Supply chain visibility may be defined as a variable to organizations as to what is included and how they plan to utilize the technologies. Supply chain visibility may refer to inventory control orders, assets, information, trading partners, collaboration, nodes, transportation status, delivery status, multiple KPIs, manufacturing status, sourcing status, CPFR (collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment) and customer service. These are areas where supply chain visibility may be applied to and further visibility is required throughout the organization.
The scope to which supply chain visibility can be applied is highly complex. Organizations have a difficult time prioritizing which areas to focus on, to what degree, how much to spend and how to cohesively marry the information so that the organization becomes more efficient. Since the supply chain covers the total extent of product creation to delivery, many areas are difficult to orchestrate effectively.
The originating system also needs the capabilities to report the status of the product, shipping information, product availability and some type of customer invoicing portal to check on orders, change customers and capabilities, or to change billing information. The complexity of integrating multiple enterprise systems system proves to be challenging.
An area of supply chain visibility where organizations are finding it difficult to execute is online ordering with store pickup. This new option reduces and often eliminates shipping charges for customers. The problem from the retail side are the multiple systems needed to orchestrate and execute delivery to the retail outlets. Getting the products to the end-user location is more difficult than it sounds.
From a simplistic point of view, e-commerce (Web order management), inventory availability (on-hand quantity, locations, product status, lead times) and transportation (shipping) to the end location must be harmonized for a successful customer experience to occur. It is this multiple-step business process and the lack of execution to properly track product, quantity and location that has handcuffed companies in delivering products ordered from the web site to a local location. Many organizations are working to modernize their systems and getting these systems in order to facilitate direct-to-customer delivery. Any deficiencies in the above business process can lead to a breakdown in communication and ultimately non-delivery to customers.
Distributed manufacturing, distribution centers, multiple manufacturing locations, multiple and global trading partners, and third-party logistics providers are major areas affected by a lack of supply chain visibility. Many of the suppliers involved to create a product or to fulfill an order are often not deeply connected in terms of trading partner collaboration. With multiple entities creating inventory products, fulfilling orders and changes or delays in production and/or transportation can easily fracture the supply chain. Dependent processes, manufacturing, distribution, storage and shipping may not know of possible delays or issues.
A holistic approach to systems harmonization and modernization will become a major differentiator and a competitive advantage of how customers interact with organizations. Systems, suppliers, distributors and partners will have to deepen collaboration to create the final product. The importance of supply chain visibility will become paramount in customer satisfaction, loyalty and experience. Organizations that can achieve supply chain visibility will see an easier existence in the marketplace and ultimately be more profitable.
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