Gartner Research (Apr 2013) describes the goal of supply chain visibility as follows:
“The aim of end-to-end supply chain visibility is to provide controlled access and transparency to accurate, timely and complete events and data — transactions, content and relevant supply chain information — within and across organizations and services operating supply chains.”
So what does this mean in practice and how can it be achieved?
It means that the IT systems of different companies must be able to talk to each other, and employees must be able to interpret data in the same way in order to make rational decisions. Not only inside the single organization, but also with the value network members such as: suppliers and their suppliers, partners in logistics & transportation, customers and authorities.
It is a complex network, consisting of many companies, processes and IT systems, often regionally fragmented on the globe, speaking different languages and a constantly changing scene.
Businesses should be able to see the inventory levels match the demand, understand trends, optimize fulfilment and manage the cycles in the best possible way to increase profit and operational efficiency.
Companies have typically siloes for different operations, in different regions and functions. The challenge is ensure communication between each other on people and IT systems level, keeping in mind the constant change.
Supply chain visibility will remain a hot topic as global commerce continues to undergo substantial transformation.
End-to-end visibility is getting more and more important for any business entity. It can be the deal-breaker for many companies to succeed or not. At one end, a company can invest endless amounts of cash and resources (incl. time) and eventually still won’t survive. On the opposite side of the spectrum, a thought-leader with top-notch technology, and clear focus on supply chain analytics and visibility, will convert this element into a immense competitive advantage.
It is important to keep in mind the increasing amount of global regulation by default, in addition to e.g. supply chain sustainability topics (how to ensure you have a full audit trail in single product level of the facts about the manufacturing, e.g. using child labor).
Using proactive methods to manage the processes is essential, and a substantial leap-forward from the traditional spreadsheet reporting. Such traditional reporting methods typically come in to play only once negative events have already taken place (hence useless and not helping to resolve anything anymore). Cognitive methods that take a proactive approach are surfacing, but again they need to be integrated to valid data sources, that are usually external.
The secret to achieving results lies in the willingness to adopt new technologies that do not tie your hands to a specific plan for a long period of time. Needs and landscapes will change, therefor you must be able to pivot on a dime. You should not invest years of time and millions of dollars up-front, because you could end up with a solution that doesn’t address the major pain points you are experiencing in present day.
The key is to aim for agility, (cost) efficiency, scalability and leverage what you have as IT systems in place. Do not attempt to replace all you have, because this can be extremely expensive and detrimental to your company’s pocket, both immediately and down the road.
Thought leaders are starting to utilize cloud-based data integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) solutions. These iPaaS solutions allow you to proceed and materialize progress step by step. Supply chain optimization does not exist without full visibility, and full visibilty does not occur without the right integration platform, service, or solution. With real-time integration combined with the added value of supply chain analytics, you will achieve full end-to-end supply chain visibility.