Supply Chain Visibility — March, 2009

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Taking Supply Chain Visibility to New Levels
RFID is finally becoming the solution that will make integrated supply chain management possible. 2009 promises to be a banner year for the technology, with the introduction of new and more ambitious applications.
Automated information capture tools such as barcodes took a number of years of industry effort to achieve large-scale implementation globally. RFID technologies, on the other hand, are making a worldwide impact in less time and with more influence on daily life. Moreover, users have learned a great deal from recent test projects, particularly about how the technology can create competitive advantage by improving supply chain processes in a difficult economic environment. As a result, RFID will become ubiquitous significantly faster than the information capture technologies that preceded it.
RFID/EPC (electronic product code) for transportation and logistics is entering a very active year and will probably achieve broad adoption in 2009. The applications have been tested in many ways and are supported by both passive and active technologies.
For example, interest group initiatives have demonstrated how RFID/EPC can help companies to track and trace goods moving between Shanghai and Los Angeles. In these projects the EPC technology...
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The Need to See What's Going On Remains at the Top of the Agenda for 2009
To achieve operational excellence in their global supply chain management, one of the important steps companies need to take is gaining more granular visibility into supply chain processes and beginning to use supply chain visibility data and supply chain intelligence to drive increased responsiveness in their global supply chains.
For the September 2008 study, Beyond Visibility: Driving Supply Chain Responsiveness, Aberdeen surveyed 349 businesses regarding their current practices and future initiative for supply chain visibility, among them 275 companies with global supply chains.
In a study conducted about a year ago, Global Trade Management Strategies: Surviving Growing Complexity in 2007 (May 2007), supply chain visibility and trade compliance were the two top-ranked improvement priorities in global trade management. Half a year later, in the Supply Chain Executive's 2008 Strategic Agenda study, companies ranked supply chain visibility as the number one technology application investment area that, in their view, would help them address their key business pressures related to the supply chain.
Yet, significant gaps in global supply chain visibility remain. Despite the fact that 57 percent of global companies participating in the above-mentioned 2008 supply chain visibility study...
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Plugging Into Sensor Networks
Over the next decade, integration of sensor networks will provide a wide variety of real-time data to improve various aspects of business activity and public life--from highway maintenance to healthcare delivery, from energy peaks to emergency services, and from intermodal freight to intelligent transit. Companies that access and leverage these emerging systems and communities early could realize not only a step improvement in supply chain visibility but also enhanced profiles of their mobile customer base.
The proliferation of sensors with capabilities to monitor many aspects of the physical environment, combined with increased interest in joining communities that share such data, dramatically changes the information available to monitor myriad activities in real time--from supply chains to your personal social network. Beyond research into sensor technologies, efforts are underway to create new systems to process huge volumes of data. For example, MIT recently undertook a study to assess the feasibility of creating infrastructure that enables dynamic management of mobility and transactions across the entire region of Piemonte in Northern Italy. The study, which linked researchers in several departments and disciplines, provides a glimpse into some of the challenges and the potential for increased...
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In Uncertain Times, Get Back to Basics
Todays economic uncertainty has brought transportation and distribution operations back to the board room. The fluidity of the supply chain is critical to the long-term success of the organization and should be on everyone's mind.
There is no question that understanding the ebb and flow of transportation and distribution is key for any executive in today's restless economic climate. The increased variability in supply and demand, along with the rising costs of maintaining business performance, have put a great deal of pressure on the people responsible for reporting corporate performance to the board. While over 90 percent of Aberdeen Group survey respondents in July and September 2008 indicated plans to improve operations within the coming 12 to 24 months, the question on whether or not they'll follow through lingers. Not only has the uncertainty in supply and demand affected operations but customers continue to put more pressure on companies to deliver more value within tighter windows, often using that measurement for pricing and negotiation. Without question, the topic of transportation and distribution should be at the forefront of every executive's agenda in the coming year. There are very few areas of our world today that are not affected in some way or another by the complexity and the cost of transportation and distribution. From the rising costs of shipping food around the world and its impact on the average cost of a meal for the average person, to the need to re-evaluate supply chain layouts based on the "total" cost of doing business, transportation and distribution are in the mix and critical for success.
Before big changes can take place, many executives agree that there needs to be a better baseline to operate from and better visibility into key performance indicators of today's business. Almost 50 percent of survey respondents indicated that gaining better visibility...
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Built Inhouse Supply Chain Visibility
Lockheed's contract to build the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter depends on a highly complex supply chain that includes hundreds of partners and suppliers of components and raw materials around the world. The demands of keeping this project on schedule and on budget require Lockheed to make sure all of its tiers of suppliers have the materials they need. Lockheed developed its own IT that not only forecasts demand for crucial materials, but it creates the visibility and collaborative connections to ensure ...
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Past Supply Chain Visibility Issues:
December, 2008
September, 2008

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