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The Value of Leveraging Supply Chain Data

By Tom Weber

November 13, 2023

The need to address supply chain challenges such as inflation, evolving sustainability and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and worker shortages continues to be top of mind for many companies heading into 2024. Although each of these challenges is massive individually, companies are facing all of these, and more, at once. While seemingly overwhelming, business leaders can tackle these challenges by implementing a digital strategy based on a strong data foundation.

During challenging times, companies often look to their packaging suppliers to reduce costs. That may seem like a “quick win” for them but may not be a long-term winning strategy. In order to reduce costs while increasing efficiency and innovation, companies must rely on the DNA-level data—specification data—of their products and packaging for optimizations and reporting. Companies that are still managing this detailed data in spreadsheets, PDFs, and email cannot fully trust the data to be accurate or reliable.

Cost-Saving Opportunities

Once you have a strong data foundation that you know is accurate and reliable, you can look for ways to better optimize costs. For example, with digitized data in one central system, companies can quickly identify if packaging supplies are being underutilized or if materials can be swapped for more cost-effective alternatives—or even transition to more cost-effective suppliers.

A digitized data strategy can also lead to cost-savings when it comes to productivity and collaboration. If your teams have a single source of truth to find and leverage data, they’ll spend less time searching for those data points and more time focusing on innovation and optimization.

Reporting can also be significantly improved. Time-savings is similar to the productivity example as well as the data accuracy aspect. You can trust that the data you are reporting is the most accurate and up to date because it lives in one place, instead of in multiple systems, updated or duplicated by multiple people. The questions around data accuracy will be significantly reduced if everyone is working off of the same data “playbook.”

Tackling Sustainability Challenges With a Data Foundation

You cannot achieve your sustainability goals without data. Many companies are missing corporate commitments made on sustainability because they cannot easily access or report on how sustainable their products and packaging are. And with regulatory pressures growing by the day, companies need to act on their sustainability ambitions. Data is the only way to do this.

While sustainability as a whole is a very complex challenge, the process of tackling it doesn’t have to be. It starts with simply knowing the DNA-level data—again, specification data—of your products and packaging. When companies have this deep understanding of the data at their fingertips, it makes sustainability reporting and optimization that much easier.

Additionally, you can connect that data to your life cycle analysis tools so purchasing agents can make sure they are selecting quality products that meet industry standards while still minimizing costs when possible. It is possible to drive sustainability and cost-savings at the same time.

Everything Starts With the Spec

When you boil it down, companies are responsible for their products and packaging. It’s critical with today’s challenges and pressures to get control of your data. Everything starts with a spec, so having specification data readily available is how companies can help meet sustainability goals, drive efficiencies, and optimize costs—all while growing innovation. We all need to do our part in building supply chain resiliency, and it starts with data.

How to Get Started

Specification data crosses company departments, functions, and priorities. From product and quality to sales and marketing to sourcing and leadership, accurate specification data is the foundation to delivering on your goals.

Part of any good enterprise resource planning software system is to simplify the complex, so I advise my client companies to engage with their software supplier’s digital transformation team in a discovery session, which includes these top three items:

  • Defining and prioritizing challenges in information-gathering and dissemination.
  • Mapping supply chain major issues and opportunities to metrics that reflect your business needs.
  • Developing success criteria specific to your packaging business and specific client benefits.

Afterward, you and your team will have a much clearer road map to undertake your supply chain management and cost takeout journey.

Tom Weber is president of WeberSource LLC and is AICC’s folding carton and rigid box technical advisor. Contact Tom directly at