Achieving Greater Visibility and Agility

Pressure for lower FOB prices while dealing with the upward movement of production is the biggest challenge for retailers today. And all of this comes at a time when companies are under intense pressure to meet the fast-evolving demands of every-channel retail, where consumers expect a more convenient shopping experience, as well as a superior quality product.

This trend is reflected in the recent AAEI Benchmark Survey on e-Commerce, in which supply chain operators point to an increased need to accelerate time to market, eliminate waste and errors, and reduce operational and product costs—while still pushing for the lowest price. So it’s not surprising that manufacturers are looking to invest in productivity and process improvement. Leaders are exploring supply chain efficiencies with tools that enable stability, cost reduction, supply chain agility, product innovation, speed and visibility. The right mix of these features will help brands, retailers and manufacturers navigate the increasingly complex challenges throughout the supply chain.


It is obvious that import enforcement is rising, so companies need to be tuned in to every aspect of their sourcing, production and shipping activities—from start to finish—in order to avoid delays and additional costs. Organizations are most likely to invest in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software to streamline the early processes of design and product specifications, supplier management, and factory-side operations. These will certainly help to enhance efficiency during these phases of the lifecycle, but they also impact downstream activities. To achieve true agility—the power to respond to meet short notice demands—companies need to build a “glass pipeline.”


Organizations must be aware of every facet of their supply chains. From sourcing and manufacturing through transportation and delivery, visibility can prevent problems before they happen and allay the possibilities of delays and detentions. What does a glass pipeline look like in practice?

  • Innovation should be supported, and not hindered, within supply chains via increased visibility during the design and product development stages.
  • Direct management of supply and demand for raw materials enables companies to make design changes based on actionable information while reducing the development cycle for new products.
  • Monitoring factory production milestones with management-by-exception reporting gives early warning to missed events that impact activities downstream.
  • Regulatory blockages in the form of restricted party screening, certificates of origin, and complex entry requirements can be mitigated with visibility into customer, product, and country (ship to/ship from) data. When delays and detentions do happen, agile organizations respond immediately with documentation to speed cargo release and mitigate further problems.
  • Today’s technology can provide unmatched clarity throughout the supply chain. Every piece of cargo is tracked and monitored electronically, and the best systems integrate all points of the supply chain into one accessible solution.


With the unpredictability in consumer spending and market fluctuation, the best reaction is the one that happens fast, with the instant knowledge to make changes and decisions on the fly. An agile “glass pipeline” provides the highest levels of visibility, mitigates risk, and supports the rapid resolution to issues as they arise, through strong collaboration tools with every partner in the network. The most agile companies are best stationed to weather the volatility in global trade and commerce that is sure to come. Enterprise-class technology solutions that offer flexibility and visibility at every step are a crucial part of every company’s playbook for 2017 and beyond.

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