With the technology available today people have high standards. It’s possible to deposit a check into a bank account, pay several bills at once and know how much money is left in the account for that item on amazon: All of this can be done in the matter of minutes on a smartphone. So what does this have to do with supply chains? Managing a supply chain in this demand-driven world requires visibility. Even though customers are trusting supply chains with their products, they still want to be able to keep an eye on it.
Everyone wants visibility in their supply chain, but few have it. Many don’t even know what visibility within a supply chain means. The article Visibility Part 1: What is Supply Chain Visibility and Why Should We Care explains, “Visibility means more than just awareness of where materials are at a given point in time or the amount of goods in a warehouse. Instead, visibility means a window into a wider range of data, supply chain process, events and patterns that enable automation, dynamic responses and predictability. Great visibility into a complex, 21st century supply chain not only answers the basic questions of what is the current state, but it also helps answer questions like: how is the supply chain in this state; why they are in this state; and what will the state look like in the future.”
Ultimately the goal of supply chain visibility is to:
- Improve lead times and performance
- Identify issues (shortages and quality) in the supply chain
- Reduce risk within the supply chain and customers
Those seem like every day goals within a supply chain, but the issue is how to achieve those goals.
Inbound Logistics explains 6 Steps to Supply Chain Enlightenment in the article How to Gain Supply Chain Visibility:
- Open Lines of Communication Among All Parties Involved: Enlighten everyone involved in the process on all ways possible the supply chain is capable to help.
- Trust Partners: Build relationships that are established on trust and aligned expectations, this way everyone knows what they are accountable for.
- Invest in Technology: To drive better visibility the proper technology must be acquired.
- Set Key Performance Indicators: Set clear and concise goals, then throughout the year assess the progress made to reach those goals.
- Know the Customers: Be sure to include customers in the decision making process. Inform them of the changes being made and help them understand the impact it will have on them.
- Identify Cost Savings and Business Process Improvements: “It is important to open up avenues of communication among all parties to discuss how better managed information and insight into inventory management can be optimized individually to improve the whole. Identify how much time different partners are spending to gather necessary visibility without getting what they need. Then consider where gaps exist and explore synergies.”
Supply Chain visibility isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, but it’s worth it. Organizations with higher visibility will gain a competitive advantage. Everyone expects information effortlessly and right away. When you can give customers what they want, they’ll keep coming back for more.