The Role of Transportation Data in Supply Chain Management

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A data analytics professional analyzes supply chain information.According to a survey from transportation fleet services company Fleet Advantage, about a third of transportation fleet companies don’t use software to manage the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their fleets all in one place. This lack of insight into TCO can be detrimental; however, the effective application of big data can help companies enhance procurement, maintenance, and other operations.

Big data is becoming increasingly important for transportation and supply chain management. As such, companies are looking for professionals who have a background in data analytics. The goal is to collect, process, and interpret transportation data to provide insights into cost-saving strategies and customer satisfaction. Individuals who are interested in leveraging big data to help identify these strategic insights should consider an advanced degree in business analytics.

How Transportation Data Is Used in Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management depends heavily on big data to determine operational risks, enhance communication, secure proprietary data, and augment supply chain accessibility. Industries use this data in multiple ways, including for predictive analytics and for establishing more efficient cloud-based platforms.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics leverages data mining, statistics, and machine learning to evaluate future supply demands, inventory, and customer behavior. Organizations are combining predictive analytics with machine learning to predict future physical risks in the supply chain (i.e., risks with fleets, drivers, and cargo) as well as financial, customer, and other operational risks.

Cloud-Based Platforms

Cloud technology is a vital component in the future of transportation and supply chain management. It can help reduce the impact of physical/geographic boundaries, consolidate and replace various in-person processes, mitigate some of the effects of market fluctuations, and reduce costs. Optimized data, however, is key to making cloud-based platforms efficient. The data must be properly captured, communicated, and used to reap the full benefits of cloud technology.

It should be noted that placing data in the cloud does bring its own security challenges. As more companies and industries move to the cloud, it makes the technology a more attractive target to cybercriminals. Companies should always consider what security measures are needed in addition to the protections offered by cloud providers. Also, larger organizations often use multiple cloud providers across their business. In that instance, companies need to have strong policies in place for preferred vendors, best practices, and involvement of internal IT departments.

The Benefits of Big Data

Supply chain and transportation data covers a variety of areas, such as product demand, customer engagement, and vendor information. Analytics professionals can interpret that data and share it with corporate leaders to help increase revenue and improve operations. Specific areas that can benefit include the following.

Customer Satisfaction

Detailed customer data can inform organizations as to what, when, and where customers are buying. This information can identify loyal and lost customers, popular and unpopular products and services, and the timelines and frequency of buying orders. Organizations can then use these insights to effectively improve customer satisfaction by making changes in service offerings or merchandising, improving targeted customer outreach, and preparing for the busiest times of the year.

Big data, often in conjunction with internet of things (IoT) technology, also enables customers to track the delivery of their purchases through a mobile app and communicate directly with the delivery driver.

Driver Retention

Driver retention is a significant point of concern for many transportation companies. Big data technology and transportation data can benefit organizations that are looking to retain drivers. It can analyze the logs and behaviors of successful drivers and compare them with those of drivers who have left the company or industry. These behavioral insights enable employers to identify early signs of dissatisfaction or burnout and address the problems before they grow.

Operational Improvements

Big data can target operational errors that are costing an organization significant money, such as transportation delays or vendor mishaps. Organizations can install sensors in their vehicles that can track a driver’s location. This enables them to monitor the transportation of goods and supplies throughout the delivery process and communicate with vendors about expected delivery times.

The logistics of transporting goods also benefits from big data. Data analysis can help a company optimize delivery routes and update them in real-time to avoid traffic, accidents, or roadwork. This can improve delivery speed, helping save organizations money on fuel and vehicle wear and tear.

Vehicles that are delivering perishable goods can implement data sensors that monitor the temperature. If the temperature becomes too warm in the vehicle, the company or driver can identify this issue and prevent the product from spoiling.

The Role of Transportation Data and Business Analytics Professionals in Supply Chain Management

Analytics professionals are playing an increasingly important role in the transportation and supply chain industries. They use analytical concepts such as descriptive analytics and data visualization to understand and communicate needed improvements in strategic planning, budgeting, and inventory management. Descriptive analytics enables analysts to look back at past events and understand how certain variables may impact future outcomes. For example, descriptive analysis considers sales history, inventory rates, and profits. These variables can help in understanding the financial health of an organization. Data visualization is the process of interpreting this data in visual form such as a graph or chart. Analytics professionals can then use these visuals as tools for explaining their findings to company leaders.

Other skills needed by data and business analytics professionals include those listed here.

Advanced Analytical/Problem Solving

Business analytics professionals must be able to analyze vast amounts of data and make informed connections based on the available information. Moreover, they must be able to analyze the issues that an organization is facing and use data analytics to find solutions.

Time Management

These professionals work in a fast-paced environment where slight changes can interrupt the supply chain. They must leverage data to find alternative transportation routes or solutions that will not impede the supply chain. Moreover, they must be able to manage their time between projects and processes and unexpected or emergency issues.


Business analytics professionals are effective at interpreting data and building out data sets. However, these professionals must be able to communicate their findings to executives, fellow employees, and other stakeholders. They also need to present their findings in a manner that leaders can understand and be able to rationalize potential operational changes.

Learn How to Employ Data Analytics in Supply Chain Management

Many companies have access to vast amounts of transportation data, and they rely on professionals who have the knowledge and skills to interpret that data. To stay competitive, it is vital for these organizations to leverage big data effectively and efficiently. Ohio University’s Online Master of Business Analytics is designed to provide students with the skills to excel in business and data analytics and use their knowledge to enable critical business decisions.

Students who pursue the program can learn from industry professionals and participate in a curriculum that includes courses in Predictive Analytics, Business Intelligence, Programming for Analytics, and Applied Business Experience.

Ohio University also offers an Online Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Operations & Supply Chain Management, which helps students develop the skills to adapt to changing technologies and become effective managers of transportation and supply chain logistics.

Explore how these programs can prepare you for a rewarding career that captures, analyzes, and provides highly valuable insights involving supply chain and transportation data. 

Recommended Readings

Big Data Analytics Tools and Resource for Identifying Emerging Business Trends
Business Analytics vs. Data Science: Comparing Popular Tools and Languages
Strategic Use of Analytics in Business: A Key Way to Optimize Business Performance


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Cerasis, “8 Ways Cloud Technology Changes Supply Chain Management”
CIO, “Cloud-based SCM Services Provide Cross Supply-chain Connectivity and Visibility”
Fleet Advantage, “Fleet Advantage Survey Shows How Fleets Lack Access to Business Intelligence to Lower Their Total Cost of Ownership”
IntechOpen, “Big Data Analytics and Its Applications in Supply Chain Management”
Quantzig, “Analyzing Benefits of Big Data: The Real Application of Big Data in Transportation”
Robins Consulting, “Why Big Data is so Important to the Transportation Industry”
SecurityWeek, “Overcoming Security Challenges in the Transport and Logistics Sector”
Supply Chain, “Cloud and Cyber: Benefits and Challenges for Supply Chains”
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U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Analysts