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Using Analytics to Turn Government Data into Profit

by APICS staff |   2013 | 13 | 20

Companies are using big data techniques to analyze government procurement and spending, turning this information into a marketable resource, the Washington Post reports. This data helps contractors identify future opportunities, best prices, and competitors.

One startup, Florida-based SmartProcure, operates a searchable database of procurement information, enabling its users to discover facts ranging from how much a city pays for printers to what company won a particular contract. “Most cities actually buy the same or very similar stuff,” says Jeff Rubenstein, founder and chief executive. However, they rarely have any idea what similar cities paid or what vendors were used—information that could be valuable in getting the best price.

“The government is publishing more and more [data] all the time,” says Eric Gillespie, founder of Govini, another analytics startup. He adds that his company’s job is to help customers make sense of that information. Doing so involves finding new ways to analyze data, including examining multiple sources of procurement information and databases.

The industry is helped by recently developed techniques for analyzing big data. “[The market was] already longing for a way to think about benchmarks and analytics in a competitive landscape,” Govini says. “They just didn’t have the mechanism.”

Indian Downturn Hitting Small Suppliers Hard  

A downturn in the Indian automobile sector is leaving small companies struggling with inventory pile-ups, higher fixed costs spread over fewer parts, high working capital, and heavy interest charges from banks, Mint reports. Small manufacturers, which comprise 70 percent of the 700 businesses listed with the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India, are the “weakest link in the supply chain,” says Vinnie Mehta, executive director of the association.

The large number of small suppliers in the auto industry can be attributed to the low barriers to entry in years past, Mehta says. Now, as automakers have become more process-oriented and quality-focused, small companies struggle to survive unless they can provide the right levels of quality, technology, and skilled workers.

Dependence on a single, large automaker is another factor in small suppliers’ woes. Many rely on Tata Motors for the bulk of their sales—a company that has experienced significantly reduced profits this year. Tata representatives, however, say they always have encouraged their suppliers to foster relationships with multiple customers or to explore the possibilities of exporting.

Some auto parts suppliers are looking to expand into other sectors to ride out the slump. Asheet Pasricha, joint managing director at Trinity Engineers, says “Diversifying in non-auto like power generation has enabled us to keep our heads above water.”

Five Techniques for Sustainable Packaging

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition meeting in Tampa last week explored the techniques many companies today are using to make packaging more sustainable, GreenBiz.com reports. Speakers highlighted the following five methods.

Consider the life cycle. Making packaging sustainable means more than looking at a single metric, but focusing on consumption and emissions from initial design through the end of life. Current life cycle assessment software tools enable companies to compare packaging options and identify areas for improvement.

Examine the relationship between package and product. If the package is not right for the product, it can lead to spoilage or over-packaging. Focusing on the right sizing and material selection for the product leads to better efficiency.

Label and market sustainability messaging effectively. Communicating sustainability to customers is important and can help ensure consumers know how to treat the package at end-of-life. Effective communication looks for ways to make meaningful—but accurate—claims that resonate with customers.

Get creative. Companies are always looking for the next innovation. Meeting attendees were treated to a wide range of ideas, including eliminating full-body labels, using biomaterials, exploring sourcing, and finding opportunities for end-of-life solutions.

Collaborate. More companies are working with nongovernmental organizations, professional associations, and other companies to find new ideas to create more sustainable packaging. Forging connections with supply chain partners to solve problems through research and sharing best practices is at the heart of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s mission.

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