The global supply chain has been thrown into utter chaos. Everyday items are back-ordered, delayed, or are impossible to get. Electronic components like semiconductors have lead times of months or, in some cases, years due to increases in demand. Port congestion, equipment shortages, and lack of personnel have slowed the supply chain to a crawl.
The need for end-to-end visibility in the supply chain has never been greater. While this concept is often bandied about, many companies lack the necessary level of visibility to navigate supply chain obstacles, especially those that the world is currently experiencing.
What is supply chain visibility?
Supply chain visibility is the ability to track various goods or materials through its transit cycle, creating a clear view of both inventory and activity from start to finish. Visibility enables shippers to offer better customer service levels and control costs through better inventory management, limiting disruptions, and mitigating risk. The supply chain, as a result, becomes more agile and resilient against inevitable disruption.
Ultimately, the goal of supply chain visibility is to minimize risk while increasing insights into the inner workings of the supply chain. These aspects, combined with insights gained from user data, create opportunities to optimize the supply chain to maximum efficiency.
Critical challenges of supply chain visibility
While the concept of visibility is straightforward enough, putting it into practice can be a challenge. Here are the biggest challenges to supply chain visibility:
- Sharing information and data: Typically speaking, most companies aren’t set up in a way to easily share information and data. Often, relevant data and information that would be useful to multiple departments end up stored in a data silo. Ensuring that data is accessible for all appropriate parties increases overall visibility and ensures the entire organization is on the same page.
- Data Processing: While data is a powerful asset, there is such a thing as too much data. Understanding what data is useful and what isn’t to your organization can be a daunting but necessary task. By focusing on proper data sets, visibility can be magnified to a granular level, allowing for better and smarter decision-making regarding the supply chain. Good data means better cohesion throughout the supply chain and a more consistent and reliable delivery schedule. Additionally, detailed visibility helps predict challenges that may occur in the future and take a more proactive stance instead of a reactive one.
- Heavily Manual Processes: Manual processes are the enemy of efficiency, especially when invoicing is concerned. Suppliers and carriers prefer to be paid promptly. However, managing invoices is a time-consuming process that can devour labor hours. Automated data entry and a centralized software platform reduce the need for manual processes and reduce the risk of human error while increasing overall operational efficiency.
Key benefits of supply chain visibility
The bottom-line benefits of increased visibility is a more efficient and profitable operation. However, the benefits of visibility extend beyond that to include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Minimize Disruptions: Knowing where your supply chain is weakest identifies where potential disruptions may occur. Robust data analysis and better channels of communication create the ability to limit obstacles if not circumvent them entirely.
- Improved Agility: Visibility has a direct translation into agility. Whether this is identifying and correcting weaknesses or highlighting the need to vet a new supplier, the concept of visibility is designed around making your operations as efficient and agile as possible.
- Meeting Demand: Having enough supply to meet demand is the fundamental touchstone of running a successful business. Visibility in the supply chain creates tighter inventory control. Getting what’s needed, when needed, to where it needs to be on time means happy customers and fewer missed sales opportunities due to inventory shortages.
- Better Customer Service: Now more than ever, customer service is essential. Not only does it keep customers coming back for more, but it serves to distinguish one company from the next. Better visibility and data means better communications with customers. The entire supply chain runs more smoothly with automated invoicing and document control, and all involved parties are satisfied.
How to achieve better supply chain visibility
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to improve supply chain visibility. One of the most important factors to bear in mind is that it requires multiple nodes in order to get the most value out of it. Meaning from the C-suite, down to assemblers and material handlers, every hand that touches the product has a role to play in improving visibility. Broadening employee skill sets rather than hyperspecialization increases visibility in-house and is vital to continuous growth and improvement.
Technology, in particular, will play an increasingly important role in visibility and transparency. As the global supply chain shifts into the digital era, having the right technology and technology accessible to all parties is vital. Optimally speaking, technology should be easy to integrate into current ERP or legacy systems with minimal disruption.
Customer expectations are climbing. It’s no longer acceptable for a customer to have to pick up the phone to find out where their package is. Instead, they need to be able to follow its progress, in real time, through an easy-to-access platform. Prompt’s visibility solution provides that and more. Whether you’re looking to improve your visibility and efficiency, automate your documentation, or simply build a better brand, Prompt has what you need.