Regular readers of SI will know the importance of good should-cost modeling (which is also great for negotiations) as well as good market intelligence (which has dimensions and is valuable in a down economy) in cost reduction and avoidance. And while both should-cost modelling and market intelligence have a number of critical requirements that must be met for success, they both have one key requirement in common — good data. But where do you get good data? Certainly not from supplier bids! A new supplier is going to bid what it thinks it can get, not what the actual price is. Market indices from governments and professional associations? Better, but they will typically be at least a month or so behind. Trade associations that track and monitor prices on a daily basis or stock markets that trade the commodity? Great — but do you have the IT skills to integrate the feeds? And are you going to do it for the dozens of raw materials and commodities you need to build your should cost models?
The best place to get data en-masse is from a professional data provider that tracks and integrates all of the feeds you need into a centralized database that is updated with fresh data for the categories you need when you need it and that maintains years of historical data for analysis purposes. One such provider is Mintec. Formed back in 1982 by consultants and analysts who realized that real savings required real data, Mintec has been collecting raw material, commodity, and service price data from around the globe for almost 30 years. Used by 16 of the top 25 Global Food & Beverage & Retail companies, Mintec maintains price data for a database of 75,000 “line items” from A to Z across dozens of industries and categories. It then distills this information into custom databases for each client that contain just the line items they need, pre-processed and normalized to their defaults. (Combine this data with a great expressive-bidding optimization platform, such as that provided by BravoSolution or Trade Extensions and you have cost avoidance engine that can’t be beat!)
To help their clients understand the data, Mintec provides a data analysis package, called Datagain, which can be used to import, graph, analyze, and compare different line items (such as the petrol price in the UK and the petrol price in Australia, normalized to US dollars). A user can graph any set of series, against any frequency, using any (currency and unit) converions, for any date range she chooses. She can also normalize or index this data using a custom formula, factor in seasonality, and plot trends. She can also break the series down across two or four graphs and/or plot specific subseries, against different projections, to see how the price might trend over time under different assumptions. The normalization / indexing equations can use all of the standard algebraic operators and be defined over any set of variables, including user defined variables, that the user chooses.
If the user is not sophisticated at trend analysis, or does not want to do it, Mintec also offers Benchmarking and Market (Intelligence) Report services that do a deep dive into a particular raw material, commodity, or service that discuss recent, current, and projected pricing subject to the state of the market and the dominant factors at play. These, by request, reports complement the monthly market reports and commodity fact sheets that track the major commodities and markets and their relative month-over-month changes for buyers who want to look at the bigger picture. If the user wants to learn more about Datagain, analysis, and should-cost modeling, Mintec also provides on-demand out-of-the-box and customized training sessions as well as quarterly newsletters and occasional articles.
It’s a huge amount of data, that comes at a very low price point. Most customers pay less than 100K £s for access to the data they need, when they need it, updated as often as they like. Moreover, medium-sized business can get basic access (to the datafeeds) and access to the desktop Datagain tool for as little as 10K £s a year. Large enterprises will probably want the on-line hosted applet version (at the higher price-point) that runs through the browser on a hosted database that is accessible anywhere, anytime, and always up to date. While it is more expensive, it’s still cheap compared to what the organization will be paying for their ERP solution (and much more valuable from a cost avoidance perspective).