To Achieve Supply Chain Visibility, Get Ready to Digitize
The past year has been filled with “black swan” disruptions to organizations around the world. With most companies reporting significant disruptions in their supply chains, the criticality and value of supply chain visibility is now viewed as a lever for resiliency like never before.
But with few professionals claiming to have full visibility into their supply chains, there’s major work to be done. As a result, 76% of manufacturing executives plan to cope by increasing their investments in digital initiatives and implementing more Industry 4.0 technologies.
The options to digitize are endless — so where should supply chain leaders start? The answer is where it will drive the most impact, and it all starts with establishing visibility.
Lack of Visibility Plagues Supply Chains
Data collected from a recent social media poll of supply chain professionals showed that 63% of respondents listed “getting real-time visibility” as their No. 1 priority to increase agility and resilience in their supply chain.
Visibility tops the list of importance for supply chain leaders because of a few common pain points that lead to major challenges. Many global supply chains have dozens to hundreds of touchpoints that all play a role in getting a purchase order from the manufacturer to the buyer. Yet collaboration is a struggle due to siloed data and the inability to share critical information in real-time.
With crucial data scattered throughout multiple systems and electronic data interchange inaccessible for users from every touchpoint, internal departments and external trading partners tend to interpret data differently — and often when it’s too late. Businesses aren’t able to collaborate with suppliers and partners to prevent costly errors, address exceptions, resolve purchase-order discrepancies and interpret partner agreements.
Why Visibility is the New Differentiator
When real-time data is centralized and accessible throughout an entire supply chain, visibility is established and benefits realized right off the bat, such as significantly reduced fines and chargebacks, and late shipments and payments. Supply chain data is transformed into comprehensible business documents, allowing leaders to track and follow transactions through timeline views, view dashboards for easy information, ensure faster error resolution and make more-informed decisions.
The right digitization solution — specifically centered on data analytics — can take a surplus of data and make it actionable. This is especially critical now because a typical supply chain accesses many times more data than it did just a few years ago — with less than a quarter of this data being analyzed. When organizations take hold of their underutilized data with analytics, they gain control, visibility and collaboration, and a new sense of understanding that’s crucial for intelligent and important real-time decisions.
A Starting Point for the Digitization Journey
If you’re starting to think that your first investment into digitization should focus on establishing visibility throughout the supply chain, then you’re joining the majority of supply chain leaders who have already made the first step. But with myriad solutions available, it’s crucial to have an idea of how to assess which is right for your company.
The most important thing to look for is a solution that allows for easy and configurable self-service access to your data without the need for IT support. Many solutions require supply chain teams to rely on external support for answers, or the help of your internal IT team.
The process can be time-consuming and tedious, and by the time you get the information needed, it could be too late. Look for a data analytics solution that is intuitive and allows any team member with any level of tech experience to access data and collaborate in real-time when needed.
Companies that digitize in increments — starting with establishing supply chain visibility — will realize transformative benefits within weeks.
You’ll also want to assess the information and KPIs measured in an analytics solution for visibility. Factors such as order advanced shipping notices/invoices, discrepancies, fill rate and lead time are crucial to having easy access to in a solution.
Companies that digitize in increments — starting with establishing supply chain visibility — will realize transformative benefits within weeks. Revenue leakage and chargebacks will be reduced, late payments from customers eliminated, time spent on research and sifting through data cut down, and customer satisfaction will be significantly improved.
Sure, the options to digitize are indeed endless. But start where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Through leveraging an analytics solution to establish visibility in the supply chain, resiliency will be established for decades to come.
Michael Rabinowitz is the founder and CEO of CoEnterprise.