The landscape of supply chain visibility has undergone seismic shifts and as such new approaches to supply chain visibility are needed in order to ensure adequate decision making, ensure competitiveness, and enable the supply chain to respond to change. Of course, supply chain visibility is also essential for boosting the bottom line and making a supply chain business financially lucrative.
Being able to see what’s going on, and where, in the chain, is crucial to that chain’s success. However, how you do that now differs greatly from in the past.
The Shift to a Consumer-Centric Supply Chain
Supply chains have been turned on their head. It’s no longer a case of businesses providing customers with their selected options and the consumer being content with a limited choice. Now the customers can demand and wield their own power, and they do. Choices are wide open and consumers realise that they have the power over where to take their money. The result is that supply chains need to be quick to adapt, being both agile and responsive. Successful supply chain businesses are those that are better able to predict their customers, even before the customer themselves knows what they want.
Furthermore, consumers no longer have to wait. Big shipments aren’t the only way to get goods now. Instead, smaller regular shipments are made frequently to prevent huge storage costs, and to meet consumer expectations. This is especially true in retail environments, where businesses want to manage inventory so as not to be holding large amounts of stock that may become quickly obsolete. However, this isn’t possible without crystal clear visibility.
Finally, supply chains now have the tools, in the form of technology, to ensure that the highest levels of visibility are achieved throughout the chain. Technology encompasses the tools of logistics such as GPS to a whole new ball game through the Internet of Things. These insights are the visibility we need to make our supply chains responsive, agile, and successful.
New Approaches to Supply Chain Visibility – In Practice
There is not one approach here, rather a multitude of different approaches. All come together to create overall greater supply chain visibility.
- Aggregated Networks: e.g. supplier portals and mode specific carrier networks. These networks provide visibility regarding all transactional processing.
- Real-Time Location Trackers: most notably, GPS trackers, provide supply chain managers with real time information on the location of goods and parts. The result is increased visibility and increased accountability over every element of the chain.
- Insight Tools: Technology is now being utilised to our advantage to not only gain access to the information and data we require, but to provide insight and interpretation with regards to that data.
Even though technology provides the tools behind the new approaches to supply chain visibility, it is powerless without the talent and structure needed to make the most of it. This means that businesses reliant on supply chains need to take a collaborative approach to their technology with the view to increasing visibility. Visibility will give them the competitive advantage needed in modern supply chains, and so it is worth investing the time and effort in creating it.