Supply Chain Visibility: Not an End, But a Tool
Supply chain visibility is not an end, but a tool.
The paper posits that supply chain visibility can help companies achieve supply chain effectiveness, agility, and corporate profitability. But, the document cautions, “It’s not where you are going, it’s what you use to get there.”
In other words, supply chain visibility is “like a light” that “illuminates the path to continuous decision-making and allows for truly effective, agile supply chain operations.” The availability of data and the ability to use it is what provides the decision-making capability that allows companies to become more responsive and agile.
There are three prerequisites to achieving visibility: (1) reliable information, (2) the correct tools to collect that data, and (3) integration within the organization and its partners.
To determine the extent to which you have visibility, ask yourself the following questions. (1) Do you have insight into the upstream sections of your supply chain? (2) Do you know when orders are leaving your offshore supplier’s facility? (3) When transportation links are broken, how do you find out?
“Having visibility tools in play can shine a light on the darkest, dirtiest corners of the world,” the paper says, “and give you a commercial advantage when trouble is brewing.”
The growth global trade has also spawned a raft of new regulations governing sources of supply, chain of custody, and chain of responsibility. How do you prove that a crop was produced organically, or that a factory doesn’t employ child labor? How do you demonstrate that you are exercising due care in your operations—from one end of your supply chain to the other? Keeping track of all this and keeping supply chains compliant with regulations is another benefit of supply-chain visibility.
Keeping tabs on assets is another challenge addressed by visibility. The location of assets, what they are doing, when they were last maintained, and whether they are being used efficiently are all questions that have answers that can improve efficiency.
Visibility is not the nirvana of the supply chain, the paper concludes. “It is NOT the mythical end state that many aspire to but nobody achieves. Rather, visibility should be seen as the light you shine to find your path to supply chain enlightenment.”