Business Intelligence Can Deliver Positive Supply Chain and Business Results, Using Information Already Being Captured Through Existing Processes

Karen Sage Gives Sage Advice on Supply Chain Business IntelligenceLogistics professionals have access to tons of data. However, it may be challenging to get the exact information needed quickly so that it becomes actionable, driving strategic decision making, rather than a historical review of tactical actions and transactions. To seek a better understanding of daily transportation operations, an important first step is implementing a supply chain business intelligence (BI) solution that offers greater insight and helps drive strategic, proactive decision making.

If a company currently uses a Transportation Management System (TMS), it is likely that this software alone is filled with an abundance of data that can be used to answer even the most complex logistics questions. The key is unlocking that reservoir of data, analyzing it, organizing it, and delivering the transportation intelligence needed to the appropriate stakeholders.

The most effective BI solutions can harness the torrent of data flowing through a TMS and transform that data into usable knowledge and insights that can shine a spotlight on areas for improvement, monitor key performance indicators, and answer the most critical transportation questions. Logistics professionals who adopt a BI solution no longer have to extract data, pull it into a spreadsheet, and sort through it manually.

Some of the common questions that a good BI system should address for transportation are:

  1. What is the average transportation cost for shipping item Y via LTL for Customer X, year-to-date?
  2. When I consolidate shipping orders onto a single truck, what is the average cost for moves originating from Mexico? (In USD cost, not Peso.)
  3. What does my total 2017 TL freight spend look like, by month, for Customer X, vs. the same period one year ago?
  4. How many times have I had a tender rejected from Carrier X in 2017, and for what reason?
  5. How many containers did I ship to Europe destinations last month?
  6. What is my average per-route margin over the last six months when I optimized through pool point P and used Carrier X?

Logistics professionals may want to take a moment to consider how they currently access the information to address these questions – the process, accuracy, and speed of obtaining the answers. Whether a company has invested in a BI solution or is considering one, it may be enlightening to challenge potential or current software providers to answer these questions and deliver the answers in a way that allows immediate action.

The truth is that business intelligence for transportation management is no longer a “nice to have.” In order to keep up with the demands of modern commerce and take control of logistics operations, business intelligence is a “must have.” Now is the time for logistics professionals to make a move to adopt a solution that generates more value from the data they already have, accelerates insights, and reduces costs of data collection and analysis. It is a simple concept that can drive significant improvements in performance – use the information already captured in the most meaningful way possible, leveraging technology to do the “heavy lifting.”

Karen Sage is MercuryGate’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) responsible for the company’s global marketing, communications, sales enablement, and go-to-market efforts. She is a veteran with 20+ years of experience in business-to-business marketing and communications helping several industry leaders launch disruptive new categories, accelerate revenue growth, build leadership brands, and establish marketing organizations that scale globally. She comes to MercuryGate most recently from the spend management solution provider, SciQuest. Prior to SciQuest, she was at CA Technologies where she served as vice president of marketing leading rapid growth initiatives. Her experiences leading growth also include multiple leadership roles during a 15-year stint at Cisco. Karen started her career having invented the NETSYS Performance tools at NETSYS Technologies, Inc., which was acquired by Cisco in 1996.


  1. Karen, great insights! These are the same questions we seek to answer at Veraction by using data from the Freight Audit process and blending it with data from a TMS or ERP or any other data source. The key being able to access data quickly so that you can take action. Most often we find companies are trying to dig through data and by the time they find an answer it is already too late to take action and they are on to the next problem. The most important part of all of this is the data management though. As we have seen with a lot of BI tools out there, you won’t get reliable answers without reliable data. You need a rigorous data management and cleansing strategy which is easier said than done. That’s where Veraction has really put the time and effort, Data Management and then BI Tools. Thanks again, Matt Stone, Veraction, 630.244.5440

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