Supply chain management: dealing with data

Published on October 29, 2020   17 min

Other Talks in the Series: Logistics Management

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Supply Chain Management: Dealing With Data, presented by Dr. Darren Prokop, professor of logistics, University of Alaska Anchorage.
What is supply chain management? It is the linkage of organizations in order to meet some strategic goal. Linkages could be achieved through contractual relationships or through mergers and acquisitions. Linkages could be more informal and involve a joint venture or a strategic alliance covering a more limited business activity. In any case, the intent of supply chain management is to foster trusting relationships whereby the partners are more valuable together than apart.
Raw materials, subassemblies, finished goods, as tangible items are part of a value-adding process as they proceed downstream along a supply chain. Support services as intangible items also provide value as they proceed downstream. Of course, one item that proceeds back and forth between supply chain managers is information. Information is one of the foundations that support all markets and all the transactions that take place between buyers and sellers. Today, a lot of information is formulated using an abundant raw material called data.
Data is like oil, a gusher of numbers, signals, or other collected facts. The number of bytes i.e. digital representations of a letter, a number, or a symbol generated per day is in the quintillions. Where is the source of all this data? It is everywhere. It comes from every person with a smartphone, every item affixed with a barcode or a radio frequency identification, RFID tag, every vehicle, machine, and household appliance connected to the internet. They all generate data- a virtual power source. The earlier industrial revolutions were powered by water, steam, electricity, and oil. Like oil, data is of little use unless it is refined i.e. processed into something valuable and actionable. Data turned into information is akin to oil being turned into, say, fuel or plastic. Likewise, information turned into knowledge is akin to developing a deep understanding of the socio-economic implications of how fuel facilitates the proliferation of transportation networks throughout the world, or developing an understanding of how plastics have made both industrial and household activities more convenient and less costly at the same time.