How to Gain Supply Chain Visiblity

Visibility is the holy grail among supply chain managers. They’re all after it for one good reason: increasing the productivity of a supply chain hinges on its visibility.

Before you can improve your supply chain visibility, it’s important to clarify first the meaning of the term. It simply means knowing where inventory is at every stage of the supply chain, from the manufacturer to its final destination.

The only way to gain supply chain visibility is by making sure that data is readily available to all stakeholders. It’s a lofty goal but definitely achievable. Here’s how you can get started.

Foster Open Partnership and Collaboration

The human factor is usually the weakest link in supply chain visibility. It starts with miscommunication and not trusting the other party with information.

If you really want to improve visibility, then start opening up the communication lines. Share information and trust suppliers, third-party logistics providers, and other stakeholders. Present your plan and make sure that their goals align with yours.

An open partnership, more importantly, is a two-way dialog. Listen to your customers and suppliers and use their feedback and expertise to improve your supply chain. All partners will clearly come out as winners once goals and expectations were met.

Invest in the Right Technology.

Technology alone can’t solve logistics problems overnight. But the right technology can help drive better visibility.

You can partner with a service provider that has proven expertise and experience in supply chain technology. Find as many candidates as you can and go for one that truly understands your business and can offer a robust technology infrastructure.

And don’t just invest in technology. Invest in people who can expertly handle your technology infrastructure.

Treat Third-Party Providers as Part of Your Company

The odds are that you’ve already outsourced some work to outside providers and vendors. Sharing information with them is not enough if you want to improve visibility. You have to consider them as a crucial extension of your business. Otherwise, you will lose the ability to track their operations and lack access to vital data.

Additional tip: Work with your business partners on a one-stop-shop “information hub” where key data on all supply chain processes is aggregated and integrated.

Explore Gaps and Refine Your Processes

There may be steps which you can eliminate, opportunities of which you can take advantage, in order to save costs and increase efficiency. You can, for instance, skip incoming inspection by adopting a quality improvement program. Or improve your data quality management to monitor, standardize and troubleshoot data issues.

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