combination with the human experience and data collected in-store. Our years of working in the industry has taught us to value the work and feedback of our staff on the ground and apply this along with new technology. We have found that this balanced approach has enabled us to deliver a second-to-none service.

As the supply chain becomes more competent with using Big Data and applying it in the proper manner, there’s no doubt in our mind that its time will come. We need a clearer idea of what we want from it, and until we are able to maximise its potential for our line of work, its benefits will always be somewhat restricted.

As a company, our whole proposition is built on value and the importance of the human experience in logistics and the supply chain. We will continue to combine this with Big Data to continue to deliver the best service possible. The race to the bottom in terms of price cannot negate the value of the service provided and, for now at least, we believe that a combination of experience and data is the most effective way of using Big Data.  

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