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Make Better Decisions with Commercial Mathematics

Asahi Beverages approached Biarri with a question: was it possible to reduce their transport costs and the time spent scheduling their transport routes? The solution needed to be effective for more than 100 truckloads of beverage products delivered by Asahi per day across over 1000 deliveries. Subsequently, we went on to save Asahi 10% of its transport costs. Not only that, but by adopting Biarri’s vehicle routing tool, Asahi was also able to provide better customer service through improved adherence to agreed delivery time windows. Last year, Asahi achieved a 6% reduction in kilometres travelled and a 14% reduction in truck trips, despite an increase in unit sales, with less human planning effort. This helped them be more efficient and helped them make better decisions.

The solution was delivered in weeks and continues to be expanded across the Asahi business.

We deliver these significant benefits with our clients by making the most of a resource they already have in large amounts – data.

Making Your Data Work For You

I have worked in supply chain for over two decades. I’ve seen the masses of data created using high tech (and high-cost) transactional ERP solutions, data warehouse, and KPI systems. The opportunity to extract real value from that data is typically lost by using it simply as a diagnostic tool to illustrate our past transactions and lagging KPIs, i.e. our forensic history.

In our supply chains, we need to demand more from our technology investments and extract more value from our data. But how do we move from merely understanding what happened and why, historically, to taking control and informing our future?

The benefits are significant as many case studies show.

Ground-breaking Mathematics

One of my favourite quotes is, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”, a quote commonly credited to Abraham Lincoln. This idea is at the centre of what we do at Biarri, as it resonates with our mission to revolutionise decision-making.

By harnessing the power of Commercial Mathematics, we can deliver predictive analytics informing what is going to happen and prescriptive analytics so we know what we should do to achieve desired outcomes.

Through our experiences applying Commercial Mathematics, Biarri has developed the Data Value Maturity Curve (Figure 1). This maturity model highlights the opportunities  for organisations and guides them to determine how to think about accelerating the value derived from previous technology investments. The lower end of the curve does little to guide what to do next. The further up the curve, the closer we get to making decisions to take affirmative action.

Commercial Mathematics can cope with multiple constraints, conflicts, and scenarios much better than most of us. The more familiar we become at using mathematically powered data, the more agile we can become and the more informed our decisions will be.

Technology investments such as ERP systems provide valuable and expansive databases that can be used to unlock the intellectual property in organisations. This data explosion will accelerate as we control and capture data from all manner of devices (often referred to as the Internet of Things). We have the capacity to use this data to create fast and robust decisions, but only if it is used effectively with the right tools.

The Impact of Commercial Mathematics on Supply Chain

I have had the benefit of working in significant supply chains for a number of years as a Supply Chain and IT executive. Today, I have the good fortune to work with some of the brightest mathematicians Australia produces, and every day I see brilliant outcomes delivered in a short space of time. Throughout my career, I have worked on solving many problems without the power of Commercial Mathematics and delivered what I thought were great outcomes. Unfortunately, I had no idea what great looked like.

One of Biarri’s first engagements, around 10 years ago, was to design the layout plan for the National Broadband Network (NBN). When NBNCo considered Biarri versus traditional engineering firms, our cost to solve varied from 30% less than the nearest option and the civil works solution itself was several hundred million dollars better cost-wise than the alternatives. The contract was won and a new global standard was set for excellence in fibre optic network design.

This excellence in mathematics has continued to grow and now manages route planning, rostering and crewing, solving to service levels, costs, fatigue, and multiple other constraints for myriad of Australia and North American businesses including airports, railways, and shipping.

World-Leading Australian Technology

The technology for applying Commercial Mathematics is being developed right here in Australia. International clients are applying it to solve their problems, including two of North America’s largest fibre optic network companies and the world’s two largest freight forwarders. Likewise, our rostering and rolling stock optimisations are not only saving millions for local Australian-based rail businesses, but we now have Class 1 railways in the US also benefitting.

We are immensely proud of gains such as these we’re consistently delivering to our clients.

The flexibility and capacity of Commercial Mathematics is astounding. Whether it’s problems relating to routing scheduling, complex resource, or conflicts and constraints, Commercial Mathematics can solve them. This process is fast and accessible, and is often quicker than targeting an 80% fit with off-the-shelf “optimisation software”. In comparison, our Mathematics solutions target a unique fit with a strong ROI, at times, measured within days or weeks.

Australia produces great mathematical minds that are focused on delivering real, tangible benefits for diverse businesses. We believe that everyone should have access to this powerful, world-class technology; not only universities and science and tech companies, but also exporters and importers, distributors, and logisticians.

We need to grasp the opportunities presented to us by Commercial Mathematics with both hands, not just because we can, but because if we don’t, we will be left behind as businesses and as an efficient global trading nation. Let’s determine our own future by making better decisions.

By John Payne (CMILT) who leads Biarri’s Supply Chain business. John has been working in and on supply chains for over 20 years, is an Industry Fellow at Griffith University in Queensland.

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