Supply Chain and Logistics Visibility

For logistics and supply chain managers, the concept of “visibility” should be pretty clear cut.  Ideally, it’s when shippers, business partners, and customers know exactly where products are at any point in the supply chain—from the raw materials supplier to the final destination. Supply chain visibility works best when quality data is gathered from both the supply side (where the goods are coming from) and the demand side (sales, returns, customer buying trends) of the equation. Once the data is collected, most often through the use of supply chain software, it’s then analyzed and used for accurate forecasting, planning, and production.

Visibility comes into play across many supply chain scenarios, whether they’re localized or global in nature. The company whose supply chain extends across various continents, for example, can find its transportation modes literally halted overnight by events like erupting volcanoes, tsunamis, and political unrest. Through accurate visibility, that company can quickly tell how its shipments will be affected and adjust accordingly. Without that “window” into its transportation operations, the company would be left to guess as to when—if ever—the goods would make it to the U.S.

With solid visibility made possible by technology, that company could query all of its shipments by bill of lading number to figure out which shipments are already in transit, and which are sitting in port.  That gives the company a starting point, and puts it in a much better position to deal with the catastrophic scenario.

When executed properly, supply chain visibility will also come into play on a day-to-day basis. For example, shippers can obtain information about finished goods availability (What’s in the pipeline right now? What goods are in transit? Which shipments cleared customs?) from trading partners, and then use that data to ensure that customer demand is being met, and not exceeded. When you achieve good supply chain visibility you gain consistent control over your operations and processes.

As supply chain visibility demand has grown over the last few years to include all activities around planning, sourcing, manufacturing, delivering, and returning goods — the level of complexity increases exponentially. This has caused supply chain solutions to evolve as well, to provide timely, accurate, and complete information, data, and insight about shipments and assets. Unfortunately, too much data–particularly when it’s incorrect or superfluous–can put just as much pressure on the logistics manager as not having the data at all. Throw in the fact that some business partners use EDI, while others rely on methods like email and faxes, and the job of culling through the data to determine what’s useful and what’s not gets that much harder.

The real value takes place not from gathering all of the metrics, but rather from being able to automate actions based on the information that’s coming in.  The ultimate facilitator for making that happen is technology. SPS Commerce’s Trading Partner Intelligence service uses the best of today’s technology to do all of this and more.  When you gain control of the day-to-day operations of your supply chain, that momentum carries over to the financial side of the equation.  From there, you can reconstruct your supply chain in a way that best addresses your firm’s needs.

Click here to read the SPS Commerce’s Trading Partner Intelligence service fact sheet, then contact Emerald TC to take the next step to enhance the visibility across your supply chain.

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