May 14th 2019

Logistics Industry & Data Quality how to manage it?

As a Freight Forwarder, the demands on getting data to clients is ever growing. In fact, any business has a demand for data. Often as the company grows the processes stay the same and don't get changed. Often the last thing you think about is how you’re going to accurate provide data to your client, and hopefully, they will not question what’s in front of them.

Logistics Dashboards

From the data you have at the moment it takes forever to provide the information and that often data doesn't make sense.

Let me guess you’re a freight forwarder dealing with International Supply Chains, with about 10 staff you’re doing about 100 to 200 jobs/shipments a day and you're running everything on a spreadsheet. At best an access database which has been built by an IT person or member of staff working how you worked from day one. It’s often hard to make changes.

Often or not a small freight forwarder will have the same issues as a large one, data quality even with global operating systems. Having worked for Kuehne + Nagel I know how important data is critical for every aspect of the business.

What Is Data Quality?

Well, it’s as it says above, it the quality of data within your business. This can be numerous issues such as making sure you have the right spelling for your Vessel names, Port of loading and discharge or making sure the dates of milestones are entered.

If any of this is not entered correctly you will find providing any data to your clients will be almost impossible or at best completely inaccurate.

Retailers particular require reports to help with their supply chains, it's often a good way to see if there is going to be bottlenecks in the supply chain. This can help then buy their products and plan deliveries better.

Poor data can also lead to poor sales reporting and give accurate sales force cast for management. It can also provide the wrong information to your clients who may rely on the data to manage their own supply chains.

What Causes poor Data Quality

The  2 biggest causes of poor Data Quality.  One is the system itself, poorly designed Transport Management System. If you have a spreadsheet or a system which allows you to get around issues then this is the first problem. The Second would be training or lack of it.

An operator will find the quickest way around a problem in a system is their allowed, such as if they're asked for postcode and they can put XX1 X11 into a field or allow to put a full stop in for a company name or into a date field.

Other issues are the system allows you to do strange things like for example a Booking for a shipment happens after the something has shipped.  You are thinking that’s impossible what system does that… A spreadsheet will allow you, and even the biggest logistics systems when I worked at one allowed you to do this.  So, something like this would completely through a KPI report or the average door to door report for example and any notifications which are sent for clients.

What is the solution for your systems?

There is a silver bullet, but it may cost you some money… You need to make sure your logistics operations system is robust enough to stop issues such as the above.

  • Make sure you have a central address book within a database which doesn’t allow duplicate entries. Make sure that you have someone looking after this and regularly checking the data to make sure it's accurate.
  • When over you give an operator an option to select an address this should use the central address system to pull the information through. Things like container types should have fixed lists managed centrally. Port of Loadings and Discharges have a centralised database. Use IATA codes for Airfreight.
  • Control dates on your system by putting conditioning logic on the dates. For example, Airfreight you can go back in time to put some logic to say if it’s going into a different time zone show both actual and converted time.  Has this stored in your database so that you can report on it accurately?
  • Only allow free type areas where something which cannot be controlled i.e product descriptions, description of goods.
  • If your using container sizes and you choose a 20 FT container don’t allow the user to then enter 31CBM into a field without showing a warning and prompting them to change the container size.
  • Regularly train your staff on operational processes. Don’t have the most experienced person train a new member of staff as they may have some bad habits. Have documentation on how to enter a shipment or booking.
  • Have a report which looks at your internal data have these run daily at first and then move to weekly once your data is looking a lot better.
  • Constantly look at ways to improve the process and speed up your systems to make your operators work efficiently.

There are main different scenarios within a logistics supply chain however tackling the basics as I have mentioned in those 8 points will help.

How can we help?

Having worked for 13 years in the logistics industry and spent a large amount of that time looking/fixing and managing data and putting processes in place to improve data, we understand what is needed to make your systems better.

We have created logistics platforms and other platforms for other industries to help improve productivity and accuracy.

If you would like to talk to us about how we can help your logistics data, then please get in touch.

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