Supply chains are becoming more complex all the time, even for small enterprises. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how different interconnected parts of the supply chain are from large-scale manufacturers to smaller retailers.
In a world where so many people need information about a product at any given time, few factors affect supply chain management as much as supply chain visibility.
What Is Supply Chain Visibility and Why Is It Important?
Supply chain visibility refers to the ability to know where inventory is at any given time. It also describes the ability for parties to track parts and products in transit from the manufacturer to retailer or customer.
The goal of supply chain visibility is to improve and strengthen the supply chain by enabling fast responses to disruptions. As supply chains become more complex in the face of globalization and growing market complexities, supply chain visibility is crucial for managing each phase of production, shipping, and retail.
Supply chain management is changing rapidly as even smaller organizations rely on manufacturers and carriers across the globe. Good supply chain visibility enables clear, quick communication so that organizations can make informed, real-time decisions.
In addition to the increasing complexity of supply chain management, supply chain visibility has become a standard for customer experience. Consumers have more e-commerce and brick-and-mortar options than ever. They’re demanding more choices, and the supply chain must keep up consistently, whether getting a greater variety of products to retail shelves or providing tracking information for e-commerce orders.
More complex supply chains mean shippers and carriers are dealing with more governments and their regulations. Organizations with a global supply chain must be prepared to handle trade agreements and tariffs. Supply chain visibility helps companies predict and respond to changes in regulations.
Who Manages Supply Chain Visibility and How?
Because increasing supply chain visibility is so important, companies must find the right solutions for their needs. Enterprises have a few options for managing supply chain visibility through technology and outsourcing to a 3PL.
Technology, such as a transportation management system, is critical for providing supply chain visibility. Everyone in the supply chain should be able to locate what they’re looking for at any time. This could be anyone from a chief supply officer locating a delivery date from a supplier to a customer finding tracking information.
Many enterprises are capitalizing on cloud technology because it can manage big data. Some technology companies are now offering cloud computing services with real-time dashboards and analytics. Although this improves supply chain visibility, it may require additional staff members who are competent with the technology.
Managing logistics in-house can be difficult. Companies that prefer to outsource logistics are working with third-party logistics (3PL) providers to arrange transportation. A 3PL will use a transportation management system to anticipate problems in the supply chain and make real-time decisions to get freight to its destination on time.
3PLs are especially helpful in analyzing the data collected through supply chain visibility to make fast, informed decisions that lead to supply chain success. They’re able to optimize networks of warehouses and multimodal transportation to respond to their customers’ changing needs.
Most 3PLs use a transportation management system (TMS). TMS software provides supply chain visibility and facilitates the consolidation of loads and the optimization of routes. This reduces “empty miles” for carriers. 3PLs use TMS software to manage additional shipping units, plan labor, and schedule and document shipments. Many companies find this cost-prohibitive to achieve without the help of a 3PL.
What are the Benefits of Supply Chain Visibility?
Good supply chain visibility can change the way a company does business. Some unexpected benefits include improved supply chain management, customer experience, and decision-making.
Improved supply chain visibility allows companies to mitigate disruptions across the supply chain. Considering the unprecedented disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, companies need to have control over every part of their operation. Supply chain visibility provides better data for analysis and more precise paths of communication to limit potential disruptions.
Agility and speed make all the difference in the constantly changing landscape of supply chain management. Agility refers to a company’s ability to anticipate issues and adjust accordingly. The goal is to increase productivity no matter the circumstances. With increased supply chain visibility, enterprises don’t have to wait to make fast, data-informed decisions.
Supply chain visibility doesn’t just help manage disruptions and responses to change. As customer needs evolve, it can help facilitate forecasting as well. For a company’s team to anticipate customer needs and model different outcomes, they must have access to accurate information for analysis and decision-making.
At the end of the day, supply chain visibility brings a competitive advantage through efficiency. Companies can spot inefficiencies and fix them quickly, reducing costs. In this way, companies can improve customer service as well.
Stay Connected and Informed With First Call Logistics
In today’s fast-moving marketplace, businesses need the ability to react quickly to market conditions. At First Call, we’re committed to providing supply chain efficiencies and cost savings year-round. Our best-in-class WMS and TMS platforms and advanced, real-time tracking capabilities give customers end-to-end visibility to their supply chains. To learn how you can leverage our technology to optimize resources, minimize costs, and provide better customer service, contact us today!