The efficiency of a company’s supply chain is one of the most critical aspects in determining its ability to generate revenue, manage costs, and continuously meet customer expectations.
According to one study, 79% of firms with high-performing supply chains achieve significantly faster revenue growth than their industry averages. However, many companies still struggle with supply chain operations simply because they require a large amount of monitoring and visibility to operate effectively.
As it happens, supply chain management is often highly complicated for even the smallest of organizations, especially if they must include several suppliers and manufacturing processes along the way. Yet, despite its complexity, it’s crucial to understand what’s going with the supply chain at every stage of the process to run a business efficiently.
Shockingly, only a meager 6% of companies report complete end-to-end visibility of their supply chains, and 15% only have visibility during production. Consequently, when significant issues arise and the supply chain is disrupted, it’s very hard for a company to diagnose and remedy what they cannot see. Plus, this makes departments reactive rather than proactive to supply chain events, which is never an ideal situation.
What is supply chain visibility?
Supply chain visibility is a business’s ability (and all other involved parties) to observe and access all of the events, transactions, and other shipment data from across their entire supply chain.
To have true end-to-end supply chain visibility, a company must track individual components, sub-assemblies, and final products through every single process in the chain, from the moving of a product from the supplier right through logistics, transport, and distribution to the end consumer.
The more visibility and the more data a company has about their supply chain and each of the essential processes involved, the better.
Why is supply chain visibility important?
These days, companies are being driven to become more agile and responsive than ever before. This is because supply chains are growing increasingly customer-centric due to customers’ ability to buy almost anything, at any time, through a variety of different channels.
Achieving complete supply chain visibility makes meeting these demands more attainable while also enhancing the overall customer experience.
Secondly, supply chain visibility provides organizations with real-time access to the data they need to run their business successfully. This information allows them to pre-plan more accurately based on up-to-date shipping statuses. In turn, businesses have the potential to achieve maximum inventory efficiency, reducing costs as a result.
Finally, full end-to-end supply chain visibility helps to mitigate risk more effectively, prevent order errors, and minimize disruptions, all of which result in a better experience for the end consumer.
With all of this in mind, why has end-to-end supply chain visibility proven to be difficult to achieve? Let’s look at some of the significant challenges that businesses are dealing with.
- Unavailability of reliable data
- Lack of technology and tools that accurately forecast demand
- Lack of synergy between automated systems and manual operations
- Information across the supply chain exists in silos
In other words, each department or process of the chain is fragmented, as they are designed to serve the purposes of the individual departments, rather than the overall efficiency of the supply chain.
The next-gen technology looking to improve SCV
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and consumer demands continue to rise, the stakes for companies to meet customer expectations have never been higher. As a result, many businesses have shifted their emphasis to new and creative supply chain visibility solutions.
Let’s take a look at some of the next-generation technology that is addressing these key challenges.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
With supply chain monitoring units either constantly connected to the cloud via cellular towers or intermittently syncing data via additional devices, companies can now use IoT tech to achieve full end-to-end supply chain visibility far easier than ever before. Using precise, fast, and secure data logging services, businesses are using big data to do things such as:
- Track the location of products in transit
- Observe temperature and moisture conditions along the entire supply chain
- Be kept up to date on environmental statuses
- Observe traffic patterns during transport
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Companies can now assess whether or not their cargo is at risk of a number of disruptions thanks to AI and sophisticated analytical tools. For example, if a shipment of refrigerated products is at risk due to unexpected equipment failure, a company can now be notified in real-time. Using this data, appropriate departments can make better judgments on responding to the issue, such as rerouting deliveries.
The capability to track assets along the supply chain using AI helps avoid waste, limit inventory loss, and reduce the chance of missing shipments, all of which assist in reducing risk and possible revenue loss.
Additionally, companies can integrate machine learning and predictive analytics to automate warehouse operations, reduce delivery times, proactively manage inventory, maximize key sourcing relationships, and develop innovative customer experiences that boost sales and improve the experience for the end-consumer.
Finally, blockchain technology can substantially enhance supply chains by allowing faster and more cost-effective product delivery, increasing product traceability, strengthening partner coordination, and facilitating access to flexible lines of finance.
Furthermore, blockchain technology can better manage supply chains by documenting price, date, location, quality, certification, and other pertinent data.
The availability of this data on the blockchain can improve material supply chain traceability, reduce counterfeit and grey market losses, increase visibility and compliance over outsourced contract manufacturing.
Despite the apparent benefits of end-to-end supply chain visibility, many firms throughout the world have struggled to achieve it. This is especially true for companies with global supply chains that include multi-layered manufacturing processes, a large number of suppliers, or complex logistics before the product reaches the end consumer.
Companies now have genuine solutions to many of the long-standing issues associated with supply chain transparency, thanks to developments in next-generation technology such as the internet of things, AI, and blockchain.