Demand for big data analytics solutions in the logistics and supply chain sector is growing rapidly, with almost all firms now recognising the need for these solutions.

This is according to a new study conducted by Capgemini Consulting, Penn State University and Penske Logistics, which revealed 98 per cent of third-party logistics companies (98 per cent) agreed that data-driven decision-making will be essential to the future success of supply chain processes. This view was shared by 93 per cent of shippers.

Both of these groups also stated that being able to use big data analytics effectively will become a core competency for their supply chain organisations in the coming years. Some 81 per cent of shipping firms and 86 per cent of third-party logistics and outsourcing companies agreed with this.

Tom McKenna, senior vice-president of engineering and technology at Penske Logistics, said: "Data-driven decision-making is certainly an increasing trend in the supply chain."

However, he added: "Among the biggest challenges that come with increased visibility and more data is determining how to best use that information to drive improvements that benefit the customer."

Shipping firms that can successfully turn this data into useful insight stand to gain a significant competitive advantage over their less well-equipped peers, the study said.

Six out of ten shipping companies (60 per cent) said improving integration in their supply chain was a key area where big data is expected to boost performance. Meanwhile, 55 per cent said the technology would help them improve the quality of their data, and 53 per cent added it could improve the performance and quality of their processes.

For third-party logistics firms, the benefits were slightly different. More that seven out of ten of these firms (71 per cent) said the greatest value data provides comes from improving process quality and performance, while 70 per cent cited improving logistics optimisation as among its most important benefits, and 53 per cent named improving integration across the supply chain. 

Big data is also expected to be highly useful in tackling the challenges created by issues such as a tightening of trucking capacity. Nearly three-quarters of shippers (71 per cent) said big data analytics from third-party firms helps them to better understand alternative shipping possibilities, while 61 per cent said they valued data about trade routes and costs that their partners could provide.

Fluctuating capacity, increased shipper demands and disruptions within the industry are creating a volatile decision-making environment for shippers and logistics providers trying to optimise the supply chain,” the study noted. "Both parties are increasingly using information and analytics to drive their decisions."

However, the report did highlight a difference in opinion between shipping companies and third-party providers when it comes to the benefit of big data. While 79 per cent of shippers said their supply chain organisation sees significant value in the use of big data, this compares with 65 per cent of outsourcers who reported that their customers see such value.