Companies today have more diverse and widespread operations than ever before. With so many moving parts, it can be easy to lose track of your workflows and outputs. This is especially the case if you’re still relying on old practices and outdated software to deliver data insights. 

The good news? You don’t have to stay in the dark. As you expand your product lines, enter new markets, and add more stakeholders to your supply chain, full visibility is still possible.

Today, we’re sharing how you can make process and technology changes to improve supply chain visibility across your enterprise. 

What is Supply Chain Visibility?

When we talk about supply chain visibility, what do we mean? In short, this means having clear insight into the inner workings of your company’s operations, as well as the operations that occur within your greater partner network. 

This requires systems that allow you to track components and sub-components as they travel through each supply chain checkpoint. You can use these tools to monitor items in real-time as they move from the initial procurement stage to final end-user delivery and distribution. 

With this level of transparency, you’re the first to know when an issue occurs. You can identify potential shortages, malfunctions, and bottlenecks that may impede production, and take steps to prevent them.

At the same time, you can uncover important trends and act on them to improve operations. 

The goal of supply chain visibility? To become more efficient within every aspect of your supply chain. By doing so, you can improve customer satisfaction, keep partners happy, and ultimately improve your brand reputation.

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3 Steps to Improve Supply Chain Visibility

Achieving end-to-end (E2E) supply chain visibility doesn’t happen overnight. Yet, with consistent effort and the right investments, you can achieve the level of visibility you need within a reasonable timeframe. Here are a few steps to help you get there. 

1. Assess Your Current Supply Chain Processes

First, take the time to understand what your supply chain currently looks like. How are workflows set up, and how do people report information to one another?

This first step will require meetings with internal department leaders as well as external partners and other stakeholders. In the end, you should have a clear picture of how each component feeds into the next. 

As you map out high-level processes, pain points and gaps will become evident. Identify these and measure how they’re currently impacting your company.

Are you losing money on inefficiencies? Are your customer service levels suffering due to a lack of insight and accountability? Lay everything out and be prepared to reengineer those processes as required based on the goals you outline in the next step. 

2. Set Goals

Once you know what you’re currently working with, it’s time to think about what your supply chain could be. If you could optimize visibility, what are some of the benefits you’d like to realize? 

These goals will differ from one company to the next, but some of the most common benefits include:

  • Improve company operations
  • Deliver a better customer experience 
  • Build your bottom line

We recommend establishing deadlines for each goal and keeping both short-term and long-term perspectives in mind. 

3. Select the Right Technology

You know where you are, and you’ve decided where you want to be. Now, it’s time to find the tools that can bridge the gap.

You need solutions that deliver robust data analytics, allowing you to track each stage of your supply chain in real-time and report on your findings.

Let’s look at some of the most promising systems:

ERP and SCM Systems

An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can help streamline your business processes and automate key functions. It can also add both structure and visibility to your supply chain. 

On the other hand, a supply chain management (SCM) system focuses more heavily on external-facing processes. For example, SCM systems allow users to organize raw material data as they receive updates from various suppliers.

An SCM system can also facilitate smoother communication, enabling you to improve relationships with suppliers and distributors. 

While some types of ERP systems come equipped with SCM functionality, this isn’t always the case. It’s important to check with your ERP vendor to make sure you understand what’s included.

For more information on the differences between these two systems, check out our comparison post.

IoT Technology

Years ago, E2E supply chain visibility wasn’t entirely possible. Now, monitoring units are intricately connected to one another, either constantly via the cloud or routinely syncing data through standalone devices. This is known as IoT. 

By tapping into the power of the IoT, you can use this technology to capture and capitalize on Big Data. With these insights, you can:

  • Track product locations
  • Monitor environmental conditions
  • Observe temperate and moisture levels 
  • Check traffic patterns 

These updates can help you optimize operations across the supply chain so you can deliver products more efficiently and effectively. 

Artificial Intelligence

As assets travel across the supply chain, there are certain conditions that you need to consistently monitor. Yet, you can’t be everywhere at once, and you can’t monitor every bit of data as it comes in.

An AI bot can. Companies are turning to artificial intelligence and advanced data analysis tools to monitor activities, measure risks, and respond in real time. If they detect an issue, they can notify appropriate personnel to take immediate action. 

Are You Keeping Supply Chain Activities Visible?

Business leaders need the ability to investigate every aspect of their supply chains. Yet, this becomes an issue as companies create, process, and share more data than ever. 

By investing in the right tools and software solutions, you can stay one step ahead of the game. As you work to improve supply chain visibility, you should keep tools like SCM, ERP, and AI in mind. 

Our enterprise software consultants can help you assess ERP and supply chain management systems to determine the best fit for your company. Contact us below for a free consultation.

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