Armed with data-ready insights, smart organizations can make more informed decisions at a speed that drives improved business performance and addresses supply chain challenges.
They say data is the new oil, but exactly which data points are most important and how can an organization make those points actionable and useful? These are some of the questions that supply chain managers across most industries are asking themselves right now as they work to balance high demand with fewer resources and continued supply chain disruptions.
For many, the answer lies in better supply chain visibility – or, the ability of parts, components or products in transit to be tracked from manufacturer to final destination. At its core, supply chain visibility improves and strengthens the supply chain by making data readily available to all stakeholders, including the customer.
By leveraging technology platforms that provide very high levels of visibility, companies can effectively tackle their biggest data challenges and transform their information into actionable, useful insights. These “wins” are particularly important in today’s uncertain, global business environment.
“Because global modern supply chains are incredibly complex, involving a vast network of manufacturing and logistics personnel, even simple mistakes can result in lengthy delays,” Scott Bolduc writes in Supply Chain Brain.
“Unforeseen circumstances are often the cause of major delays in operations, something we witnessed firsthand as the COVID-19 pandemic threw global manufacturing, stock and delivery processes into disarray,” Bolduc continues. “In response, businesses are looking to boost the visibility and oversight of their operations to safeguard their supply chains against future challenges.”
Future Planning and Relationship Management
Visibility goes beyond just knowing where your stuff is at any point in the supply chain. In fact, more and more organizations recognize that the combination of visibility and data is critical to future planning, relationship management and crisis response.
“Data visibility and transparency underpin all successful supply chains,” Bolduc points out. “Both are critical for fluid business operations, and help provide the level of customer service needed to bolster a business’s reputation.”
Real-time data can also be used internally to bolster service offerings and limit hiccups. For example, trend data can be used to scale demand, minimize waste and make logistical adjustments to ensure timely delivery.
“Businesses can also use real-time data to avoid additional delays by implementing a ‘fill-kill’ order system,” Bolduc writes. “Using this strategy, if the order can’t be fulfilled in its entirety, it’s canceled. This reduces both unnecessary hassle for supply chain workers and disappointment for customers.”
Overcoming Problems, Planning for the Future
In Forbes, Natasha Stokes writes about the role that data plays in helping companies overcome some of their top supply chain issues. Supply chain disruptions continue to challenge companies across sectors, generating backlogs, boosting costs and creating an uncertainty that can make it hard to do business, she says. Technology like digital supplier data portals—where vendors update their purchase and delivery dates—enable real-time supply and demand visibility with little administrative effort.
These portals can also “slash the time and labor it takes to obtain information from supply chain partners,” Stokes adds, thus alleviating the pressure created by pandemic-related staff shortages and freeing employees up to find new ways to address bottlenecked orders.
Stokes says companies are also deploying Internet of Things (IoT) technology and outfitting products with connected sensors that transmit real-time information about them as they pass through the supply chain while also making delivery date predictions and risk forecasts more precise.
Information Decisions at the Speed of Light
A predominant problem for many supply chain managers, low visibility also prevents companies from efficiently detecting and resolving incidents. “Visibility and data go hand-in-hand. Both are crucial for organizations to better understand their business challenges and opportunities,” Board International’s Dave Food writes.
“Managers must have wide-ranging visibility into the entire supply chain, no matter how complex, to make exact shipment locations and time estimations for buyers,” Food continues. “This data must come directly from the source and should be precise and reliable. Otherwise, supply chain managers will risk relying on third-party sources to deal with this crucial information.”
As supply chains become ever more complex, Food says business leaders need to work hard to uphold visibility into what occurs from shipment source to destination. The impact of low supply chain visibility can be diminished with increased data, from supplier integration, through shipment integration to demand signal management from customers.
“With data-ready insights,” he adds, “organizations can make more informed decisions at a speed that will drive improved business performance.”