Is data a liability or asset for supply chain departments?

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Is data a liability or asset for supply chain departments?

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | April 09, 2021
From the April 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Dr. Randy Bradley, associate professor of information systems and supply chain management at the University of Tennessee, believes that data is the “invisible chink in supply chain’s armor.” In a virtual session at last year’s virtual AHRMM annual meeting, he said that the way to repair that armor is through understanding the most common types of data and implementing a data strategy.

The most recent challenge to affect the healthcare supply chain field is the COVID-19 pandemic. It exposed the fragility of the supply chain and highlighted the need for greater transparency and visibility.

“We do need better visibility, but I need us to understand that transparency and visibility are not the same thing,” said Bradley. “When we talk about them, I like to view them from an inside-out and from an outside-in perspective.”

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He explained that transparency refers to an organization’s willingness to share information, whether it’s about their operations transactions. Visibility is the degree to which you can see upstream in the supply chain and downstream to the point of consumption.

But visibility hinges on a trading partner’s ability and willingness to be transparent. According to Bradley, you could have a good trading partner that’s willing to share information, but they may not have the technological infrastructure in place to do so.

He suggested taking a step back and looking at the supply chain’s traceability and integrity, but cautioned that they are only means to an end.

Dr. Randy Bradley
“What we should be striving for and what we should endeavor to build is a sustainable supply chain,” said Bradley. “I'm talking about a supply chain that to some degree is pandemic and natural disaster resilient [as well as] agile, adaptive, responsive, forward looking such that you are able to responds to prompts and triggers as they happen rather than sometime after they happen.”

The foundation for building a sustainable supply chain is risk management and risk mitigation. Visibility, integrity, transparency and traceability are the pillars that will support the supply chain into the future.

Although data is often perceived as an asset, it can actually be a liability due to the tremendous cost associated with cleaning, integrating and leveraging it. Bradley stated that the industry needs to change its perspective in order to treat it like an asset.

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