What Is Supply Chain Visibility?

June 17, 2016

Supply Chain Visibility

What is supply chain visibility? Well, it comes down to understanding where your products (both raw materials and finished) are at all times. However, this is just one aspect of it. Of course, what we are speaking of here pertains to supply chain management. The ability to see everything, identify abnormalities and bottlenecks, fine-tune performance and make decisions all in real time. This end-to-end visibility allows companies to capitalize on opportunities to grow profits and increase speed to market. It also allows them to react much quicker.

As growing customer demands continue to put pressure on global supply chain the need for end-to-end supply chain visibility increases. We have heard countless horror stories of companies losing track of their goods in transit Not only are such abnormalities detrimental to a company's pocket, they open the door for competitors to win opportunities due to your lack of visibility, execution and management. Nowadays, if you can't get something done, someone else will. Plain and simple. 

In speaking with a large FMCG manufacturer recently, if we think about KANBAN, JIT or Lean manufacturing, we want to supply products to the consumer so that it is available when they want to buy it. The question is, how much inventory do we need to carry across the supply chain to be able to meet that demand? Not only do we need to understand our consumer buying behaviors, we need to know the ability of our suppliers and logistics partners to supply. The example we discussed, we have over 5,000 TEU’s in transit during any one-month period, with more than 20 carriers. wouldn’t it be good to know the quantity and state of all that inventory at any given time? Yes, is the answer.

Another example was with a large industrial goods manufacturer. The Tsunami in Japan, quite simply halted production in Japan. The ability to take a real time snap shot of all product in transit, and understand carrier capacities and plant capacities, allows you to re- plan and schedule at the plants before your competitors can snap up the existing carrier capacity and supplier inventories. This is a major competitive advantage.

There are many examples of supply and demand (buying raw materials, commodities etc) when , complete integration and full visibility would add substantial value to any organization.

Of course, this is just a high-level overview of what supply chain visibility is and its benefits. Now the question is, what does supply chain visibility look like? We have listed three key features of optimal supply chain visibility. 

1. Route Visualization

supply chain route visualization

Route visualization provides quick visual access to the products and volumes in transit and the overall performance of a lane. Lanes can then be compared and analyzed in overlaying views. 

Route visualization uses state-of-the-art Automated Business Process Discovery (ABPD) algorithms to consolidate business process flows over a given period of time or in real-time.

2. Supply Chain Analytics Dashboards

Supply chain analytics

Supply chain analytics track the life cycle of different business objects (e.g. tickets, parcels, containers, invoices, etc…) based on information extracted from integrated data or events. From this data, you gain a detailed insight into your business process performance. 

Volume information, lead times, process variations, etc can be used to analyze business process performance and bottlenecks, track SLA's and identify areas for process improvements and even predict future events.

Proactive alerting features discover anomalies and inform you of them automatically. This allows you to fine-tune and adjust processes before your customer can uncover them. 

3. Chatbots 

Chatbot

 

Chatbots are bringing a new definition to supply chain management, communication and execution. With chatbots, you can fully interact with the parties, applications and systems across all supply chain partners simultaneously. They offer an automated multi-channel conversation service through a platform of your choice (Skype, FB messenger, Linkedin Messenger, whatapps, email SMS, etc...) that allow you to communicate with any endpoint. An endpoint being a source of data.

To perform your best, you must be able to quickly understand changes in market demand, the actions of your competitors and the performance of your suppliers and partners. The only way to do this is with end-to-end visibility. Many believe they are currently achieving such visibility, but if you are lacking any of the features I just mentioned, you may be missing out on a substantial opportunity. 

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