The past year and a half has brought more challenges than usual to those in the manufacturing and supply chain industries, as you surely understand.
Between COVID, shipping delays and general uncertainties across markets, one thing has become clear: disruption is a given.
However, not all disruptions need to be disruptive to business. In fact, by tapping into data collected in cloud-based or software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, manufacturers can gain insights needed to better navigate uncertain times. And while, currently, much of this data goes untapped, it can be a powerful tool in preparing for whatever the future may bring.
Here’s some information on where to find this valuable data, how to access it and ways it can help manufacturers.
What is historical data? Where can I find it?
Historical data can be found in backup storage—in fact, it is backup data; it is the information that companies copy to protect against data loss. However, there’s a common misconception that backup data is nothing more than an insurance policy or a box to check when it comes to compliance and disaster recovery.
That is simply not the case. Historical data is a rich record of the daily actions, decisions and changes in a company’s past, up to present day. This information can be used to understand changes over time—and to make better business decisions down the road.
While historical data can be found across a manufacturer’s software ecosystem, some of the most valuable information is hidden in mission-critical, cloud-based applications, such as a manufacturer’s ERP. The challenge is that most of this data is locked within the cloud-based, or SaaS, applications, making it difficult for manufacturers to obtain those much-needed insights.
So how do I access it?
The problem is not so much that the data is inaccessible in totality, but that access is often restricted by vendors. Typically SaaS users access their data in SaaS apps via application programming interface (API) requests. And also typically, SaaS vendors restrict the number of API hits that companies can make over a set period of time. Once this limit is met, vendors can revoke access or charge overages.
To overcome this API problem, manufactures need to copy the historical data from these applications and keep it their own cloud data lake, such as AWS or Azure. By frequently backing up the cloud application data to their own cloud environment, manufacturers can gain unfettered access to the data—meaning they can use (and reuse) it outside of the SaaS app itself whenever they want, in ways that make the most sense for their business.
How can I maximize value from historical SaaS data?
When easily fed into the right business-intelligence tools, the raw data accessed from SaaS applications can start to give manufacturers the information they need to predict and adjust course as obstacles and opportunities arise.
When analyzed in tools like Redshift, QuickSight, SageMaker, Power BI, Tableau, Snowflake and others, the data can reveal patterns, inefficiencies and more. For manufacturers, this could provide the insights needed to increase productivity and decrease the timeline from when products are made to when they are sold, to more accurately forecast delivery and work order demands, depending on what’s happening in the world and in their customer base.
Likewise, this SaaS app data can also be used to fuel AI and machine-learning initiatives across an organization, helping manufacturers to more accurately predict market conditions and plan according to historical demand—giving them a competitive advantage and increasing their resiliency to market changes.
No one could predict what 2020 or even 2021 would bring to the world—and to the supply chain. Yet even in these uncertain times, manufacturers can take steps to best use the data they have at their disposal. Once they ensure they have ownership, access and control of their mission-critical SaaS application data, the possibilities for future gains are endless.
Joe Gaska is CEO of GRAX