Over the past few years, the topic of supply chains has taken on greater urgency. But even before the pandemic, businesses have struggled to keep pace with rising customer demand, providing on-time, in-full (OTIF) deliveries faster and at lower costs, even in the B2B space. As consumers expect more for less, businesses have been challenged with offering faster shipping options, broader product inventories, and lower prices. All this against thinning margins and little room for supply chain error which can cost customer loyalty.
If keeping pace consistently and profitably was a tall order on a good day, the ambition has only been compounded by the pandemic, which exposed the many vulnerabilities in the global supply chain. Industries have shrunk, organizations no longer have enough stock, and the price of commodities and services continues to increase, all while inflation rocks the global economy. With nearly half of all supply chain managers struggling to meet delivery deadlines and reduce shipping errors, it’s clear that there are many steps that need to be taken to improve coordination and efficiencies in an increasingly complex supply chain.
At the center of the struggle is a lack of supply chain visibility. Most companies still struggle with blind spots at key nodes of their supply chain, significantly impeding their ability to adapt, act fast, anticipate and avoid risk, and mitigate impact. Most organizations are also realizing that without multi-enterprise visibility, they stand little chance at true success.
What Supply Chain Visibility Is Not
To clarify what supply chain visibility is, it can be easier to look at what it is not. It’s common to think of transportation visibility as supply chain visibility. However, transportation management is just one small piece of the puzzle, one activity in the greater supply chain.
But in a world where orders are often multi-enterprise and multi-tier, with various stakeholders and systems involved, supply chain visibility is a holistic, comprehensive approach that unifies all legacy systems, protocols, and procedures into one single source of truth, or supply chain control tower. True visibility, is also therefore “multi-enterprise visibility.”
The Role of a Control Tower in Supply Chains
In today’s fast-paced and volatile reality, supply chain visibility is impossible without a unified digitization strategy. The goal of a control tower can be multifold but, in essence, boils down to one overarching solution: driving impact and cutting costs with the insights provided via a long-term view. By uniting fragmented, highly specialized systems into one single platform, organizations are afforded true end-to-end, granular visibility – as well as the ability to immediately act on those insights. Visibility across multi-tier suppliers along with automated order replanning helps minimize stock shortages while real-time tracking, notifications, and smart exceptions management allows businesses to improve OTIF deliveries and bring down costs.
A strong supply chain strategy further augments multi-enterprise visibility with automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. For example, machine learning models can discover hidden patterns of order anomalies and a predict a proactive approach to contingencies. Meanwhile, automation and smart business rules can be used toward dynamic business network partnering for order flow optimization, regardless of complexity.
All these solutions not only directly benefit stakeholders and partners, but also your organization in the long run. An end-to-end supply chain control tower platform grants organizations granular visibility, allowing them to directly pinpoint individual problems and drive targeted action. By connecting different worlds, your organization will unlock true collaboration and better understand all requirements, protocols, and order flows.
This makes it easier for companies to move beyond passive visibility to multi-party orchestration – coordinating and optimizing across network parties to consistently execute OTIF at the lowest cost based on collective data.
From Theory to Practice
Achieving visibility doesn’t happen overnight. It’s important to start with manageable goals before scaling up. Begin by evaluating your organization to ensure you’re capturing the data you need, so you can optimize your supply chain. For instance, does your current visibility span all processes of an order’s journey, including commercial, administrative and physical steps on a single platform? Do you have supply chain visibility over all order types – such as sales orders, purchase orders, stock transfer orders, and returns?
Next, evaluate your multi-enterprise visibility for optimal coordination. Does your supply chain visibility cover all logistics processes, including warehouse operations, customs management, and handling? What if you have multiple legs of transport? Does transport visibility cover all modes (air, ocean, rail, road, parcel) on a single platform? Do teams have granular views into products at the item level for each shipment, including articles, order quantities, lot numbers, serial numbers, and the like? For more in-depth assessment, you can consult this checklist for end-to-end supply chain visibility.
The goal is to move away from manual processes and leverage the data captured to execute better and faster, driving efficiency, reducing costs, and improving the customer experience. With time, you can scale up into other applications, such as global order flows, spare parts management, or reverse logistics. Having laid the groundwork for multi-enterprise visibility, all business growth and expansion can be handled with the resilience and agility necessary to be competitive and profitable in the global market.
As the market, supply chain, and technology continue to evolve, keeping up with customer demand will require a future-proof strategy to deliver the most optimal experience as circumstances change. It requires a flexible technology strategy and unified, holistic approach to stay dynamic and thrive in an increasingly complex supply chain ecosystem.
MPO’s Multi Party Orchestration platform offers multi-enterprise visibility and control for network-wide coordination and real-time order flow optimization. Learn more about how gaining global and granular views into all inventory, orders, and transportation can help your businesses drive exceptional customer service, competitive differentiation, and cost control. Download the whitepaper below, contact us at [email protected] or [email protected], or request a demo today.