Businesses must have the ability to quickly evaluate where supply chain inefficiencies exist and identify opportunities for improvements. And while many organisations want a better view of their supply chain, they may not know what visibility tools would be a good fit for their organisation or how they will benefit the business long-term. You should find a supply chain partner who understands the technologies, processes and best practices necessary to develop and implement a customised visibility plan.
While many think of visibility as simply implementing a technology or software, I often say that a successful visibility program is more about change management. When implemented correctly, visibility tools are a vital contributor to the ongoing success of an organisation.
Here are a few essential things to consider about supply chain visibility:
Every Company Is Unique
Visibility is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each company has unique needs, with unique operating processes, suppliers and carrier networks. You need to work with a vendor to develop the right suite of products and implementation plan to ensure a successful roll out and maximum value for your business long term.
When discussing supply chain visibility with decision makers and other stakeholders in your business, it’s important to make sure you’re speaking the same language. “Supply chain visibility” can mean a lot of different things to different departments within an organisation.
There are four main types of visibility:
- Shipment: A real-time transportation visibility platform (RTTVP) provides the location of trucks, shipping containers, or air cargo in transit, and calculates predicted arrival times based on various factors (ie: weather, traffic, historical lane data) along the way.
- Order-level: Tracking the location of products associated with individual purchase orders, and sharing who else can see the orders
- Inventory: Monitoring where inventory — raw materials or finished goods — is in the supply chain, how much of it there is and forecasts of how much may be needed
- Financial: Tracking how much money is spent and where it’s being spent throughout the supply chain, whether it’s on product, transport or workforce
Your organisation’s needs will change over time and it’s important that any vendor works with you as those changes occur. As you get ready to meet with a vendor, look at what data you currently have access to, and where you need more visibility. For example, when first adopting visibility solutions, some customers may simply want a better view of how much product they have and where it is (inventory visibility). But as new challenges arise or business goals change, they may expand to shipment visibility for a more complete picture. Regardless of what challenges you have, the vendor you interview should come ready with ideas and solutions based on where your team wants to improve.
Visibility Improves Workforce Efficiency
You can have the best logistics team in the world, but if they don’t have visibility tools, you’re not being set up for success. Relying on manual processes like tracking shipments via phone calls means your company is losing out on valuable hours. Moreover, if you are still doing things manually, then you’re lagging behind your competitors, who have already invested in collaboration and transparency with end customers.
Real-time visibility can not only automate manual track and trace but allows seamless employee collaboration, with everyone having access to the same information. If your team has a clear view of when and how shipments are moving, and they’re all looking at the same information, teams can easily coordinate better and with more efficiency across roles.
Leverage Visibility to Meet Your Sustainability Goals
As the need to reduce carbon emissions amplifies by the day, companies are focused on meeting high-impact sustainability goals. The supply chain is often one of the largest drivers of a company’s carbon footprint, but one of the areas that visibility can impact the most.
Smart companies work with a vendor who can provide a kind of dashboard that gives customers a detailed view of how their supply chain is impacting the environment. As they implement real-time, they can track reductions in carbon emissions and identify further inefficiencies to take action against.
The Power of Collaboration
With the rise of advanced technologies for enhanced communications, planning, visibility and the like, more effective collaboration among internal organisations, as well as with supply chain partners, suppliers and customers more broadly, is now possible. This is critical, because effective collaboration both within and among organisations is an incredibly powerful method to maximising profits, eliminating waste and promoting sustainability.
Collaboration is also vital to innovative real-time visibility platforms. In 2017, FourKites created the Customer Advisory Board, consisting of over 100 of our most trusted customers to help guide our product development and provide peer-to-peer collaboration based on network data. Through close collaboration with our community, we get new ideas for platform expansion on a daily basis, and in 2020 alone, we launched 126 new features, 50% of which came directly from our customers.
If you are considering a move to supply chain visibility check out Gartner’s 2021 Magic Quadrant. It’s a terrific guide on what you need to think about and compares the offerings of different vendors.
No matter what your visibility plan looks like now, the course should change over time. Just like your business, your needs may expand, or your customers may have new requests. As I said earlier, implementing supply chain visibility should be an exercise in change management. Use your visibility vendor as a business partner, develop clear goals and collaborate with others whenever possible. A clear view of your supply chain will help you maximise your workforce, reduce inefficiencies, and — most importantly — keep your business running smoothly.
Glenn Koepke, Senior Vice President, Customer Success, FourKites