Supply Chain Analytics Trends in 2021

Collaboration across multiple suppliers, software, and processes has long led to excessive data created off the back of even small-scale supply chains. By highlighting weaknesses, strengths, and operational patterns, this data can transform supply chain management. 

Unfortunately, data in its raw form is next to useless when it comes to creating the insights necessary to drive positive change. Informed data handling and improved supply chain management requires supply chain analytics. 

As globalisation continues, analytics that provide clear, comprehensive visualisations, and decision-driving insights are essential in order to ensure reliable, lucrative supply partnerships that operate seamlessly. Even companies who were putting analytics to effective use prior to the disruption caused by COVID-19 will need to adjust with speed, efficiency, and technology in mind. 

This article will look at emerging supply chain analytics trends and how businesses can make sure they remain at the forefront of analytics processes. Let’s get started.

Trend 1: EDI-as-a-Service

By enabling the digital transfer of supply documents, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) has been key to smooth supply chain operations and visibility since the 1960s. Unfortunately, complex onboarding processes, a lack of technical expertise, and incompatible standards have meant that EDI’s effectiveness has been hindered, despite being used by as many as 85% of companies.1 

Given these challenges, and a landscape that increasingly requires their elimination, the future of EDI will need to focus on modern, hybrid solutions. At Data Interchange, we’ve termed this new approach EDI-as-a-Service

By combing managed EDI benefits with web EDI implementations, this cloud-based alternative to legacy solutions is transforming how global trading partners communicate and share information, providing operational benefits that include:

  • Visibility
  • Simplicity
  • Flexibility
  • Efficiency

In terms of analytics, these simplifications and enhanced implementations make it easier to not only access the data necessary to derive insights, but also help improve supply chain planning and control, ensuring the utilisation of this information through:

  • Improved supplier relationships: DiNet, our cloud-based Value Added Network at Data Interchange, makes it easier to store documents from large supply chains in one place using one connection. This drastically simplifies real-time supplier communications, ensuring that all parties can specify their needs and ensure efficiency. This increased understanding contributes towards improving the relationships that have always been a touchstone to supply success.
  • On-the-ground improvements: Organisations distracted by often ineffective EDI supply chain applications have typically been slow or altogether unable to implement the improvements necessary to work through long-standing supply issues. By overcoming these challenges, including long-winded implementations and convoluted data exchanges, EDI-as-a-Service increases the capabilities to spot and address issues, and frees the time and budgets necessary to do so.

As global supply chain complexities continue to emerge, 100% EDI adoption looks set to be the most effective way to optimise supply chain operations, and EDI-as-a-Service can help make this a reality.

Suggested reading: To learn how you can benefit from a competitive advantage using EDI, check out our eBook — The Supply Chain Centred Business

Trend 2: Agile supply chains

As 2020 taught us the hard way, agility is essential in order to avoid significant supply chain disruption during unprecedented times. 

Competitive advantage within supply chains over the last eighteen months has relied on the ability of all organisations to adapt quickly, embrace new technologies, and find new solutions. 

Analytics that highlight concerns as they arise can help provide this much-needed agility. However, time should still be spent considering how analytics are collected in the first place, with the immediate transfer of files also essential for effective analytics in the moment and across long-term relationships. 

Almost immediate implementations across even unversed supply chain partners means that EDI-as-a-Service easily offers these benefits, making it possible to quickly onboard new suppliers wherever necessary (e.g. moving off-shore manufacture to near-shore supply in the face of travel restrictions). The ability to rapidly communicate updates and concerns with existing supply partners also ensures the speed of change necessary to avoid supply delays, regardless of the setbacks that will inevitably arise.

Trend 3: Digitisation

As global supply chains create more data, the long-winded manual handling of supply chain management and oversight becomes not only ineffective but increasingly difficult to maintain. 

Moving forward, analytics are therefore dependent on the digitisation of global supply chain management, through processes including paperless systems and the movement of supply processes into the Internet of Things (IoT). The ability to digitise previously human-led tasks at scale is helping to:

  • Demolish silos
  • Enhance transparency
  • Improve responsiveness
  • Ensure efficient supply chain ecosystems

These benefits are made possible with EDI-as-a-Service, which makes it easier to ensure the efficient analysis of relevant information, and the easy sharing of those insights. This is especially the case where digitisation is accomplished alongside cloud integrations.

Trend 4: The cloud

Cloud-specific spending is projected to grow six times faster than other IT expenditure over the next few years.2 In fact, as many as 57% of supply chain professionals were operating across fully implemented cloud solutions even pre-2020.3 

Recent challenges, and the visibility issues they’ve created, have highlighted the need for cloud usage that enables the immediate collection and sharing of analytics across a platform that’s translatable across even diverse partnerships, with the backing of notable operational benefits like flexibility, scalability, and importantly, accessibility.

EDI-as-a-Service can offer all of these benefits and more across easy to access, customisable cloud-based dashboards that enable full message visibility, alerts, audits, and reports. This is perhaps the easiest way for modern, global supply chain partners to access, implement, and communicate the lessons inherent in analytics overall.

Trend 5: Big data

As digitisation becomes a supply chain norm, even standard processes are producing data increases. Everything from inventory management to stock traceability now leaves notable data trails, bringing analysis within easier reach. With this comes an increasing need for tools that simplify data handling and facilitate analytics.

That’s where EDI-as-a-Service comes in. This modern approach to EDI can help feed this new information into an organisation’s storage repositories. Whilst not actually undertaking any analysis, by ensuring the storage of, and access to, big data sets, EDI-as-a-Service can fuel usable analytics that can significantly impact supply chain management.  

This simplified access to predictive analytics makes it easier for businesses to foresee stock shortages and travel restrictions, subsequently making the agile supply chains discussed above more obtainable. 

Trend 6: Artificial intelligence

As big data grows, the ability to narrow down on applicable analytics is becoming increasingly dependent on artificial intelligence (AI) implementation. 

As well as automating things like warehouse and inventory management, AI systems that incorporate predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms are quickly becoming essential for seamless improvements across planning and decision support systems. Furthermore, AI is even beginning to play a role in the identification of all-important supplier patterns.

As with the other trends discussed here, the implementation of EDI-as-a-Service compliments the capabilities of AI. According to Gartner, poor data quality contributes to increasingly complex data ecosystems and poor decision making that ultimately costs organisations an average of $12.9 million every year.4

EDI-as-a-Service increases the quality of data processed by making it easier to store information from large supply chains. It also gives businesses the ability to feed that data from customers and suppliers into their AI implementation from a single-source-of-truth. The result is better-informed decision-making processes based on reliable data that can be translated into a competitive advantage for businesses.

EDI adoption is key

Each of these trends highlights the fact that the efficient collection and implementation of analytics in 2021 relies on simplified systems that are easy to implement. EDI adoption across supply chains brings this goal within reach, but, until now, that has seemed unattainable.

By updating legacy EDI solutions to ensure simplified integrations for every single supply chain partner, EDI-as-a-Service from Data Interchange stands out as the most effective way to begin the process of optimising supply chain analytics.

As diverse and long-distance partnerships threaten to convolute data handling further, EDI-as-a-Service has arrived at just the right time to help simplify analysis and produce actionable outcomes. Contact us today to get started with analytics fit for 2021.


1EDI Trends: The Future of EDI for 2021
2Cloud adoption to accelerate IT modernization
3Adoption of cutting-edge technologies by supply chain companies in 2020
4How to Improve Your Data Quality

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