Predictive Analytics in Supply Chains

Predictive analytics can have a major impact in diverse contexts, and at the Center for Supply Chain Management’s Breakfast Speaker Series this past May, industry experts addressed its growing influence in industrial, health care, and consumer product environments.

The moderator was Sandra Turko, senior sourcing agent at Pittsburgh Glass Works and co-chair of the event planning committee. The panelists were Gregory Kaiser, Sr., a former vice president of global technical solutions at The Hershey Company; Patrick Flaherty, a vice president at both UPMC’s supply chain division and BioTronics’ operations division; and Brandon Cox, director of enterprise science at Deloitte.

More than 50 people attended the event, held in the ballroom at the University of Pittsburgh’s William Pitt Union Building. Interim Center Director Prakash Mirchandani, professor of business administration and Ben L. Fryrear Faculty Fellow, gave the welcome. 

The three panelists shared personal experiences with predictive analytics. Kaiser, also a board member on the Breakfast Speaker Series planning committee, kicked things off with an introduction on predictive analytics. The emerging field harnesses the power of big data to improve decision making in organizations of all sizes and types.

Kaiser, who worked at Hershey Company, spoke about how predictive analytics can be applied to safety and manufacturing processes. He gave the example of replacing pumps in a factory setting. Managers should take heed of the fact that while predictive analytics may provide useful information, employee attitudes toward preventive maintenance go a long way toward determining the success of implementation.

Later Flaherty addressed supply chain analytics in the health care sector. Tracking measures such as standardized bar coding and advanced shipping notices (ASNs) are handled differently from in the industrial sector. In general, data sharing between suppliers and buyers is much more limited in the health care sector. Furthermore, the health care system is experiencing even greater pressure on profit margins, despite the efficiency gains it is making as it bridges the gap between supply chain requirements and capabilities.

During his presentation, Cox gave several examples from the consumer products industry to explain the power of predictive analytics. He said five critical elements are necessary to be successful in this arena: communication skills, technical skills, business acumen, project management knowledge, and design thinking.  He noted that, as in other industries, demonstrating the ROI of a predictive analysis project was critical to obtaining buy-in from top management. 

After the remarks by the panelists, there was a Q&A session in which the guests asked questions of the panelists. Some questions were obtained in a pre-survey and some were asked contemporaneously by the audience. This discussion helped address common myths related to predictive analytics. 

If you would like to get more involved in the Center, please visit here or contact Interim Director Prakash Mirchandani at 412-648-1652 or by e-mail