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Supply Chain Visibility: Why It’s Important and How to Increase It

Visibility of your supply chain is paramount to effective supply chain management. Knowing the status of each component within the process is key to minimizing disruption, managing costs, delivering goods and services to customers, and generating profit for the organization. 

 

What is supply chain visibility?

Supply chain visibility (SCV) is the ability to track intermediate and final goods as they move through the supply chain from raw materials, to supplier, manufacturer, and ultimately the end customer. To gain full visibility of the supply chain, supply chain managers must have access to information throughout the journey.

 

Why is supply chain visibility important? 

Greater visibility of your supply chain operations provides data to relevant stakeholders and enables them to make informed decisions regarding how to optimize the supply chain. It also provides insight into potential risks and facilitates the agility required to react promptly when circumstances change.

 

Why is supply chain visibility important?

- Meet customer expectations 

Customers expect the best products, best prices, and best experiences from the brands they buy from. Failure to meet these expectations will result in customers turning to other companies and a negative impact on brand reputation as well as profits. Visibility of your supply chain allows you to monitor product quality, cost, and lead times, and keep customers informed of when they should expect to receive their order. 

- Increase operational efficiency

The efficiency of your supply chain has a big impact on costs and profits. An overview of all the activities supporting the supply chain, and the resources allocated to each one, provides you with insight into any inefficiencies and the knock-on effect they are having on other areas of the business. Once identified, you can make improvements to address them.  

- Ensure compliance

Complying with regulations across the supply chain is essential to reducing the risk of financial and reputational consequences associated with non-compliance. Knowing which supply chain activities are taking place where is essential to ensure that you and your suppliers are meeting regulations in every market you operate in. 

- Anticipate disruptions 

Changes to the norm are commonplace in supply chain management. Full visibility of operations enables you to anticipate disruptions, such as supplier or transportation issues or fluctuations in customer demand. Access to this information allows you to take the necessary steps to minimize any impact disruptions may have on getting your final product to your customers. 

 

What prevents supply chain visibility? 

Complex supply chains 

Organizations often depend on a huge network of suppliers, manufacturers and logistics providers from across the globe. This can make end-to-end visibility a challenge due to different time zones and working cultures. 

System siloes 

Different stakeholders across the supply chain rely on multiple systems to manage operations, creating siloes and making it difficult to share and access real-time information. 

Resistance to change 

Employees and stakeholders can show some resistance to adopting new technologies. This can lead to a lack of process standardization and limit collaboration, hindering visibility.

 

4 ways to increase supply chain visibility

1.    Integrate systems

Connecting your people, applications, robots, and information enables you to create a connected supply chain that runs at maximum efficiency and eliminates silos. Proper integration provides a holistic view of all the activities involved and how they’re performing in isolation and in relation to one another. 

2.    Work closely with stakeholders

Sharing information across your network of stakeholders increases transparency between suppliers, distributors, and retailers. This makes it easier to track their inputs and note any issues that may impact the delivery of the final product. 

3.    Map processes

Detailing the individual steps within a process and the relationships between each step can aid your understanding of the overall process execution. This also helps uncover bottlenecks or redundant steps that are causing delays. Once you have located inefficiencies you can map and simulate an alternative, improved process.

4.    Utilize data

Supply chain data provides valuable insight into your operations and performance. Analyzing the data collected from supply chain activities allows you to make informed decisions about where and how operations need optimization.     

 

How can automation improve supply chain visibility? 

Automating processes within your supply chain in a single platform provides relevant parties with a centralized view of the people, processes, and systems across all operations.

 

How can AI improve supply chain visibility? 

AI can improve supply chain visibility by enabling users to ask questions in natural language about supply chain data. AI can present the relevant data to users in a way that is easy to understand and act on. 

 

Supply chain visibility in action at Unilever International

Leading consumer goods company, Unilever International, has a complex global supply chain, with over 20,000 units shipped to 120 markets. To manage this complex network, they have four different SAP instances distributed across four continents, which did not communicate with each other, making it hard to manage their master data and establish end-to-end visibility of their supply chain. 

Using Bizagi’s low-code automation platform, they have been able to orchestrate master data information and create a centralized system that not only provides transparency so they can pinpoint any hold ups, but also eliminates mundane, manual tasks, such as rekeying data between systems. 

If you’d like to hear more about how Unilever International enabled supply chain visibility and transformed their operations, you can watch the webinar, 'Unilever International Delivers Customer Excellence in Cross-Border Commerce' on-demand. 
 

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