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Many companies today lack visibility of their suppliers beyond the first tier, says Kent. A lack of trust among participants prevents the sharing of information that's necessary to ensuring a smooth-running supply chain, and the appropriate use of data. Some are afraid that the information might be used against them, he says.
A "big paradigm shift" is needed before companies can achieve multi-tier visibility. Brand owners need to articulate why they need critical information from their suppliers, and how sharing can be of benefit to all parties involved, says Kent.
There is a clear link between visibility and risk management, he says. Companies can't maintain effective risk programs without access to key information about their suppliers. In addition, visibility is essential to maintaining an effective corporate responsibility effort.
The reputation of established brands is at stake. "So much outsourcing is being done," says Kent. "You don't always know what's happening [with] that outsourced partner."
Multi-tier visibility can have bottom-line benefits for companies. Top executives need to be clear in their message to the organization - that the sharing of information among partners can boost profits, as companies shift focus from pure cost savings to cost avoidance.
Technology can help. Software vendors are offering "control towers" that help to move information by way of electronic data interchange messaging, simple fax protocols or cloud-based portals.
The C-suite is starting to pay attention to the issue of visibility, says Kent. "There's empirical evidence that it absolutely is a hot topic at the executive level."
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, supply chain visibility, sourcing solutions, supply chain planning, retail supply chain, international trade, supply chain risk management
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