All Eyes on Data Visualization
We seem to know instinctively that the most effective way to pass along information is to show someone, whether it’s demonstrating to a child by example how to tie his shoelaces or demonstrating to a shoelace manufacturer through graphics that Velcro is becoming an issue.
Studies tell us that human beings are six-times more likely to understand and retain information they take in visually, which is especially important in the business world where quickly understanding and acting on data is critical to maintaining the timely flow of materials in a company’s supply chain—especially in today’s environment where that data not only informs about the supply chain but has become a valuable part of it.
Increasingly in the Internet of Things, objects themselves communicate in real-time, producing a dizzying amount and array of data. Consider that in 2012 the number of devices connected to the Internet was 17 billion; by 2020 these devices—everything from phones to refrigerators—are projected to reach 50 billion. While more data presents opportunity, the sheer number of, well, numbers can also bottleneck a company’s command response, hamstringing decision-makers to come to quick, decisive agreement.
“The amount of data that we’re processing and will continue to process, especially in the next five to seven years, which will be machine-to-machine communication—BIG Data—is going to create an environment where there is so much data that we literally cannot process the amount of data we have, typically within the supply chain,” says Ed Gort, director of Solution Design and Engineering for LynnCo Supply Chain Solutions. “That’s why data visualization will become increasingly and dramatically more important.”
Data visualization—the visual representation of data—re-imagines data in easily decipherable graphic form, reducing the time it takes for complex information to be acted upon. Supply chains have become complex and highly integrated systems; to understand them and moment-to-moment needs requires a type of visual storytelling that breathes life and clarity into that data.
When done well, data visualization not only serves its purpose but can appear easy to produce. It’s not. It requires rapid gathering and processing of information and then the ability to quickly map the information into a visual code that provides context.
“You can have all the data on a spreadsheet but that data is really hard to interpret if you look at it from the supply chain, unless you are able to visualize its two or three dimensions on an actual graph of a map,” Gort says. “Data overlaid on a map gives you the ability to have intelligent analytics as you look at it so that you can derive what’s going on in your supply chain. All of these things—processing speed, storage of data, visualization of data—allows you to make a more informed business decision within the supply chain.”