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Data visualisation being used to optimise supply chains

DANEEL VISSER Companies must understand how data affects the business and think about how a data strategy will support their business strategy

Supply chain solutions specialist Resolve Solution Partners leverages its technology platforms and systems to simulate various permutations and changes to clients’ logistics processes to develop solutions to problems and improve on current business models.

Data visualisation is a powerful tool that enables supply chain professionals to manipulate models and test cases quickly and intuitively while remaining grounded in real-world data derived from customers.

“Optimisation of supply chains cannot be divorced from underlying business cases and the changes over time to clients, demands and processes,” says Resolve Analytics GM Daneel Visser.

“The ability to digitally model different solutions and routes means we can serve clients more effectively and present them with proposals based on their own data and not on academic or theoretical models.

The Internet of Things will also change how supply chains operate and connect, and the evidence points towards significantly increased automation. In the UK, in December, for example, the first fully autonomous delivery was picked and packed by robots and then flown by drone to a customer.”

New systems and trends, including the growth in data, will significantly change the skills required of businesses and supply chain planners, explains Visser.

“It is important to understand how data impacts on our business and the customers we are working for. Companies will have to start thinking about how a data strategy will support their business strategy.”

Resolve uses client data to simulate various elements of supply chain optimisation, a key element of the solutions it provides.

Finding the right skills in the analytics space can, however, be a challenge. A report by global research firm McKinsey found that, in 2011, in the US alone, there was a shortfall of about 150 000 skilled analytics workers. In South Africa, the deficit is more marked and brings with it a commensurate increase in skills costs.

“It is very important, therefore, to develop deep talent pools and not rely only on people with statistics skills, but rather to pair people who have the right business skills with those who have the right statistical skills to get the full value from analytics systems.”

Resolve’s strategy of combining detailed, technical business knowledge and experience with statistical and analytical skills enables it to develop in-house talent pools, while supporting its operational strategies and growth plans.

Visser highlights the difference between business intelligence and analytics. Business intelligence tools provide information, but do not enable the user to determine why these figures are different or what the underlying drivers are that resulted in changes.

“Analytics plays an important role in deriving value from data. An effective analytics solution should, therefore, have a strong element of customer engagement, and facilitate an in-depth analysis and understanding of how to improve client processes. Analytics programs should, therefore, ideally reside within operational divisions and not just reside within the IT division.”