5 Tech Essentials to Solve the Supply Chain Visibility Puzzle

Volodymyr Horovyi
RPA ARCHITECT / CONSULTANT
Daria Iaskova
COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

Visibility is a key component of success in modern supply chains—it allows managers to get real-time status updates, track important KPIs, and improve operational efficiency. 

Visibility makes a huge part in resilience, as it helps companies spot and reduce risks and overcome supply chain disruptions.

Visibility is also a leap towards customer satisfaction, as today consumers expect goods to be delivered within the shortest time possible. And often, it’s not even about days, it’s about hours.

On their way to building smarter supply chains, 92% of global companies make their investments in supply chain visibility and become market leaders. What tools and technologies help them achieve success and solve the visibility puzzle? Let’s explore this in detail. 

What is supply chain visibility and why is it important?

Understanding supply chain visibility (SCV) meaning, the most important thing to note is that it goes beyond knowing the precise location of freight or shipment. SCV encompasses control over each component of a supply chain—from strategic planning to delivery and returns and provides a transparent view of every supply chain tier—from the raw materials to the customer.

Types of supply chain visibility

Most often, speaking of supply chain visibility, we refer to a real-time view of aggregated data coming from suppliers, manufacturers, and transportation and logistics service providers through integrated supply chain solutions (ERP, WMS, TMS). In this case, types of visibility in the supply chain boil down to understanding transportation, shipment, and supply chain processes.

On one hand, types of supply chain visibility vary from company to company—and that’s justified by the uniqueness of operations and business processes within different organizations. But on the other hand, the need for improved transparency is usually the strongest in the four supply chain areas.

  1. Cargo location tracking allows businesses to monitor the exact location of goods throughout the supply chain. Having this information at hand, companies can effectively plan repurchases, schedule deliveries, manage payments, and communicate with stakeholders. For customers, location tracking capabilities are a way to build trust and confidence with providers and distributors of goods as well as delivery services.  
  1. Supply chain rates include the costs incurred in moving, shipping, and delivering goods. With increasing order volumes, multiple carriers, and a growing number of fulfillment locations, the complexity of managing these rates rises. Full visibility into rates is essential for supply chain leaders to conduct cost-benefit analyses, track company spending, and make informed decisions.
  1. Auditing records visibility helps companies operating across multiple countries maintain compliance with regulations. By having a comprehensive view of transactions and documentation, companies can inspect and validate past orders, and identify discrepancies or areas for improvement. Transparency into supply chain records streamlines the auditing process and helps companies meet specific requirements, mitigating risks and fostering trust with stakeholders and regulatory authorities.
  1. Activity and issue monitoring includes tracking quotes, order receipts, bills of lading, proof of delivery, and other supply chain artifacts to help organizations get a complete view of supply chain activities and easily spot any issues before they occur. 

Bottom line impact of supply chain visibility

For the past few years, visibility has deservedly become the king of supply chain management.

  • McKinsey reveals that visibility allows global supply chain leaders to build resilience and overcome the negative impact of past years’ disruptions.
  • Deloitte specialists consider visibility as important for supply chain management as agility, collaboration, and control.
  • KPMG names “end-to-end forward-looking visibility” an emerging trend of modern supply chains.

Companies that prioritize end-to-end supply chain visibility report getting several game-changing advantages. Among them are data-driven decision-making, decreased supply chain disruptions, increased operational and business efficiency, and improved customer satisfaction.

Often, the importance of supply chain visibility is explained with the four C’s: complexity, customers, compliance, and competitiveness.  

Complexity refers to the diversity and scale of suppliers’ and partners’ networks that make up a supply chain. Here visibility helps to prevent various logistics issues and as a result, reduces reputational risks, and improves profitability.

Customers expect to have their favorite products available at specific locations of interest. Otherwise, they will remain dissatisfied and find other goods or service providers. Real-time supply chain visibility helps businesses deliver goods quickly and keeps customers updated on their orders.

Compliance is a vital component of global supply chains. With a number of trade agreements, procurement rules, and government tariffs, maintaining compliance can become an issue. By building visibility into compliance and regulatory requirements companies demonstrate their commitment to ethical practices, risk mitigation, and the protection of stakeholders' interests.

Competitiveness is another benefit organizations are getting from supply chain visibility—it helps businesses spot inefficiencies throughout the whole supply chain, reduce operational costs, and as a result, outpace competitors.

How technology is improving visibility in supply chain

While the role of supply chain visibility is clear, building it in practice may already seem a puzzle, solving which requires much time and effort. And to some part, it’s true – as gaining a holistic view into large supply chain structures can’t be simple by nature. But here we approach the most exciting part of supply chain visibility—technology and other essentials companies can use to gain full control over supply chains and logistics operations.

Blockchain for establishing transparency and trust

The global blockchain supply chain market is expected to reach$9.85 billion by 2025. Allied Market Research

The decentralized nature of blockchain and smart contracts that are part of the technology, make it a perfect fit for improving essential supply chain processes like invoice management, freight monitoring, product-trace-and-track, and information processing. 

The technology is actively used and positively valued by supply chains global leaders like Maersk and retail giants like Walmart. Let’s explore how blockchain in supply chains can help companies power up resilience and build end-to-end visibility.

  • Transparency. Blockchain provides a transparent and tamper-proof record of transactions and events, allowing stakeholders to access a single version of the truth and trace the entire journey of products across the supply chain.
  • Trust and authentication. The technology provides a secure and immutable ledger that helps companies reduce the risk of fraud and counterfeit products and helps everyone involved in supply chain operations verify the origin, authenticity, and condition of goods in real time.
  • Real-time tracking. Blockchain enables real-time tracking of goods, allowing stakeholders to monitor the movement and status of products at each stage of the supply chain.
  • Efficiency and cost reduction. The technology's transparency and automation capabilities eliminate the need for intermediaries, reducing administrative costs and improving operational efficiency.
  • Collaboration and data sharing. Blockchain facilitates secure and direct interaction among supply chain participants, promoting collaboration, data sharing, and information symmetry.

As a result, supply chain visibility powered by blockchain technology instills customer confidence by providing them with the opportunity to verify product authenticity and track their purchases in real time. 

Discover our blockchain development solutions

Intelligent automation for enhanced efficiency and productivity

75% of warehouses would adopt automation solutions by the end of 2023.Deloitte and MHI

The abundance of manual processes, legacy flows, and routine tasks that characterize supply chain management make the industry a perfect playground for leveraging intelligent automation.

And the scale of automation is impressive, as it literally encompasses all stages and areas of logistics management—from document digitization to warehouse stock monitoring.   

Logistics process automation, including robotic process automation (RPA), contributes to supply chain visibility in a number of ways.

  • Data integration and consolidationAutomation technologies can seamlessly integrate data from ERP, WMS, TMS software, and IoT devices into a centralized platform. This consolidation of data eliminates silos and provides a comprehensive view of the supply chain, enabling stakeholders to access real-time information from a single source.
Data consolidation is a vital aspect of supply chain automation, as it allows for faster and more efficient decision-making. This is true for manufacturers, 3PL logistics providers, transportation companies, and any party involved in supply chain management. One of our clients, a US-based brokerage firm, leveraged automation to obtain a centralized view of spot freight data for competitive bidding.
  • Real-time monitoring and alerts. Automation and RPA tools enable continuous monitoring of supply chain activities, allowing companies to automatically capture data on inventory levels, order status, shipment tracking, and other relevant metrics.
  • Streamlined document management and reporting. RPA can automate the generation of reports and invoices. By eliminating manual data entry, it reduces errors and ensures accuracy and consistency in reporting. As a result, stakeholders get timely and relevant information for decision-making and analysis.
  • Data analysis and insights. By introducing intelligent automation, companies can process large volumes of supply chain data efficiently. By automating data analysis tasks, such as trend identification, forecasting, and anomaly detection, supply chain managers can extract near real-time insights and use them to identify areas for improvement. 

In the long run, automating repetitive and manual tasks frees up time for supply chain professionals to focus on strategic activities. This improved efficiency and productivity allow them to dedicate more resources to monitoring, analyzing, and optimizing supply chain processes, leading to better supply chain visibility and performance.

AI and data analytics for next-gen decision-making 

Implementing AI has helped businesses improve logistics costs by 15%, inventory levels by 35%, and service levels by 65%. McKinsey

Today AI empowers a number of supply chain areas, including inventory planning, route optimization, demand forecasting, sales and marketing, and fault analysis. But in addition to rethinking logistics operations from the inside, AI transforms the outer side of supply chain management offering game-changing visibility enhancements.

  • Real-time data processing. AI algorithms can process vast amounts of real-time data from diverse sources, such as IoT sensors, RFID tags, and social media feeds. This enables the timely capture and analysis of critical supply chain information, providing up-to-date visibility into inventory levels, demand patterns, and production statuses.
  • Predictive analytics. AI-powered predictive models leverage historical data and machine learning techniques to forecast future demand, identify potential disruptions, and optimize inventory levels. This helps companies anticipate supply and demand fluctuations and avoid shortages or excess inventory.
  • Demand planning. AI algorithms can analyze historical sales data, market trends, weather patterns, and other relevant factors to generate accurate demand forecasts. This assists in inventory optimization, ensuring the right products are available at the right time.
  • Enhanced risk management. AI can analyze diverse data sources, including news feeds, social media, and weather updates, to identify potential risks and disruptions in the supply chain. By providing early warning signals, AI enables proactive risk mitigation strategies and ensures business continuity.
  • Supply chain optimization. ML algorithms can analyze complex interdependencies like transportation routes, warehouse operations, and production schedules. This facilitates efficient resource allocation, route optimization, and demand-driven production planning, resulting in cost savings, improved efficiency, and reduced lead times.

By considering multiple factors and scenarios, AI helps supply chain managers make informed decisions regarding order fulfillment, inventory replenishment, supplier selection, and demand management—providing companies with a completely new and smart decision support system.

Logistics customer portal software: meeting consumers’ expectations 

90% of customers want immediate updates and real-time visibility on their orders. DispatchTrack

Visibility is as essential for B2B and B2C companies as for their customers, whose demand for the quality of services constantly increases. To meet this demand, companies are increasingly bringing real-time order tracking capabilities implemented as a part of a customer logistics portal. Here's how this type of software helps achieve visibility in supply chain.

  • Shipment tracking. Customers can track the real-time status and location of their shipments through the portal. This includes information on pick-up, transit, and delivery updates, allowing customers to have visibility into the progress and estimated arrival time of their goods.
  • Access to important documentation. The portal provides customers with access to essential documents such as bills of lading, customs clearance data, and invoices. This improves transparency and keeps customers informed about the necessary paperwork related to their shipments.
  • Order placement and management. A logistics portal enables customers to submit new orders, modify existing ones, or schedule pick-up and delivery requests. By having visibility into order details, including product specifications, quantities, and delivery instructions, they can proactively manage their supply chain activities.
  • Communication and collaboration. The portal facilitates communication between customers and logistics providers. Customers can submit inquiries, request quotations, and receive responses directly through the portal. This streamlines communication, reduces manual back-and-forth, and enhances collaboration between stakeholders.
  • Exception management. In case of any disruptions or exceptions, such as delays, damages, or inventory discrepancies, the portal allows customers to report and track these incidents. This ensures timely resolution and enables proactive management of supply chain exceptions.

By providing customers with a dedicated space for order monitoring, logistics customer portal software enhances supply chain visibility by offering real-time tracking, document access, communication, order management, exception handling, analytics, and self-service capabilities. This results in streamlined processes and enhanced overall visibility throughout the supply chain and improved customer satisfaction.

Make sure your customer logisitcs portal has these essential features

Logistics dashboards for unprecedented visibility and growth

As of 2023, 67% of business leaders claim that dashboards help them improve end-to-end supply chain visibility. McKinsey

Logistics dashboards provide a visual representation of critical data related to logistics operations and allow supply chain businesses efficiently track their key performance indicators (KPIs). In fact, dashboards build a direct correlation between supply chains and visibility.

  • Centralized information. Logistics dashboards consolidate relevant data from various sources, such as transportation, warehousing, inventory, and order management systems. By bringing this data together, logistics dashboards provide a comprehensive and holistic view of all supply chain levels: strategic, tactical, and operational.
  • Data visualization. Through interactive charts, graphs, and visual representations, logistics dashboards make complex data easy to understand and interpret. Visualizations highlight trends, patterns, and exceptions, enabling stakeholders to quickly grasp the current state of the supply chain and identify potential gaps.
  • Real-time KPI monitoring. Dashboards enable real-time monitoring of KPIs and metrics that are crucial for logistics visibility. Users can track on-time delivery rates, lead times, and transportation costs as well as use logistics dashboards as part of performance evaluation, benchmarking, and continuous improvement efforts.
  • Drill-down capabilities. Logistics dashboards often offer drill-down capabilities, allowing users to explore detailed information at various levels of granularity. This enables users to delve deeper into specific metrics, transactions, or geographical regions, uncovering insights and understanding issues’ root causes.
  • Customization and personalization. Dashboards can be tailored to individual user roles and preferences. Users can configure their dashboard views, selecting the KPIs, visualizations, and metrics that are most relevant to their specific responsibilities and dramatically improve overall productivity.

By offering centralized, real-time data visualization, performance monitoring, exception management, and collaboration capabilities, logistics dashboards enhance visibility across the supply chain. They provide stakeholders with actionable insights, enabling them to make informed decisions, identify areas for improvement, and drive operational excellence.

Your step-by-step guide to developing logistics dashboards

When does the puzzle match?

Luckily, with the variety of modern digital tools and technologies, lack of visibility in supply chain is no longer an issue. Moreover, using the tech essentials we mentioned earlier allows companies to boost their operational efficiency, establish trust with consumers and scale their business.

At the same time, implementing supply chain visibility solutions requires a strategic approach and the involvement of highly qualified subject matter experts. 

Unlock the next level of supply chain efficiency with Trinetix

At Trinetix, we believe that any operational success once started with an in-depth exploration of the business’ key challenges and objectives. Future-forward thinking and a solid understanding of industry-specific pain points have helped us transform supply chain management and logistics operations for industry pioneers and emerging players alike. 

If you bet on supply chain visibility let’s chat about the ways to secure your bid's victory.

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