Guest Commentary: Driving Data Integrity in the Supply Chain

Collecting and analyzing data is critical for organizations to make strategic, data-driven decisions that positively impact the supply chain. But simply collecting data can lead companies to make incorrect decisions based on inaccurate data. As a result, data collection and integrity are critical to a company’s success – both financially and environmentally.

In a recent panel at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ (CSCMP) 2013 Annual Global Conference, I joined representatives from Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Sharp Electronics, Menlo Worldwide Logistics and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address the commitment to data integrity within the EPA’s SmartWay partnership, and highlight steps the transportation community can take to support more accurate, consistent and reliable SmartWay data collection and reporting.

Best Practices to Ensure Data Integrity

Data is at the foundation of an organization’s planning and decision making, and as a result, data integrity is essential to establish what a company has done and to build strategies for moving forward – whether it’s to reduce transportation costs or carbon emissions. Likewise, SmartWay’s success depends on measuring and documenting emissions savings, making it critical that SmartWay partners track and report their data accurately and completely. As a result, the EPA and its SmartWay partners worked collaboratively to develop and implement a number of data quality assurance best practices that help ensure SmartWay’s data integrity. These best practices are intended to help SmartWay partners in their own efforts to collect, manage and assure the quality of their SmartWay-related data and get the most out of their investment.

Ensure Data Security
A critical quality assurance component is to ensure the physical security of your supply chain data. This can be done by:

  • Limiting access to the data to just those staff members who are charged with entering it into the system and those who directly need to use it. Do this by making the data “read only.”
  • Using a rigorous data back-up process, and having a data recovery system in place.
  • Citing your data sources so users know where they can go to retrieve the information should there be a computer malfunction or a system crash.
  • Keeping copies of data in another physical location or back-up data center.

Ensure Effective Data Management
Many companies are already using established quality systems and standards – for example, ISO registration or Lean processes – to ensure quality across their entire operations, but quality can be taken to the next level by integrating SmartWay data collection and tracking into these procedures. Having comprehensive and up-to-date standard operating procedures in place for the collection, storing and reporting of all SmartWay-related data is essential in ensuring quality. These practices include:

  • Train staff assigned to perform SmartWay data collection and entry. SmartWay has excellent user guides that you should share with your staff. It’s very important that you be able to seamlessly transition from one person to the next in collecting and storing SmartWay data in case there is staff turnover.
  • Conduct periodic reviews on SmartWay data and have multiple trained team members review the reporting tool data. Don’t forget to perform a year-over-year comparison of the SmartWay data before submitting the reporting tool.
  • Specific red flags to watch out for include major discrepancies or missing data, as these could indicate data entry or collection errors.
  • Share the data from the report with senior management before submitting it, which is another way to double check the accuracy of the data. It’s also a great way to involve them more in SmartWay, as it may lead to collaboration on crafting new environmental performance goals for the company.

SmartWay is about more than the trendy “being green” and cutting down your company’s environmental impact – it’s about being a true leader in freight supply chain environmental performance and energy efficiency. And achieving and sustaining environmentally responsible supply chain operations requires organizations place a strong focus on data integrity and implement best practices that support more accurate, consistent and reliable collection of information.

Ben Cubitt is Senior Vice President, Consulting & Engineering, at Transplace. With more than 20 years of industry and consulting experience in freight optimization, Mr. Cubitt has a deep familiarity with the freight procurement field working for consulting firms and multiple Fortune 500 companies in the consumer products, paper and automotive industries. Mr. Cubitt joined Transplace in July 2010 after four years as Vice President, Supply Chain for RockTenn Corporation. At Transplace he leads the engineering and consulting teams.

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