Seeing Blind: Creating The Visible Supply Chain

Building a Future-Ready Supply Chain

Darkness defines our perception. Without light, our ability to distinguish colors is nonexistent. The same goes for supply chains – where voids inhibit the flow of information from one touchpoint to another. Organizations lacking visibility find themselves operating complex supply chain networks in the dark.

Today, the disparate exchange of goods, finances and information happens around the clock. Tomorrow’s supply chains can’t operate blindly. They need insight into customer orders, when they will order and how it will be delivered. Simultaneously they need insights into cross-functional partners to execute fulfillment within the network of procurement, manufacturing and delivery.

The complexity of today’s supply chains results in blind spots that can only be overcome with end-to-end supply chain collaboration. As supply chain visibility rises in importance, only 6% of companies can claim they’ve achieved this. Enhancing and empowering the supply chain by making information easily accessible to every stakeholder across enterprise, including customers, is a necessary asset to drive profitability and create a competitive advantage.

Visibility in the supply chain combines analytics with effective execution to generate alerts followed by a reactive response, preventing customers from ever needing to ask, “Where’s my order?” Leveraging a control tower prevents blind spots across touchpoints, so you can always answer the essential question, “What is happening now?”

Moving Towards Sight
Future-ready leaders recognize that supply chain visibility extends end-to-end, across customers and suppliers, and has implications for the level of data needed, the sophistication of supporting technology, and the amount of collaboration necessary to execute their vision.

Businesses depend on seamless collaboration between supply chain partners and their customers, requiring deep visibility into operational data and information that informs decision making. Sixty-nine percent of companies report that they don’t have a system in place for enterprise-wide reporting of supply chain disruptions. The ability to not only see what is happening, but react swiftly means reduced “time to recovery” and improved overall business performance. Visibility improves the ability to source, manufacture, produce and deliver products, allowing organizations to answer questions as simple as, “Did you receive this order?”

Principles to Managing Risk
Supply chain risk management is an increasingly high priority, especially when it comes to supplier relationships. Gartner notes only 42% of companies become aware of disruptions to their supplier base immediately and have some strategic action predefined to recover. A lack of visibility leaves an organization at risk for:

  • Disruption: Natural disasters, global pandemics, trade wars, labor disputes, politics, etc. Without visibility, organizations cannot minimize disruption and remain resilient.
  • Interruptions: Lack of visibility prevents the ability to forecast demand, leaving inefficient touchpoints or inventory throughout your supply chain.
  • Lack of Data: If you don’t have full visibility into data or data convergence, you’ll lack the insights to connect touchpoints, predict disruption and remain agile.
    • Improving visibility through operational data and information helps inform supply chain and business decisions.
  • Wrong suppliers: Greater supplier visibility is becoming a vital part of business to detect inefficiencies within a supply chain.

Visibility covers all functional domains and connects business partners within and across the organization. Even in 2018, 21.8% of global supply chain executives said visibility was their greatest challenge. Operational visibility provides data-driven insights on a variety of data objects and serves as a basis for intelligent decision making. Enabling operational visibility is a single component of a strategic supply chain built to achieve the future-state an organization envisions.

Meet Your Tomorrow
The impact of end-to-end visibility is a balance between what supply chains need today and what they need tomorrow. Visibility can drastically improve the supply chain as it exists today, but also future supply chains in combination with emerging technologies, big data and customer demand.

Redefining supply chain visibility within an organization is not immediate, but a proactive journey towards the benefits visibility provides. As we continue to explore the qualities of a future-ready supply chain, mastering these five key attributes will improve the short-term ability to exceed expectations and establish capabilities that will position your supply chain ahead of the competition.

Up next in our blog series we will explore how to improve decision making and gain proactive insights using the intelligent application of analytics.

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