Of all the components that make up the modern supply logistics and shipping network, the one that can significantly impact operational efficiency is visibility into the supply chain. Understanding the full scope of visibility and maintaining transparency and good communication from end to end is critical for logistics success. Keeping this focus continues to be essential for the management of the supply chain.
A report based on a survey by Finances Online found that the most critical inventory management practices for companies were forecasting (61.3%), warehouse management (50%), logistics (46.8%), and back-end technology (32.3%). These metrics are closely followed by training data scientists (21%), returns management (21%), and data interchange technology (17.7%). A few companies also prioritize investing across sensor technology (12.9%), training retail staff in eCommerce (11.3%), retooling DCs (9.7%), and refitting stores to have warehouse capabilities (3.2%).
Modern technology, innovation, and data-sharing make management and forecasting for changes within the network more accessible. And technology can go a long way in promoting end-to-end visibility, including:
- Inventory visibility
- Order visibility
- Shipment visibility
- Accounting visibility
Before delving into each of those visibility forms in more detail, it’s critical to realize and realign our understanding with a few fundamentals of overarching visibility and its role in logistics efficacy.
Narrow Visibility Leaves Money on the Table
Without seeing the full scope of strengths and weaknesses, supply chain predictive management is left at a disadvantage. Trends have been shifting all the more strongly toward improved perceptibility, transparency, and adaptability.
A robust and connected platform supported by innovative technology is the key to maximizing profits. Unfortunately, there is a vast problem with limited systems, the inability to share data between platforms, and the network’s complexity.
For example, the WMS may not share data with the LMS or the TMS. Datasets from the ERP may fail to account for differences in how data is organized. And yet another system may be responsible for digital document management.
As a result, it isn’t easy to track the full product flow between systems and track inventory through its entire life cycle, precipitating the following:
- Limited notifications and contextual understanding of what’s happening within the industry.
- Lacking the ability to intervene when things go wrong.
- Delays in communications with customers.
- Failures to track and trace the order status regardless of location.
- Lack of data sharing and real-time visibility across multiple tenants—meaning across multiple systems and resources.
- Spending too much time trying to log in and reconcile information.
These issues are among the top reasons for growth among supply chain management platforms. As reported by Logistics Management, “valued at over $15 billion, the supply chain management (SCM) sector grew at an 8.6% pace in 2019, exceeding $15 billion in vendor revenue by helping companies automate and manage their domestic and global supply networks.”
Furthermore, The Supply Chain Journal describes how new technologies have shifted the burden away from manual data re-entry: “EDI replaces more cumbersome and outdated communication methods, such as postal mail, fax, and even email. While email itself is based on a virtual platform ground in electronic processes, the documents exchanged via email are still created, processed, and organized by people rather than an automated system.” Unfortunately, even EDI falls short if the data does not get shared between systems to update everything simultaneously. Visibility in the supply chain is a no-compromise point for many shipping managers today and for excellent reason.
What’s the Full Scope of Visibility in the Supply Chain
End-to-end visibility in the supply chain means everything—including raw materials, manufacturing, inbound logistics, forward logistics, reverse logistics, recycling, customer service, and everything else. End-to-end shipment visibility has a natural progression to it—like inbound freight visibility, inventory visibility while in the warehouse, order visibility once it’s moving toward customers, and accounting visibility that ensures payments and invoices are submitted, processed and paid.
This further amounts to understanding visibility within the following:
- Insight into orders and their data from across shippers and their partners to recognize where an order will originate, when, and where it will go.
- Visibility to track the movement of those goods, also known as shipment visibility.
- Visibility into inventory to recognize where goods are at in the supply chain regardless of current status.
- Transparency into the accounting processes, including carrier and 3PL payments.
Supply chain management has continued to evolve over the years in many unique ways. Data, statistics, tracking info, and communications throughout the supply chain can now be more accessible and applicable. However, benefits can only be seen in companies that embrace digital transformation, where the importance of visibility in the supply chain makes all the difference across all four forms. The entire scope focus in the modern supply chain needs to be continually shifting along all channels and lines to maximize collaborative logistics management.
How to Increase Visibility Throughout the Network
Visibility in the supply chain can significantly impact when, where, and how management secures capacity, executes orders, and finds or partners with other LSPs to get orders to customers. It all comes down to sharing information and unifying the data streams within a single source of truth. Supply chain leaders can start by following these steps:
- Connect the supply chain with technology that provides end-to-end visibility and traceability.
- Eliminate data siloes and swivel-chair processes by embracing automation with API and EDI.
- Focus on accurate sources of data and analysis for all supply chain processes and activities.
- Engage with carriers, partners, and customers via self-service portals and on-demand support.
- Embrace automation and data analytics for platforms like digital inventory systems.
- Enable digital transformation and better freight management with tendering through POD uploads.
- Remember to include freight settlement processes and to account for disruptions and deviations.
With the further development of automation, AI, and data analytics, the idea of visibility in the supply chain becomes more easily attained throughout the network.
Achieve True End-to-End Transparency, Actionability, and Efficiency With the Right, Data-Centric Platform
Modern technology, platforms, dashboards, databases, and tools are where transportation management starts regarding supply chain visibility. Credit essentially goes to the global COVID-19 pandemic for driving this trend to the forefront within the shipping industry. Automation and end-to-end visibility were something to shoot for a few years ago. It has now become an essential must-have. Contact Turvo to begin to embrace the power that visibility in the supply chain can provide.