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Warehouse Data

Staying Afloat When It Feels Like You’re Drowning in Data

Sept. 21, 2020
Learn how to ignore the data you don’t need and focus only on what’s important to your supply chain right now.

We live in a data-driven world. It can be mind-boggling when you stop and think about just how much data there is in the world. In 2018, market intelligence company IDC estimated that the total of all data created, captured and replicated had reached 18 zettabytes, and would grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025.

To help the average brain understand this number, the IDC report said that if you stored 175 zettabytes of data on DVDs, the stack of DVDs would reach the moon 23 times or circle the Earth 222 times.

That’s a lot of data. Luckily, for the purposes of this article, we can forget about that number and only focus on the data in the supply chain. Unfortunately, that amount of data, while presumably much smaller, can still be overwhelming. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to evolve and our supply chain becomes more connected, we are continually creating and uncovering new pockets of data that can be gathered and analyzed.

It’s no surprise that many fleet and supply chain managers feel like they are drowning in data. Thankfully, there is a simple solution to help keep your head above the rising tide of data: ignore the data you don’t need and focus only on what’s important to you and your operation right now. Prioritizing your data can provide a lifeline when it feels like you are drowning.

To help you prioritize your data and focus only on what’s important, the following are three questions you should ask.

1. What are your current capabilities?

There is a lot of data that can be gathered and analyzed about your forklift fleet. It is now possible to collect data on everything from performance and health to utilization and operator behavior. The only limit is your current technology and capabilities.

First and foremost, are your forklifts connected and do you have a fleet management system? If yes to both, you can work with your provider to determine which capabilities and functionality best allow you to capture the data you need. If your fleet is not connected through a fleet management system, it may be time to consider one. There are options available that allow you to take a phased approach, so you can start small and add or unlock capabilities as your fleet grows and your needs change.

2. What objective(s) do you want to achieve?

To realize tangible supply chain benefits with data analytics, you need to identify and establish clear goals that align with your company’s business priorities. You are more likely to succeed in your endeavor if you are utilizing data to achieve or solve a specific goal or issue.

Initially, you will want to tackle no more than a couple objectives at a time. As you make progress and achieve these goals, you can expand your efforts and data gathering. Objectives can include strengthening compliance, increasing efficiency, improving productivity, enhancing safety, reducing impacts, optimizing utilization, and reducing service costs. As fleet management systems advance, possible objectives promise to be only limited by your imagination.

3. How are you going to share and use the data?

You need a fleet management system and provider that enables you to consolidate the data and deliver it to people (e.g., operators, service technicians, supervisors, and human resources) who need it in a way that is useful and supports decision making. You also need to have processes and tools in place to help analyze data, allowing for the sharing of actionable information to the right people who can address issues most accurately and efficiently.

Establish a plan to institute accountability and action. Put in place the processes, resources, support (internal and external), and commitment to help ensure decisions are made and actions are taken based on what the data is showing.

We see companies generally falling into one of three areas when to comes to this question:

● They only use the data within the application and standard reports.

● They rely on analytics or business intelligence tools supplied by a vendor.

● They import data via an application programming interface (API) or secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) so they can do their own analytics using internal tools and applications.

As your connected facility puts more data at your fingertips, it is easy to quickly become overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin. The key is to only focus on the data you need and ignore the rest. Answering these three questions will help you better identify the data that is important to your operation and use it to make decisions that will keep your supply chain moving.

Collin Rush is general manager, Crown Insite customer support, with forklift manufacturer Crown Equipment.

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