The Added Value of Clean(ing) Data

Posted by Louis D'hondt on 07/09/2017

Data has become a critical part for many businesses in almost any industry. The transformation of unstructured data (information for humans) into structured data (information that computers can interpret) has been going on for decades. The point where the use of structured data boosts efficiency has long been reached but to reach its full potential, that data must be reliable and clean. In transport business, proper data is vital to maximally deliver added value. To get to that state of reliability, discipline and commitment is needed. This requires time and effort. The benefits will be felt in every layer of the organization and beyond the domain of route optimization. The benefits not only stem from the data itself but also from the insights that come with the focus that is required to get that clean data.

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So where does the added value come from? 

1. Information capturing, storing and sharing

unstructured data_01.jpgMany times, when setting up data for optimization software, it becomes painfully clear that only one person has the information. This means that to execute a task, this can be done (efficiently) by one particular person. In transport, good examples are knowledge on opening hours, addresses and efficient routes.

By preparing a business for the implementation of an optimization package, all this information must be captured and stored in a structured way. As a result, it can be consulted easily by everyone. When it is not consulted actively, the information will spread automatically by the use of the planning tool. 

2. Increasing stability, facilitating growth, being futureproof

Not being dependent on one particular person to execute a task ensures that business keeps running. In case of an unexpected event like one employee being absent, you do not want to disappoint any customers. So aside from the financial impact, the customer service and the image of the company will get a blow as well. The latter one is hard to restore.
Clean data is a critical factor to obtain the stability that businesses and their customers seek.

When business is running well, scaling up might be necessary. We all know that growth pains are a frequently occurring issue, so we'd better be prepared. One of the elements that needs to be prepared is data.
Data is omnipresent and it will be even more in the future so focussing on that aspect is a safe bet. Needless to say that the bigger your company, the more you want that info to be quickly accessible and stored in a structured way.

In the midst of technological evolution where data becomes more and more important, storing information in a structured way is making your company futureproof.

3. Detecting a difference between theory and practice. Finetuning incorrect data.

In putting theory to practice, it happens all too often that a difference is detected between the information that is stored and what happens in practice. This regularly includes opening hours, addresses, weights and sizes of material to be transported. 

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Each inconsistency mentioned above results in extra costs.

  • Addresses: when addresses are incorrect but this is not detected because the driver knows the area, this would create a risk when and order is allocated to another driver. Should an order not be executed as planned, this would either reduce customer service or require an extra unplanned costly tour.
    This is where track & trace and geocoding provide a solution. Geocoordinates never lie. They're accurate and precise.
  • Opening hours: e.g. a collection should be done between 13h and 14h but is done at 14h30. This results in unsatisfied customers (if the opening hours are correctly registered) or in suboptimal plannings (if the data is incorrect).
  • Weights and sizes: if an order is smaller than expected then there are no immediate consequences but the planning could have been more efficient. If an order is bigger than expected then the driver might be able to stack in an exotic way or the order remains unexecuted. Again, this results in an unsatisfied customer or in an extra expensive unplanned tour.
Unplanned extra tours occur way too often and they come with a considerable cost. Cleaning data and putting theory to practice benefits everyone.

4. The link between finance and operations

This is a special one and deserves special attention. In many cases, when asked to list the remuneration structure of all drivers, no one has a clear and complete view. Not being able to compare the cost drivers of all drivers will lead to plannings that are absolutely not optimal.
By listing the remuneration-structures for each and every driver, chances are high that abnormalities will come up. The insights generated are invaluable.

To conclude, the data-cleaning process is a useful status-check for your business. From operational to strategic, every layer is involved. If you succeed, you're good to go. If you struggle, better to bite the bullet now than in five years when it's too late. Ignoring this valuable process is sticking your head in the sand. 

'Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it's not going to protect you from the coming storm' - Barack Obama

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Topics: track and trace, data

Louis D'hondt

Written by Louis D'hondt