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Data Strategy: A Manufacturing and Distribution Imperative

In an era where data consolidation and analysis are vital to the success of a business, navigating the development of an organization’s data strategy and structure to outpace competitors can be challenging. For middle market manufacturing and distribution companies, leveraging the right systems and reporting tools can yield valuable insights and cost savings, propelling them to the next level.

Data Is Power

Data holds immense power, especially when it is available in real-time and accessible to the appropriate individuals within an organization. Everything in terms of data can be at a company’s fingertips, but the key question is whether business leaders have the right team members looking at data points which motivates them and drives behaviors intended to bring more value to their customers, enhance relationships, and establish higher levels of trust. For instance, while reports revealing variances in standard costs may be important to finance and procurement team members, account executives want to know if enough inventory will be available to meet their customer's forecasted demand next month. If not, they need to know what is in the production pipeline to meet that demand. Getting the right data from the right source and into the right hands often involves aggregating that data in a structured manner from multiple systems. Powerful analytics and data visualization tools, such as Microsoft Power BI, can easily combine data sources to provide real-time operational insights tailored to specific organizational roles.

Systems Over Spreadsheets

The data needed to grow and scale manufacturing and distribution organizations has never been more accessible than it is today. However, as an organization grows, so do its data sources, models, and data volume. Therefore, the structure and integrity of that data becomes critical as it can simplify the process of establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics necessary to make pivotal business decisions. There is nothing that immediately improves operational efficiency and allows more time to innovate than a well-designed report or dashboard utilizing accurate data.

Additionally, the accessibility and influence of artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more prevalent by the day, and embracing this technology is essential for businesses to thrive and maintain a competitive edge. This shift implies that relying on spreadsheets to consume and analyze substantial amounts of data is no longer acceptable. Modern business solutions and analytics tools have already begun to evolve to promote holistic data structures that encompass all the reporting elements required to make sound business decisions.

Consider what happens when a business manufactures, sells, and distributes a product to their customer. They may need to track numerous data points, including the:

  • Ship date
  • Serial or lot number
  • Subcomponents
  • Aftermarket products
  • Versions
  • Warranty claims
  • Service ticket information

It does not stop there. What if that product also generates data that end customers can subscribe to? That is a tremendous opportunity but requires a data strategy and structure that support it.

Ensuring that data is stored in the appropriate system—for example, a customer relationship management (CRM) system, enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, manufacturing execution system (MES), or product lifecycle management (PLM) system—and structure allows for effective aggregation and analysis, which can be used to quickly identify improvements in a business’ supply chain, distribution channels, and product performance, ultimately leading to increased customer satisfaction.

The Cost of Not Evolving

Failing to embrace innovation can result in significant financial consequences. Although implementing new systems and data strategies demands resources, time, and investment, cutting these efforts short will hinder strong sales forecasting, efficient production lines, accurate inventory management, and highly satisfied customers, allowing the competition to leap ahead. A data strategy and structure built on a modern solution and framework provide the foundation for a data-driven organization and equip its resources with insights that are rarely attainable from spreadsheets. For this reason, manufacturing and distribution organizations should always strive to maintain their edge over the competition and secure their company's future growth and success through a well-managed data strategy, structure, and solution framework.

Citrin Cooperman can help manufacturing and distribution companies that are considering an update to their existing information technology (IT) solutions, implementing a brand new one, or have questions about systems in general. Speak to a member of the firm’s Digital Services Practice or contact Eric Casazza at ecasazza@citrincooperman.com today.

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