Mike Weston, CEO of data science consultancy Profusion, discusses how data science will shape the future of logistics.
Data science and logistics are a match made in heaven. Logistics companies are sitting on a mountain of data, from their routes, to what they’re transporting, how they are transporting it and who they are transporting it to. Indeed, the origin of the word logistics is rooted in calculation, hinting that the profession has always been closely aligned with data and arithmetic.
Modern day logistics deal with a staggering flow of goods which, in turn, creates huge data sets. For a business to stay competitive, it needs to start understanding and using the data it holds more effectively. This goes beyond simple data analysis.
Data science has the potential to touch every aspect of the supply chain. Data scientists are specialists in combining computer science and coding with statistics, to find the solution to numerous business problems. Data science thrives on large amounts of data which makes it particularly effective for the logistics sector.
Everything from the location of vehicles, to the condition of goods, demand of products, where goods are delivered and the wellbeing and stress levels of staff can be monitored. This information can be combined with other datasets such as weather, or customer demographics, to create a rich, dynamic and intricate picture of what is happening in the entire supply chain.
Knowing the rationale behind which clients order what and why, and how the environment changes in response to seasonal or economic changes and unforeseen events can inform fundamental business decisions. For example, if enough information is collected and analysed on customer behaviour, solid predictions can be made about future demand. When this intelligence is overlaid with macro-economic changes, census information, infrastructure policy and other data, a business can know empirically where the best place to build a new depot.
Using data science to understand how often your deliveries occur, the shelf life of those products, plus traffic and GPS data, will help your drivers find the most efficient routes. Sensors can tell you the condition of your vehicles and wearables can track the wellbeing of your staff. This information can be used to prevent vehicle – and staff – breakdowns.
In the coming years, as the quantity of data produced by the logistics sector continues to increase at a rapid rate, people will begin to look at the possibilities created through sifting through and studying this data. Logistics companies who embrace data science now will find they are ahead of the curve, leaving their competitors trying to catch up.