Supply Chain Analytics: What It Is, Why It Matters, and More

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Data is the bedrock of modern supply chain analytics. Learn how it’s used to improve supply chains world wide and what a future in this impactful career could look like for you.

[Featured Image] A supply chain analyst draws a diagram on a window in blue ink. There are yellow Post-it notes stuck to the left side of the window.

Supply chain analytics uses data analytics to manage, improve, and support supply chain operations. Today, supply chains are of critical importance to the development and maintenance of the modern economy, providing not only luxury goods to consumers but also basic necessities like fuel and food. 

As distribution networks grow, so does the need for data professionals capable of ensuring they run without a hitch. That’s where supply chain managers and analysts come in. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about supply chain analytics, explore different types that are used every day, and find a list of its benefits. You’ll also learn the principles underlying the digital transformation of supply chains, browse a list of common tools, and encounter some courses that can help get you started on this impactful career today.  

What is supply chain analytics? 

Supply chain analytics uses data analytics methodologies and tools to improve supply chain management, operations, and efficiency.

Due to their extensive reach and complex organization, the modern supply chain network produces a wealth of big data, which can be analyzed to understand trends, identify inefficiencies, and develop insightful solutions. Supply chain analysts use analytics to make data-driven decisions surrounding the development, maintenance, and optimization of global distribution networks. 

The business of supply chains

As e-commerce grows in size and importance, so does the need for well-trained analysts capable of understanding the supply chains that undergird it. According to Allied Market Research, for example, the global supply chain analytics market is projected to be valued at $16.82 billion by 2027, up from a valuation of $4.53 billion in 2019 [1]. 



When most people purchase a pair of shoes, they rarely consider the origin of its materials, how they were manufactured, or the manner in which they were transported to the store. But, logistics professionals like supply chain analysts focus on these details every day. 

To better manage all these factors, logistics professionals use data analytics to find trends and patterns in the big data produced by their supply chain. For example, a supply chain analyst working for the aforementioned shoe manufacturer might analyze historical sales data to predict when consumer demand for the shoes will rise and fall in the foreseeable future. Known as demand forecasting, this common supply chain analytics method ensures that businesses can effectively plan their material sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution to meet customer demand (a process known as demand planning). 


There are many benefits to using supply chain analytics. Some of the most common include: 

  • More efficient supply chain management

  • Reduced operational costs

  • Improved planning 

  • Better risk management 

  • Greater understanding of future events

Types of analytics

There are five primary types of supply chain analytics: descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, prescriptive, and cognitive. Here’s how each functions.

Descriptive analytics

Descriptive analytics uses data to describe trends and relationships, such as supply chain performance or a warehouse’s inventory levels. Logistics professionals use descriptive analytics, consequently, to understand how a supply chain and its parts are currently working. 

Diagnostic analytics 

Diagnostic analytics uses data to diagnose a supply chain problem, such as why shipments were delayed or sales targets were not made. Logistics professionals use diagnostic analytics to better understand the reasons that trends or relationships exist within the data and to better understand the factors contributing to them. 

Predictive analytics 

Predictive analytics uses data to predict future outcomes, such as forecasting future demand or anticipating possible maintenance needs. Logistics professionals use predictive analytics to construct statistical models that allow them to prepare for likely future events, whether common like seasonal demand fluctuations, or less common, like global disruptions. 

Prescriptive analytics 

Prescriptive analytics uses data to prescribe a course of action, such as the best way to improve inventory management or optimize operational efficiency. Logistics professionals use prescriptive analytics to design the solutions they need to overcome the potential problems they identified using descriptive and predictive analytics. 

Cognitive analytics 

Cognitive analytics uses advanced analytics techniques, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to quickly process large amounts of data and produce the most accurate answer. Logistics professionals use cognitive analytics to manage and understand the big data produced by supply chains every day. 

Read more: 4 Types of AI: Getting to Know Artificial Intelligence

The five Cs of supply chain analytics

In a 2020 report by International Data Corporation (IDC) sponsored by IBM, author Simon Ellis outlines the importance of creating “thinking” supply chains that are “self-learning, intervention-free system[s].” To achieve this “smart” supply chain, Ellis notes that current supply chains must undergo a digital transformation that ensures they conform with his five C’s: connected, cyberaware, cognitively enabled, and comprehensive [2].  

Supply chain analysis plays an important role in this digital transformation. Here’s what each of the five C’s mean to supply chain analytics.  

1. Connected 

The “thinking” supply chain is connected to various sources, including social media and Internet of Things (IoT) devices that provide it with large amounts of unstructured data. At the same time, the supply chain is connected to traditional structured data sources like business-to-business (B2B) tools. 

2. Collaborative 

The “thinking” supply chain collaborates with the digital systems used by relevant suppliers and manufacturers. Using cloud technology, modern digitally integrated supply chains should be able to speak with the systems used by other organizations to ensure the most efficient communication between all relevant parties. 

3. Cyberaware

While the “thinking” supply chain provides the opportunity for improved operations and collaboration, it also becomes vulnerable to cyberattacks and intrusions. As a result, Ellis notes that it’s important for modern supply chains to have hardened systems and databases that protect them from outside actors.  

4. Cognitively enabled 

The “thinking” supply chain uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically assess data and make decisions. Ultimately, Ellis sees the system as augmenting the work of logistical professionals, who would instead focus on specialized tasks while an AI would automatically manage the supply chain itself. 

5. Comprehensive 

The “thinking” supply chain is capable of scaling its analytic abilities with increased data. Furthermore, the system is capable of quickly analyzing this new data and making informed decisions.  

Supply chain analytics tools 

There are many supply chain analyst tools available to professionals. Some of the most common supply chain software you're likely to encounter include: 

  • Deloitte Lead Time Analytics 

  • IBM Sterling Supply Chain Intelligence Suite

  • Tableau

  • PeopleSoft Supply Chain Analytics 

Get started with supply chain analytics 

Supply chain analysts use data analytics and advanced analytics to manage and improve the supply chains that are critical to the global economy. Get ready for your career today.

In Google’s Advanced Data Analytics Professional Certificate, you'll learn in-demand skills like statistical analysis, Python, regression models, and machine learning. Rutgers Supply Chain Analytics Specialization prepares course takers to improve supply chain performance by understanding common pain points and how analytics may relieve them. 

Article sources


Allied Market Research. “Supply Chain Analytics Market Statistics - 2027,” Accessed April 25, 2023.

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