SUPPLY CHAIN VISIBILITY: Types and How To Improve Visibility

supply chain visibility

Some clients will become upset by the lack of a defined delivery date, while others will lose faith that they will receive their product if there is no apparent supply chain. This unease is enough to deter first-time shoppers from returning to your site since they are unsure whether they will receive their order on time.
We’ll explain all you need to know about supply chain visibility in this piece, including what it is, why it’s important, and how to increase it in your organization.

What is Supply Chain Visibility?

The capacity to track individual components, subassemblies, and finished goods as they journey from supplier to manufacturer to consumer is referred to as supply chain visibility (SCV). The scope of the product determines whether raw materials are included and whether the item will be monitored forwards and backward.

Supply chain management technology, which delivers real-time data about logistics and other parts of your supply chain, enables SCV. This data assists businesses in navigating inventory shortages, avoiding bottlenecks, meeting regulatory mandates, and tracking products through delivery.

SCV can refer to visibility within a company’s operational limits as well as visibility throughout a partner network. Because the corporation controls access to important data sources, the former is clearly less of a burden – but it is still not straightforward.

Tracking the flow of a widget from a factory in China to a U.S. assembly plant, then to a wholesale distributor, and finally to the client or store is a complex procedure that necessitates the integration of numerous partner systems.

The technology used to enable this visibility, such as procurement, inventory, and order management software, are generally part of a company’s larger enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Types of Supply Chain Visibility

Supply chain visibility is a broad term, and which parts of the supply chain require more transparency will differ depending on the sector and organization. Companies should examine cargo location, prices, auditing records, and supply chain operations when selecting how and where to acquire more insights into the supply chain.

#1. Cargo Location

One of the most important and fundamental aspects of SCV is real-time visibility into the location and shipment status of cargo. Knowing where an order is at any given time allows a company to plan when to repurchase and deliver products, stay on top of payments, and keep internal and external stakeholders up to date on the status of materials and commodities.

All of these enhancements have the potential to improve operational efficiency. Given that customers increasingly expect to be able to trace their purchases from the time they leave the warehouse until they arrive at their door, visibility into cargo location improves customer trust.

#2. Rates

Rates are defined as the charges associated with freight transportation. As a result, visibility into them assists businesses in understanding how much they spend transporting, shipping, and delivering freight.

This process used to be simpler, but as businesses increase their order volume and keep a closer eye on the number of shipments, available carriers, and potential fulfillment sites, things become more complicated. For supply chain leaders to undertake cost-benefit evaluations and monitor company expenditure, full visibility into the various rates is required.

#3. Record checking

Visibility into the supply chain provides precise and thorough information on previous transactions, freight activity paperwork, and more. This data is crucial during the auditing process since it helps organizations to thoroughly analyze, review, and validate previously completed orders. Greater transparency in the auditing process also makes compliance with rules much easier, which is especially crucial for multinational corporations.

#4. Supply Chain Operations

Transparency in supply chain activities entails tracking quotations, order receipts, bills of lading, proof of delivery, and other data, then sharing and managing it all. This enables firms to track every supply chain action in order to recognize, target, and respond to any problems that may occur.

Reasons Why Supply Chain Visibility Is Critical

So, what is the significance of supply chain visibility? Insights into a supply chain’s inner workings can help to inform operations, customer happiness, compliance, and company growth. Other benefits are summarized in four C’s:

#1. Complexity

Today’s supply chains are global in nature. Extending insights across a broad supplier network necessitates not only the appropriate software and KPIs but also a degree of trust and transparency. It’s also the only way to avoid logistical blunders, which can harm client relationships and reduce profit margins.

#2. Customers

Having the appropriate items in the right places at the right time is critical to customer satisfaction, retention, and acquisition. Furthermore, customers have come to demand quick delivery and the ability to trace their items from the loading dock to the doorstep.

#3. Compliance

International supply networks are subject to stringent regulatory restrictions, such as shifting trade agreements, procurement laws, and government tariffs. Then there’s your brand’s reputation to consider: Are you certain that all of your supply chain partners are acting ethically? SCV assists businesses in monitoring and managing variables like as unpredictable currency exchange rates, extreme weather, and political or social upheaval that could cause shipping delays.

#4. Competitiveness

Because the supply chain consumes a large percentage of many firms’ operational expenditures, inefficiency has a direct influence on the bottom line. SCV enables businesses to identify and correct inefficiencies in the supply chain, resulting in cost savings.

How Can You Improve Supply Chain Visibility?

  1. Create a network map of your supply chain.
  2. When it comes to sharing updates, be proactive.
  3. Communicate often with suppliers.
  4. Provide shipping tracking.
  5. Give shipping updates in real-time.
  6. Join forces with an online shopping assistant.
  7. Collect Customer Feedback.

#1. Create a network map of your supply chain.

Before you can make your supply chain more visible, you must first understand how it operates and where your company’s resources come from. The most straightforward approach to accomplish this is to map out all of your suppliers and study how each one distributes its product or resource to your company. When you understand how your items are manufactured and distributed to clients, it will be easier to make your supply chain more visible.

#2. Be proactive when it comes to sharing updates.

When a problem occurs in your supply chain, you must be proactive in communicating changes to your consumer base. Don’t sit around waiting for clients to contact your support team because they haven’t gotten their order. Instead, message them personally to let them know you’re aware of the problem and working to get their order to them as quickly as possible.

You do not need to describe every detail, but you must inform them of the reason for the delay and when they may anticipate their product to be delivered. Remember that most clients will understand if you are open and reassuring. However, if you do not tell them when they will receive their order, they will continue to phone until they obtain an answer.

#3. Communicate often with suppliers.

Communicating often with your suppliers is the best approach to finding out when a fresh shipment will arrive. You may safely inform clients when a purchase will arrive if you build a solid relationship with them. And, if problems arise in your supply chain, you’ll be among the first to learn about any updates or delays.

#4. Provide shipping tracking.

If you are an e-commerce firm, adding automated shipment monitoring to your website is a terrific approach to boost supply chain visibility.

#5. Give shipping updates in real-time.

Real-time updates, like live tracking updates in the previous example, are another approach to notify customers when a product will be delivered. In reality, many businesses use SMS to notify clients of delivery status updates.

#6. Join forces with an online shopping assistant.

If you don’t want to offer in-house shipping tracking, another alternative is to work with an online shopping assistant who can. Shop, for example, is an order tracking software that notifies clients when their purchase will arrive. When customers make a purchase, their order information is sent to Shop, where they can check information such as projected delivery dates, tracking numbers, and past transactions.
Shop can even map out the delivery route so you know exactly where your order is when it says “in transit” on the app.

#7. Collect Customer Feedback.

If you’re not sure where to begin improving supply chain visibility at your company, polling your customers is a great place to start. You can accomplish this by sending an NPS or CSAT survey through email once a product has been delivered. You may use this survey to ask clients where your company can enhance its delivery procedure and what else your firm can offer once they make a purchase.

What are the Best Supply Chain Visibility Software Features?

With the rising complexity of the supply chain, the organization’s selected solution needs specific qualities to help it work more efficiently. Shippers, for example, use a variety of means of transportation while transporting goods. As a result, information is available in a variety of formats, making it impossible to establish a uniform format for all logistical data. This results in inefficiency and a rise in administrative expenditures, which can endanger the company’s reputation and lead to a negative customer experience.

It is critical that the technology is rigorously tested. A few criteria can assist narrow down the most efficient one for an organization’s needs:

#1. Previous Experience

A solid track record in customer service from reputable organizations is a good indicator of efficient supply chain visibility software. Businesses require ongoing monitoring and customer care at every level of the process, from the installation of tracking devices through their return within the supply chain. Choosing organizations that are consistently good at this is therefore critical.

#2. The Ease of Integration with Legacy Systems

As supply chain technology becomes more complicated, legacy system technology becomes outmoded and inefficient because it is not scalable and does not satisfy the industry’s expanding standards and needs.

Legacy systems also have a tendency to provide solutions to only one aspect of the supply chain workflow, frequently neglecting and remaining incompatible with other formats utilized by other operations. Decoding these while attempting to incorporate them into other outdated systems is inefficient and frequently erroneous. Transparent, scalable, and simple-to-integrate solutions are required.

#3. Analytical Skills

Analytical solutions identify flaws and problems in the supply chain process. Predictive analysis improves the supply chain process by making it more proactive. Prediction accuracy, enhanced performance, increased tracking capability, and product return analysis are all elements of effective analytical software. It should collect data while also being accurate and simple to understand.

#4. Data Safety

One of the most important features of a software solution is security. Customer data, important company information, financial reports, and supply chain protocols are all included in supply chain visibility software. These are sensitive to a company’s operations and business strategy. Any leak can seriously harm trade secrets and other intellectual property.

A really effective supply chain visibility software incorporates information that is shared by all stations involved in the supply chain operation. While there is a lot of data interchange, it might be subject to cyber-attacks, which can result in huge financial losses. One of the most critical factors to consider when selecting supply chain visibility software is security.

#5. Utilization Ease

When selecting a software solution, businesses should consider user experience and intuitive systems. Because the software will be used by multiple departments across the supply chain process, usability assists employees in integrating data and understanding other station data. The interface should be straightforward and simple to use so that people can obtain the correct data without misinterpreting it.

Supply Chain Visibility Issues

While attempting to keep up with complicated supply chain processes, supply chain visibility systems encounter the following challenges:

#1. Silos of Information

The majority of supply chain information is restricted to specific departments. Supply chain visibility solutions must evaluate each format of the information, without leaving any department out of the equation; they must also manage and assure data integration.

#2. Smaller Vulnerabilities are Overlooked

It is critical to map out the supply chain’s risks and weaknesses without leaving out any specifics so that businesses can make faster decisions when lower-level suppliers are impacted. In the event of pandemics, economic downturns, or trade conflicts, a supply chain map will assist organizations in guarding against supply chain interruptions by taking all suppliers into account.

Keeping up with ever-changing supply chain processes makes it impossible to develop a universal solution for any firm, therefore visibility software must be updated on a regular basis to compete with market and customer demands.

Digital, cloud-based, and agile supply chains are becoming more prevalent. Here are six themes to keep in mind when you revise your supply chain strategy.

#1. Digitization

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from a nearly overnight shift to remote labor, it’s that manual processes and paper records are no way to run a contemporary supply chain. Spreadsheets don’t fare any better. By digitizing the supply chain, you will dramatically increase business leaders’ capacity to make fast choices based on demand projections and manage inventories, suppliers, transportation, and storage.

#2. Moving to the cloud

Similarly, the constraints of legacy on-premises systems and storage have become apparent. As-a-service supply chain software is accessible to decision-makers wherever they are and is frequently easier to integrate with partner systems.

#3. Focus on resilience

Modern supply chains allow for near-real-time modifications to deal with disruptive situations. End-to-end visibility and supplier relationship management capabilities, together with contingency planning, crisis management processes, and incident response plans, are critical here.

Companies are also increasingly attempting to reshore or nearshore elements of their supply chains to their home nation, bringing the supply chain closer to, but not within, their home country. More than merely a reaction to consumer demand, both procedures can reduce transit and shipping costs, boost flexibility, shorten lead times, and improve the ability to detect hazards and potential product problems.

#4. Reverse and circular logistics

Today, “end-to-end” does not always imply a straight connection from steel to sheet metal to carmaker to the dealership. The concept of a circular supply chain is gaining traction as businesses seek to improve the sustainability of their manufacturing by reusing and recycling goods.

Similarly, reverse logistics is all about extracting value from excess commodities or appropriately disposing of them. As previously stated, U.S. buyers returned merchandise worth more than $300 billion in 2019, with a large portion of those things winding up back in the hands of wholesalers. Profitability is dependent on how well the reverse logistics process is managed.

#5. Automation and robotics

Advanced automation and robotics improve operational efficiency and eliminate errors from repetitive manual operations and data entry, both on production lines and in software via robotic process automation (RPA).

#6. AI and machine learning

AI and machine learning both improve supply chain efficiencies through trend detection and self-learning capabilities. These technologies will eventually be integrated into the leading supply chain and logistics software to improve decision-making, planning, forecasting, and sophisticated computations, among other things.


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