Optimizing Data Analytics in an Operational Environment

Steven Crowthers

At Connection, we are embarking on a new undertaking as we start to deploy the following layer of key performance indicators, using data analytics in our Technology Integration and Distribution Center in Wilmington, OH. We’re excited not only about the scale and speed of information generation, but also about big data’s potential impact.

If we can begin to use data to study order attributes, we can start to predict through data analytics where we should focus operational continuous improvement efforts. I see this potential in our Technology Integration and Distribution Center to be a pivotal contributor to customer service optimization.

The combination of a proactive culture and the predictability of big data solutions gives new strategic input to the traditional what/if analysis, helping answer fundamental questions, such as:

  • How do we get orders to customers most efficiently?
  • What is the optimal inventory level?
  • What is the most effective mode of transportation to use?
  • Which distribution site should ship products to particular customers?
  • What if demand in a functional area increases X percent?

Nobody wants to wait for months to project strategy recommendations. They want to know now, and in an increasingly collaborative configuration and distribution network, they need to know how to respond to changes efficiently today.

The lean principles that we deployed at our Wilmington site were designed to help eliminate waste within operations, but lean thinking often is restricted to activities alone as discrete elements, rather than being extended across the entire services—especially the front-end.

Our lean methodology of continuous improvement has yet another critical component of the lean toolkit: the value stream map (VSM). In April 2018, the team in Wilmington completed our VSM component, value stream mapping current and future states. Overlaying advanced analytics onto a VSM of the entire Wilmington operation helps us understand the pain points, identify bottlenecks, and prioritize how we address these challenges to improve operational efficiency. The result is maximum customer value through the removal of non-value-added activity from end-to-end. Consequently, continuous improvement becomes a critical driver of operational performance.

The union of data access, better analytical tools, and new methods of lean make it more likely that we will continue to drive operational excellence. For example, we can soon begin tracking data at the operational level—tied to key metrics or alarms that alert us when we are close to missing customer targets, such as on-time SLAs (service level agreements), order fulfillment, and scheduling. This new data will allow the operational team to be reactive in deploying the root cause countermeasures to address the issue and reset prioritization before the problem escalates to sales or directly to the customer.

We plan on launching these types of data analytics at our Technology Integration and Distribution Center by Q3 of 2018, ensuring that we continue to stay ahead of the service level commitments that we must maintain to remain competitive in this ever-changing IT landscape.

Steven is VP, Technology Integration & Distribution Center for Connection.