Supply Chain Commentary: 4 Steps to Increasing Visibility

When companies speak of wanting more visibility within their supply chain, what they are ultimately hoping for is to have more control.

To reduce supply chain complexities and gain more authority, a business must be willing to implement tools to establish a connection to its own real-time data and information throughout its network.

Establishing an order management system that connects the entire supply chain from purchase order origination through item production, up until receipt at destination, allows one to begin gaining this control.

While many challenges exist within a global supply chain when liaising with multiple vendors and transportation partners on separate systems, many distinct yet connected actions between order and delivery have become too important to handle manually. From managing social compliance, carrier contracts and commitments, and a unified standard operating process across continents, a centralized tool in which both suppliers and customer can communicate is essential.

Not only does it free up invaluable time for customer and supplier alike, it introduces the ability to house all data and allows companies to be self-reliant in obtaining its own network’s information The ability to analyze past, present, and future performance is critical to corrective action, efficiency, and prevention.

Informed decisions induced from self-generated data are far more effective than relying on information provided by partners.

Due to the variations and unique intricacies of each business’ supply chain, every solution to increasing visibility and control is equally distinct. Regardless of the tool or platform chosen to establish visibility, there are four key actions that can help prepare for the unknowns that accompany any implementation of a technology tool.

  1. Take a good look in the mirror. Identifying and admitting one’s weaknesses is the first step towards deciding which challenges to tackle first. Setting priorities and assessing which action items will have a critical effect on planning and delivering on a plan is key, while avoiding the ever-present scope-creep.
  2. Set realistic expectations and have patience. Walk into this process knowing that all problems will not be solved on day one. Identify the critical objectives that need to be in place at the front of the line. Keeping it simple at the beginning allows one to continue to move forward and make progress.
  3. Get all stakeholders on board. Presenting and reviewing one’s plan with executive leadership is key to fostering change within an organization, but don’t make the mistake of forgetting other key departments. For example, IT will need to lend a hand when it comes to testing and implementation, the finance department will need to understand how things are to be invoiced and transfer costs with other departments, and operations will need to know how to integrate.
  4. Ensure vendor buy-in and partner alignment. Ensure engagement with the supplier network early and often. Depending on the tool one’s team has decided to employ, certain partners will need to verify that any specifications and testing are worked on prior to implementation.

Ultimately, one cannot improve what one cannot measure. Suppliers perform better knowing they can directly affect the KPIs. If they can’t, it may be a sign to start looking for an alternative provider. In the end, potential headaches in implementation are mitigated by the fact that, once up and running smoothly, maximization allows suppliers to meet customer demand and fulfill orders on time.

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