Visualizing Global Supply Risk Data

Even though it's a bit pedantic in tone, the content in Andrew Dailey's guest column in Supply and Demand Chain Executive that examines how to visualize and analyze global supply risk visually is fascinating indeed. It's worth spending a few minutes reading the article for the maps alone. I've often thought about displaying supply risk using "heat maps," but clearly Dailey and his colleagues at GeoCritical have taken this many steps further. Why is this type of visualization needed? According to Dailey, the problem is that "Supply chain executives and business continuity managers can be inundated with volumes of data from various internal sources that need to be organized in a logical format." The types of visualization tools that Dailey talks about are known as Geographical Information Systems (GIS). When deployed, they enable "the user to visualize a complete company profile [allowing] ... for the greater understanding of the operating environment surrounding the corporate global footprint. Relationships can then be drawn between these locations, allowing for the company's supply chain to be identified and monitored."

I've often wondered why more organizations do not look at Spend Management data from a geographic and pictorial perspective. Perhaps we're so accustomed to living in spreadsheets, PowerPoint and our chosen procurement and operations applications that it's hard for us to think about the power of visualizing similar information sets in entirely different ways. This is too bad, because as the saying goes -- and it's definitely true when it comes to supply risk -- a picture can often tell a thousand words. And it's almost good to see such a picture in planning sessions before someone else creates it for you in the news headlines after a preventable supply chain crises takes hold.

Jason Busch

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