Supply chains have become increasingly complicated in today’s worldwide economy due to the growth of competitors, the complexities of the processes involved, and the vast distances that divide locations. Because of this complexity, having supply chain visibility is necessary. With supply chain visibility, every process step can be tracked and monitored in real-time.
Increased visibility throughout the supply chain boosts operational efficiency, reduces risk, boosts customer happiness, and supports environmentally responsible business practices. This comprehensive guide covers supply chain visibility, its importance, problems, and how to achieve it.
The Visibility of the Supply Chain
The term “supply chain visibility” refers to the capability of capturing, analyzing, and making use of real-time data regarding the flow of commodities, information, and funds across the entirety of the network that constitutes the supply chain.
This openness provides a comprehensive supply chain perspective, enabling companies to make well-informed decisions, locate bottlenecks, and improve overall process efficiency. In addition, it improves collaboration between all stakeholders, from the consumers to the suppliers.
The Importance of Having Visibility Throughout the Supply Chain
Most of today’s supply chains are international in scope, and they involve various partners and providers. To gain visibility throughout this complicated network, you will need the appropriate tools and key performance indicators and maintain a certain amount of trust and transparency.
If visibility is lacking, logistical problems may develop, potentially harming customer relationships and reducing profit margins.
Supply chain visibility is becoming an increasingly important tool for risk management as the frequency of disruptions, such as natural disasters, geopolitical conflicts, and even global pandemics, continues to rise.
These types of events can all harm business operations. Businesses can establish contingency plans and reduce the impact of disruptions if they discover vulnerabilities at an early stage and act on them.
Visibility provides accurate demand forecasting, inventory management, and production planning, all contributing to operational efficiency. Visibility also facilitates communication between departments.
Because of this, lead times are cut significantly, optimal inventory levels are achieved, and operations become both more accessible and more effective.
A satisfied customer base can be attained by on-time deliveries, accurate ordering, and the supply of high-quality goods.
A greater level of visibility throughout the supply chain enables more precise order tracking and communication, which, in turn, results in higher levels of customer satisfaction.
Transparency in the supply chain makes monitoring ethical and ecologically responsible business operations more straightforward, which is an integral part of sustainability in this day and age of corporate social responsibility.
Transparency in the supply chain also makes it easier to trace the origin of any problems that may arise.
In turn, this supports businesses in limiting their impact on the environment and maintaining compliance with applicable standards.
Reverse logistics optimization
Returned items are likely causing a black hole in your network; if this is the case, 15% of your stock cannot be located.
Whereas placing an order for a particular component or SKU with a supplier could take several weeks, you might already have it in bulk load from someplace within your network.
You will be able to have a better command over the inventory if you have complete insight, and on top of that, you will be able to shorten the credit cycle if you know when shipments change custody.
Supply Chain Visibility Challenges
The supply chain and logistics industries have been hampered by a lack of transparency for many years. 94% of companies, as reported, need complete insight into their supply chain and logistical processes. A company’s revenue, efficiency, productivity, and customer experience all take a hit when there are problems with the supply chain.
The challenge of achieving complete supply chain transparency raises the question: Why is it so hard? Poor visibility is mainly attributable to the traditional methods of carrying out operations.
Incompatible with other programs, legacy IT is designed to operate alone. Because of this, supply chain and logistics stakeholders have a tough time understanding the big picture.
The act of storing information in a variety of different systems and departments is referred to as “data silos,” and it is this practice that makes it challenging to combine and evaluate the data.
For a comprehensive view of the situation, it is necessary to combine data from various sources.
Integration of Technology
When there are many different stakeholders in an organization, it can be challenging to use visibility tools and technologies in such a way that they are successful. Both compatibility issues and data sharing issues need to be addressed as they provide challenges that must be overcome.
The Reliability of the Data
The foundation for adequate visibility is having data that is not just up to date but also correct at all times.
Decisions can be made that are outside the organization’s best interest if the data available are accurate or incomplete.
Putting in place and maintaining visibility systems can result in significant costs, including financial investments in technology and time spent on training.
However, these costs can be offset by the benefits these systems bring.
Resistance to Change
Employees and partners will likely be nervous about embracing new procedures and technology, which will hamper the move toward increased visibility. Resistance to change will be a problem because of project delays and low adoption.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Realizing Visibility Throughout the Supply Chain
- To improve your supply chain, you need to thoroughly examine its current practices, technology, and information flows.
- Find out which of the various stakeholders, both internal and external, will play the most significant roles in the visibility initiative.
- Develop a clear strategy that defines the goals, the benefits, and the plan for how it will be put into action.
Data integration and centralization
- Invest in technology that will allow data to be seamlessly integrated from a range of sources and do so using a variety of different sources. These sources ought to include distributors, suppliers, and even the company’s internal systems.
- Establish a single, readily available platform or system that can be examined, and it should be the one that consolidates and saves data.
Real-time online tracking
- In order to undertake real-time monitoring of the movement of things, you should make use of tracking technology such as IoT devices, RFID tags, and GPS systems.
- Utilize tools designed for data analysis to gain insights from the data that has been acquired, which will allow for decisions to be made more proactively. Fortunately, the modern market is full of unified communications solutions that will fit any of your needs.
Collaboration and Communication
- By providing the many partners in the supply chain with access to the relevant data and insights, you can encourage collaboration across the chain’s multiple stakeholders.
- Put in place the means of communication that will enable all relevant parties to exchange information and keep themselves up to date in real-time.
Risk management and unforeseen event preparation
- Make use of predictive analytics to get a head start in recognizing potential difficulties and interruptions so that you can take preventative measures.
- It would be best if you had backup plans that outline how you’ll proceed in the case of a change in plans so that operations can continue with minimal interruption.
Analyses of Past Results and Predictions for the Future
Getting a better view of your supply chain from beginning to end is an ongoing exercise, as new tools and methods for doing so become available on a daily basis. However, this is not a business sector in which you can merely integrate solutions and call it a day.
More effort will be needed over time to maintain supply chain visibility as the number of global resource providers, distribution networks, and markets grows.
Improving supply chain visibility can help businesses save money, make greater profits, and grow their businesses.
It will be necessary to implement solutions such as omnichannel software platforms, complicated system integrations, and other innovations.
The definition of the key performance indicators, also known as KPIs, is the first step that must be taken before determining how successful your project is to improve supply chain visibility.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be subjected to routine evaluations, and the insights gained from such reviews should be used to identify areas that could benefit from improvement and optimization.
Management of Instructional Change
- It is essential to educate employees and partners with training on how to make the most efficient use of visibility tools and systems to achieve the best possible results.
- If there is resistance to change, it is essential to speak openly about the advantages of the new direction and its long-term objectives.
- Adopt a mentality of unending development by remaining in a state of ongoing education regarding the most recent developments in supply chain visibility technologies and industry standards. This will help you adopt a mentality of continuous development.
- Make necessary adjustments to your strategy in light of the shifting conditions that have arisen in your supply chain, as well as the appearance of new challenges.
Increased Supply Chain Transparency Required Due to New Laws
According to the findings of a study conducted in 2020 for the European Union (EU), the voluntary approach taken by corporations to address environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues in their supply chains is insufficient to put an end to unsustainable practices and protect the people who are employed throughout the networks.
As a direct consequence of this, the European Union has announced plans to introduce the required law on supply chain due diligence in the year 2021.
The goal of this legislation is to desire companies to achieve complete visibility and assume control over their supply networks.
Not only has the EU begun working on this problem, but other organizations have as well. The global community is finally realizing that legally binding requirements can motivate companies to improve their supply chains.
Several countries have recently passed supply chain due diligence laws, including France, Germany, and Norway. Supply chain transparency is in greater demand than ever before.
How can we improve supply chain visibility?
The key to detecting and assessing human rights and environmental hazards within your supply chain is to establish a sufficient and effective risk management framework.
The only way to know what’s going on and stop dangerous business from happening is to regularly collect vital information from each level of your supply chain.
Companies with extensive and ever-changing supply chains may need help to collect relevant data from their vendors. Unfortunately, that’s not the only option.
Businesses may now increase supply chain visibility with the use of modern technology and software, all while reducing the administrative burden on their shoulders.
However, many companies still handle supply chain data manually, with the help of tried-and-true spreadsheet programs like Excel or Google Sheets. Our research found that only 17% of businesses use sustainability reporting tools to collect and organize their sustainability data. Data gaps will occur if you rely too heavily on manual reporting and vital information may be missed.
Trends in Supply Chain Visibility to Keep an Eye on in 2023
When it comes to supply chain visibility, here are some tendencies that e-commerce store owners should be aware of.
The Digital Transformation
Some problems with earlier supply chain processes, particularly with data or record keeping, were exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, in the future, it is anticipated that more supply chain functions will become digitalized. Better record-keeping and analysis are possible using cloud-based solutions and automated procedures.
Technology Advances for Drivers
Younger people entering the supply chain industry have high expectations for the work experience they will receive.
Having robots handle or speed up somewhat labor-intensive or tedious jobs is a desirable experience.
These employees count on robots to do things like stocking shelves and rearranging inventory.
Drivers also anticipate the inclusion of advanced technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID), global positioning systems (GPS), and electronic point-of-sale terminals (EPOS).
Nearshoring, the practice of outsourcing work (in this example, deliveries) to less-priced enterprises that are close in distance to the outsourcing company, is on the rise due to rising client supply demands.
With nearshoring, you may save money on transportation and get your products to clients swiftly.
Wrapping It up
Suppose a company establishes a strategic road plan integrating data centralization, real-time tracking, risk management, cooperation, and technological integration. In that case, it will be better able to navigate the complexities of its supply chains. This will allow the company to be more competitive.
Adopting this road map will not only result in enhanced levels of operational efficiency and risk reduction, but it will also contribute to the creation of practices that are less harmful to the environment and lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction. Those who, in the face of constant change in the global marketplace, prioritize maintaining visibility along the supply chain will be in a better position to achieve success despite uncertainty.