Leveraging big data for supply chain resilience

When superstorms, viral epidemics, or political upheavals hit supply chains, how can businesses be ready?

Professor Jennifer Blackhurst, MBA business analytics faculty director, and her colleague Assistant Professor Kang Zhao are examining how the structure of supply chains impacts a company’s resilience amid disruptive events.

“You want really tight partnerships and strong connections with your suppliers, but there's a balancing act,” says Blackhurst, who managed lean manufacturing and process improvement projects as an industrial engineer with Rockwell Collins prior to teaching. “If you’re too tightly connected and have no flexibility to react in the face of something bad happening, you could be too fragile.”

Her research examines how companies can leverage big data to improve supply chain efficiency and the way they respond to volatile demand.

“Being able to leverage data to make really informed decisions and set strategy gives a company an edge on competition. Analytics is becoming very key in managing a world-class supply chain, and it touches all aspects of a business.”

“There’s a real push within the supply chain field to better use big data, whether that's predicting future demand patterns or managing a really complex supply base or identifying problems before they disrupt the supply chain,” she says. “Being able to leverage the data to make really informed decisions and set strategy gives a company an edge on competition. Analytics is becoming very key in managing a world-class supply chain, and it touches all aspects of a business.”

Business analytics has become so crucial that the Department of Labor projects a 25 percent growth in data jobs by 2018. That’s why Tippie has taken a bold lead in equipping the next generation of data innovators, offering undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate degrees as well as certificates in business analytics.

“We’re one of the first schools to offer a full suite of business analytics programs,” Blackhurst says. “We partner with industry leaders, ask them what they need, and how we can better prepare our students to solve their biggest challenges.”

“Our students are gaining the technical skills and business acumen to step into an organization from day one and start making a real impact.”

“Our students have multiple opportunities to interface with companies and work on real problems,” she says. “They’re gaining the technical skills and business acumen to step into an organization from day one and start making a real impact.”