Executive Briefings

Is Visibility a Grand Aspiration or Grounded in Reality?

Analyst Insight: At the beginning of 2011, IDC Manufacturing Insights predicted that supply chain visibility would climb on the IT application priority list as manufacturing companies identified the business cases to improve both service levels and dollars saved. This held true throughout the year as manufacturers get a handle on what visibility means to their organizations in a tactical, rather than strategic, manner. - Simon Ellis, practice director, Supply Chain Strategies, IDC Manufacturing Insights

Supply chain visibility in the past has often fallen into the category of "aspirational." Yes, companies need it; no, they don't know how to go about implementing it. This is due to the fact that supply chains are increasingly complex, global entities - nearly their own piece of the business. If one looks at the supply chain as a whole it becomes overwhelming to have complete visibility across every aspect of it.

Yet, in two separate surveys conducted across nearly 400 manufacturers the concept of supply chain visibility is key:

• In the IDC Manufacturing Insights' Supply Chain Profitable Proximity Survey of 2010, 200 manufacturers found that the ability to provide visibility into the supply chain - the ability to know operational status, including the location of inventory and deliveries - was a key factor contributing to regional or global sourcing decisions;

• Further, more than 400 manufacturers in the IDC Manufacturing Insights' 2010 Supply Chain Survey listed increasing supply chain intelligence to monitor and drive improved supply chain performance in the top four of over a dozen supply chain initiatives

Interestingly, in the same supply chain survey noted above, visibility into the supply chain was one of the two biggest gaps in terms of capability between IT and supply chain professionals - IT felt the capabilities were on par, supply chain found there was a lot left to be desired.

IDC Manufacturing Insights has found that organizations need to look at visibility across the supply chain in terms of cost and benefits - as related to specific use cases. Much like collaboration or business intelligence - organizations can't just "do" collaboration or BI. One takes a common business case and applies the technology to either improve efficiencies or save money. Similarly, break down the supply chain and apply visibility where it makes the most sense. This allows for both IT and the supply chain professionals to understand:

• Where they are most lacking visibility in the supply chain - perhaps certain suppliers, or factories in emerging countries

• What is the cost to implement visibility in this particular piece of the supply chain

• How will the data be used to improve upon existing business operations

Implementing supply chain visibility for a specific use case will allow companies to have a clear picture of the overall costs and the resulting benefits from the improved visibility. As the applications progress and a company begins to implement multiple instances of visibility across its supply chain it may have redundant or overlapping data. At IDC Manufacturing Insights we feel it is better to start somewhere, in terms of visibility, than not start at all - if it makes business sense.

                                        The Outlook

We predict that supply chain visibility will remain a top initiative for manufacturers. This is particularly true for those organizations that analyze the supply chain and understand where it is lacking visibility; and determine the best application for a true ROI. Manufacturers started down the right path in 2011 and will continue to do so in 2012 - looking not for grand aspirations, but a practical review of each use case to improve visibility.


Keywords:  Supply Chain Visibility, Business Intelligence & Analytics, Technology, Industrial Manufacturing, Business Strategy Alignment, Supply Chain Analysis & Consulting, Global Supply Chain Management, IDC Manufacturing Insights' Supply Chain Profitable Proximity Survey of 2010, IDC Manufacturing Insights' 2010 Supply Chain Survey

Supply chain visibility in the past has often fallen into the category of "aspirational." Yes, companies need it; no, they don't know how to go about implementing it. This is due to the fact that supply chains are increasingly complex, global entities - nearly their own piece of the business. If one looks at the supply chain as a whole it becomes overwhelming to have complete visibility across every aspect of it.

Yet, in two separate surveys conducted across nearly 400 manufacturers the concept of supply chain visibility is key:

• In the IDC Manufacturing Insights' Supply Chain Profitable Proximity Survey of 2010, 200 manufacturers found that the ability to provide visibility into the supply chain - the ability to know operational status, including the location of inventory and deliveries - was a key factor contributing to regional or global sourcing decisions;

• Further, more than 400 manufacturers in the IDC Manufacturing Insights' 2010 Supply Chain Survey listed increasing supply chain intelligence to monitor and drive improved supply chain performance in the top four of over a dozen supply chain initiatives

Interestingly, in the same supply chain survey noted above, visibility into the supply chain was one of the two biggest gaps in terms of capability between IT and supply chain professionals - IT felt the capabilities were on par, supply chain found there was a lot left to be desired.

IDC Manufacturing Insights has found that organizations need to look at visibility across the supply chain in terms of cost and benefits - as related to specific use cases. Much like collaboration or business intelligence - organizations can't just "do" collaboration or BI. One takes a common business case and applies the technology to either improve efficiencies or save money. Similarly, break down the supply chain and apply visibility where it makes the most sense. This allows for both IT and the supply chain professionals to understand:

• Where they are most lacking visibility in the supply chain - perhaps certain suppliers, or factories in emerging countries

• What is the cost to implement visibility in this particular piece of the supply chain

• How will the data be used to improve upon existing business operations

Implementing supply chain visibility for a specific use case will allow companies to have a clear picture of the overall costs and the resulting benefits from the improved visibility. As the applications progress and a company begins to implement multiple instances of visibility across its supply chain it may have redundant or overlapping data. At IDC Manufacturing Insights we feel it is better to start somewhere, in terms of visibility, than not start at all - if it makes business sense.

                                        The Outlook

We predict that supply chain visibility will remain a top initiative for manufacturers. This is particularly true for those organizations that analyze the supply chain and understand where it is lacking visibility; and determine the best application for a true ROI. Manufacturers started down the right path in 2011 and will continue to do so in 2012 - looking not for grand aspirations, but a practical review of each use case to improve visibility.


Keywords:  Supply Chain Visibility, Business Intelligence & Analytics, Technology, Industrial Manufacturing, Business Strategy Alignment, Supply Chain Analysis & Consulting, Global Supply Chain Management, IDC Manufacturing Insights' Supply Chain Profitable Proximity Survey of 2010, IDC Manufacturing Insights' 2010 Supply Chain Survey