To Excel or Not Excel Your Supply Chain

3 min read
September 21, 2023

I was recently skimming through LinkedIn and saw a post on the most used Excel formulas for businesses. As a marketer, I use Excel often. It is helpful to dissect, calculate, and analyze data. Interested, I clicked to read more.

Execel formulas Blog

The post included a 65 page document of formulas including how to determine the number of working days in a year, how to extract unique characters, minimum times a particular entry appears consecutively, and data extractions. It was a great consolidation of a lot of information.

But, then I saw it. This post was made in a logistics group.

I was a little shocked and thought to myself, “are 3PLs and logistics businesses still using Excel to manage their supply chains?”. 

The answer to that question is yes. According to a supply chain statistics post, 67.4% of supply chain managers still use Excel as a management tool. 

Is Excel Worth the Risk?

This really stumped me. Sure, the cost of Excel is less expensive and many people already have some experience with the tool. But is it worth the risk?

The idea of a multi-million dollar business or a small business owner or retailer, who’s relationship with their customer is paramount, using Excel for inventory and stock management, supplier tracking, or logistics partnerships is a little worrisome. Or that a 3PL may use spreadsheets to track order qualities, delivery data, and address and contact information seemed risky.  How are they managing manual processes across departments or the business as a whole? Who is responsible for checking the data for those fat-fingered and error-prone entries? How does this data get from one software to another? 

When you consider that 88% of all spreadsheets have errors, it seems alarming to use Excel for important metrics such as units in transit, vendor stock and product SKUs, order data, or even your final bottom-line. Yet, here we are.

The reason—status quo. In other words, change is hard. And yes, there could be potential supply chain hiccups. But these are manageable issues in the grand scheme of success and customer happiness. 

The Hidden Costs of Excel

For many established businesses, Excel is an ingrained part of their process. In a 3PL market research report by Inbound Logistics, they shared that technology investment is a top challenge for 66% of 3PLs—causing a barrier for innovation.

We see the opposite for newer businesses in the supply chain game, especially brands and retailers. According to Retail Delivery Connect, 76% of retailers have adopted supply chain technology—with the sole purpose to improve the customer experience.

The ebb and flow of the supply chain ecosystem continues to bring newer technologies to the forefront of today’s businesses. For those looking to improve accuracy, share data with partners, or gain actionable insights into customer behavior, Excel isn’t going to cut it. As a supply chain management tool, Excel doesn't offer agile best practices, it is prone to human error, data can easily be corrupted, and it is difficult to manage multiple instances and sheets—let alone large data sets. 

There are other hidden issues with Excel as a supply chain management solution and they all have one thing in common: a lack of collaboration. 

Excel Your Supply Chain with Collaborative Visibility

Supply chains are collaborative in nature—especially those that cater to omnichannel and e-commerce customers. They are a continuous network of shared resources exchanging data and information all with the goal of making a consumer happy and satisfied. 

The interdependence of suppliers, manufacturers, brands, retailers, 3PLs, logistics providers and all those in between is just not possible with Excel. These players require real-time data with a unified view of the entire ecosystem that can mitigate risk such as collaborative visibility platforms

And adoption of newer technologies is gaining momentum. Over 40% of supply chain companies already use cloud computing solutions with over 80% predicted by 2026. Robotics, inventory optimization, returns management, and more are making their way into many of today’s supply chain businesses to improve knowledge sharing and reporting, data visualization, and integrations with supplier systems.


Collaborative visibility platforms offer a single source of truth for not only your business but all of your partners. By simplifying complex data utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics an entire supply chain can be seamlessly connected for a comprehensive view of the product journey.

Easily connect backend systems with front facing channels for a seamless unified commerce experience, automate processes with tech-agnostic integrations to marketplaces, shopping carts, warehousing, and final mile needs, or create the ultimate 4PL network. The list goes on. Just like your supply chain network, collaboration is endless with the right technology.

Final Verdict

At the end of day, Excel is a great standalone tool—but supply chains are living networks that require predictive intelligence and insights. Utilizing the right technology allows today’s supply chain businesses to pursue new operating models, enhance the customer experience, and improve agility and resilience. 

Stop worrying about Excel formulas and start learning with data-driven dashboards designed to help you make decisions more quickly so you can adapt your business.

Interested in learning how Osa can help you drive more revenue, contact us

Osa Commerce 2023 Supply Chain Predictions

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