Conceptually, supply chain visibility (SCV) is more than a vague notion of general transparency. Instead, SCV means being able to track materials and products from one end of the supply chain (the original manufacturer) all the way to the final B2B destination; that is, across all supply chain tiers. And how is that goal achieved? Through automation and SCV software.
The Benefits of Supply Chain Visibility
There are some obvious benefits with SCV—such as being able to accurately respond to your customers’ inquiries—as well as the ability to anticipate and be better prepared to respond to missed deadlines and other (potential) supply chain headaches.
In addition, SCV can make your supply chain disruption-resistant. If you can see potentially disruptive trends before they impact your business, you have a greater chance of being able to pivot to minimize their negative effects.
And as regulatory compliance is likely to become an even more dominant factor over time, greater SCV will only serve to simplify that process.
What’s more, the agility provided by SCV means that you can respond to—not react to—economic upturns and downturns, industry innovation and consolidation, and oftentimes capricious-seeming customer requests. This translates to lower costs, lower risk, and increased operational efficiency.
So, how is SCV achieved across all supply chain tiers?
Implementing Multi-Tier Supply Chain Visibility
First, it’s important to delineate that there are different ways of defining the various supply chain tiers depending on which industry provides the context for such a discussion. At its most basic, tier 1 suppliers provide finished parts, tier 2 deals with parts components, and tier 3 (or sometimes 4) is the source for raw materials.
Regardless of which tier supplier causes a concern, however, it pays to be on top of things in four areas: transportation, warehousing, inventory, and manufacturing. To successfully achieve this goal via a software platform generally requires implementing the following SCV components:
- All data must be digitized and in the cloud – No supply-chain element can be omitted or tracked simply on spreadsheets.
- A unified data model (UDM) must be employed – Think of a UDM as a bridge that connects various, disparate data sources in order to present a holistic picture of every step along the supply chain—the proverbial apples to apples. And one dashboard monitors, tracks, and projects all data points.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) must be embedded to unify internal and external data – Real-time AI analysis provides accurate forecasting, demand sensing, and dynamic should-cost models.
- Automation must be fully embraced – The greater the automation, the better the data tracking and lesser the chance for unseen variables to create disruption.
Once an SCV-oriented software platform is incorporated along with automation throughout the supply chain, the benefits of SCV likely will follow.
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