The continuous expansion of logistics operations regionally and worldwide have created more than one challenge to supply chain managers as the increasing pressure of these new activities affected day to day processes and workflows.
Those responsible for the logistics operations are now managing information as well as assets, running complex interconnected systems to ensure low-cost production centers, moving more warehouses closer to customers and generate efficient ties with 3PL providers.
As the complexity of the supply chain increases, so does the need for technological solutions that can resurface transparency and visibility throughout internal processes. Visibility can helps logistics managers to get back in the driver seat and at the same time provide the customer control over the delivery status of their packages.
“Moving toward a demand-driven supply chain is probably the single most important step a global manufacturer can take today.” – Jeff Dobbs, Diversified Industrials
The problem is that most companies have not implemented the necessary tools to gain the visibility needed to optimize and improve the distribution channels, the communication through all partners and end customer service.
Solving this problem will help to maintain 24/7 control over any supply chain process, improve or even correct the internal flow of products and goods, and maybe most important, increase the capability to respond to real-time variations on the demand side.
Why end-to-end visibility?
Today supply chain visibility is the capability to trace, monitor and obtain relevant data throughout the delivery network, develop strategies and take decisions that can lead to operational efficiency, increase customer service abilities and improve on-time response to unexpected problems.
In theory, as a Gartner survey define, end-to-end supply chain visibility results in:
- Cost Reductions in 20%
- Reducing Inventories stocks from 10 to 7 days
- Improve Customer Experience and Satisfaction Levels
- Streamline the Transportation Process in a 5%
Today there are solutions, like Beetrack, geared to achieve these goals, but companies have had a slow adoption rate on connecting the dots between new available technology and logistics processes.
"For years, analysts have reported that among IT spending goals, visibility has been at, or near, the top of the list. But technology initiatives have tended to be the first projects cut, often because there has not been a clear return on investment or strong business case to get it done.” Scott Fenwick, Senior director at Manhattan Associates
These problems are usually generated by supply chain processes that are managed as separate silos by each responsible department. This fragmentation of the responsibilities and data caused miscommunications between companies, providers, and final clients, leading to a counterproductive culture and reducing chances of achieving operational visibility.
Recent research from Gartner states that the ultimate goal of supply chain visibility is;
“The aim of end-to-end supply chain visibility (E2ESCV) is to provide controlled access and transparency to accurate, timely and complete events and data — transactions, content and relevant supply chain information — within and across organizations and services operating supply chains.”
There is a growing trend to achieve transparency in the logistic process which will most likely complicate things even further when it comes to analytics depth and predictiveness. This will not make things easier, and neither will the ever diversifying landscape of tech solutions arising from cloud computing mixing with wearable devices and Internet of Things. Companies will face even more dilemmas over which solution can achieve visibility easier, and can be implemented safely. The competitive advantage of the supply chain will come from the ability to adapt and implement new technologies and mix them together into a personalized data machine seamlessly extracting data from all areas of the organization.
Achieving Supply Chain Visibility
Being able to know where your goods are at any moment in time is a powerful tool to create actionable data which can help to enhance your customer support services and to remove unnecessary processes in the supplier-provider-customer line.
“Obtaining real-time visibility across all tiers in the supply chain can significantly increase speed to market, reduce capital expenditures and manage risk.” - Jeff Dobbs, Diversified Industrials
Business often doesn't have the internal structure to develop in-house tracking and dynamic tools to collect the necessary data. But today there are external tools which can lead to identifying, evaluating and communicating the most valuable information that, small or big business, need to obtain visibility across their supply chain.
There are three main points that managers must have in mind to provide transparency and visibility to their logistics processes;
1. Real Time Communication and Collaboration
As Supply Chain departments keep growing and externalizing their processes, it is crucial to have the right set of tools that can help to open and maximize the communication channels.
Collaboration between the different players in the supply chain is the key to success and is only through a clear communication that we can expect to fulfill this goal. Managers need to set the right expectations for each part of the process and have a clear knowledge of how every part is an important piece of the logistic puzzle.
Communication and collaboration should be expected not only from their providers and dealers but also from customers. This as a way to provide better-personalized services supported by transparent relationships.
2. Building Reliable Relationships
To obtain visibility in the work processes, companies must be capable of building trusting relationships with the external services and customers, information and data should be shared across the production, planning, delivery and customer services department.
Decisions taken based on data have an impact in every part of the supply chain structure. That is why it is important to create a feeling of trust and confidence with all the parties involved and that everyone is working to support and maximize the range of the changes made.
From a customer perspective, building solid relationships is the foundation of loyalty clients and satisfaction levels improvements.
3. Implementing Technology Solutions
Logistics managers should implement systems across their organization and external services to provide the tools necessary to obtain performance data between tiers in a structured way.
Cloud base solutions that provide an effective way to measure, control and keep real-time track of our end-to-end processes are now making visibility of the supply chain something accessible for every logistic company. Once this system is in place, logistics managers can expect to have a “control tower” over the entire operation, which provides access to resources and data supporting smart decisions. Real-time information from external suppliers, delivery status, and customer satisfaction levels can build up the edge of the business.
Technology is surely changing the equation on how logistic processes are managed, placing visibility as a driver that enables supply chain to be run more proactively and efficiently.
"Once supply chain managers get a taste of data, they want more. More information helps achieve new business processes and better decision-making." - Scott Fenwick, Senior director at Manhattan Associates