By Rick McCarten
Fall is the best time to eat apples. They are great until mid-October and then they transform back into grocery store apples: less crisp, less tart, and softer. The importance of timing is also true for corn. My father used to say the best corn is steamed minutes after being picked, because when the cob is taken from the stalk, the sugars immediately start turning into starch.
In fact, the time factor is important for all living things. Once they are plucked and put on a shelf, they begin to degrade. Their value, their nutritional content, diminishes.
Let’s take this a step further and apply the same notion to data. Before data are “plucked,” they are a living thing. Once pulled from their source, they too lose their freshness.
Here’s an example: as of 2:45 pm on Saturday, a local apple orchard sold 305 bags of apples. These data are captured. Then at 3:45 pm on the same day, the sales numbers went up 15%. The first bit of information is informative, but it is not as “fresh” as the next reading at 3:45 pm.
Four hours later, the 2:45 pm sales data lose even more significance, and at closing time when total sales for the day are calculated, the older data are no longer significant. At the end of the week, the mid-day sales data mean even less, and less again at the end of the month, until you reach a point where the data become like an apple past its time, and just need to be discarded.
One of the most important services Electro-Federation Canada provides is data. I know that because our members tell us. Members continually rate our statistical program as the most valuable service. We provide monthly sales to manufacturers, and distributors receive quarterly sales totals. Companies use the data to analyze market share, observe overall growth or decline, and look for trends.
The collection of data is about to change. Take super computers, faster speeds, more algorithms and the new potential for data collection, and the detailed information back to you is phenomenal.
For years, Epicor, an ERP solutions provider, has been offering a service called Vista. Vista allows sales data to be collected and downloaded nightly to a central location. The “bot” in the system collects the sales and UPC of an item. This is a select service for a distributor and its main suppliers, but now that ability can be taken nationally and all distributors can have their sales data downloaded to a central repository.
In theory, if all distributors allow access to their sales, just think what would be possible. Manufacturers would be able to receive next day end-customer sales by geographic location. They could also see their end customer market share broken down by product description. Point-of-sale information would replace branch transfer. Next day market share would replace last month’s data. Sales and marketing programs would provide real-time results.
Distributors would get real-time market share and be able to relate cause and effect much more closely. They would be able to work with their suppliers in real time on success and failures.
Sounds very interesting, but how do you get everyone to participate? Our industry, and many industries like us, have been very reluctant to share sales information. But now we are in the digital age and that changes everything. The value of fresh data exponentially overrides stale data, or even worse, unused data.
The issue is not about exposure, but rather about competition. If we do not utilize the latest technology to improve our customer value and efficiency, then someone else will, and they will end up competing with us.
Our sister organization, the National Association of Electrical Distributors, is now embarking on this project. They are well backed by the industry, both distributors and manufacturers, to get a data system, as described above, in place for the electrical industry in America.
In Canada, the time is right to set aside concerns of exposure and begin to build a system that will keep providing “crisp” data to our members so we can leverage real market opportunities, avoid data obsolescence and remain competitive.
Rick McCarten is VP, Operations, Electro-Federation Canada.
Article was originally published in Canadian Electrical Wholesaler