Visibility Fills the - Amber Road
Q: Is supply chain visibility really a problem in today's high-tech, connected world?
A: In today's technologically advanced world, a lack of data is not the problem. We are currently inundated with information from various sources. Rather, we need tools that consolidate this information, normalize it, and predictively notify users of potential risks. This enables companies to harness information to better control their supply chain.
Digitization enables levels of sharing that could not be achieved in the past but it opens our customers up to greater issues around information overload and synchronization. We need tools that can holistically look at the problem and proactively advise customers on the best corrective action plan.
Q: How do you define end-to-end visibility?
A: Ten years ago, visibility could only be provided at the shipment level. But that has now evolved into a complete view of the international supply chain. Supply chains have been getting more complicated over the past few years, for the following reasons:
- Increased government regulations and protectionism
- More creative sourcing strategies to qualify for trade preferences, i.e. CAFTA, AGOA
- More creative routings like sea/air routings, or multi-country consolidation and deconsolidation
- Multiple service providers can touch one delivery of goods
Because of these complexities, we cannot just think that knowing where the shipment is equates to good visibility. We must understand all aspects of the life cycle, from product design to delivery to the end consumer.
Shippers need to know these data points:
- If the goods were produced ethically
- If the production is on time
- If the product was manufactured to specification
- The sourcing locations of raw materials
- If a product qualifies for a preferential trade program
- If the product complies with various governmental regulations (REACH, CPSC, FDA, etc.)
- The total cost of importing these goods including logistics, commissions, duties, taxes, etc.
- Where the product is currently and when it is predicted to arrive
Many companies look at visibility to only the shipment leg of the transaction. We need to step back and look at the problem as a whole. Decisions, at any stage of the life cycle, can have a direct impact on the cost and on the time it takes for goods to be sold and delivered.