Analyst Insight: More than ever, organizations need a comprehensive view of their end-to-end supply chain to navigate compounding disruptions, market volatility and changing customer demands. But having a cohesive view of the supply chain — from shipment location and inventory levels to carrier performance and sustainability goals — doesn’t automatically happen. Achieving this level of visibility starts with complete and accurate data that can be turned into actionable insights.
Supply chain visibility means different things to different people. It covers everything from the physical — “Where is my shipment?” — to the virtual, like “margin management and total landed costs.” But in today’s environment, mature supply chains need a comprehensive view of all aspects of the supply chain, not just one piece.
Beyond simply tracking goods, enhanced visibility allows organizations to better measure performance to make smarter, data-driven decisions. For example: how profitable is it to ship this particular SKU to this customer from this location? Can multiple LTL shipments be consolidated into a single truckload? Would changing shipping locations or days of the week reduce detention times or improve on-time pickup or delivery levels?
Access to historical data also allows organizations to better forecast future needs — allowing them to analyze the fluctuation of factors like demand and fuel costs over time.
Accessing Supply Chain Data
Data is powerful. However, it’s important to note that there is such a thing as bad data. To be truly effective, data must be captured authentically and interpreted correctly. After all, you can't accurately measure on-time percentages if you don't accurately capture arrival data. This requires having a data management plan in place.
Consolidate data. A supply chain generates a tremendous amount of data, and accessing all of it is not easy, especially when working across multiple vendors, customer segments, or transportation modes. Consolidating information across systems and sources is the first step toward identifying actionable opportunities from supply chain data.
Embrace data governance. To make informed decisions, you need to start with good data. This means embracing data governance to ensure the accuracy of the data being used. Data governance must focus on creating and processing data that can be turned into an operational asset. This requires paying close attention to all aspects of data handling, including data validation and maintenance, to ensure ongoing data integrity and oversight.
Start small and scale up. Visibility into the entire supply chain requires visibility into each link. Organizations facing visibility gaps should start with a few smaller data projects and then scale up. For example, a Power BI or Tableau tool can deliver powerful insights without requiring significant resources.
Lean on trusted partners. Partner with transportation providers and other organizations that can support your data needs. This will give you access to important data, and support your efforts to make meaningful changes like performance improvement, reduced costs and adaptability to market changes.
Outlook: The need for supply chain visibility isn’t going away. If anything, it will continue to increase. To keep pace, shippers must increase access to quality data, utilize digital technologies, and partner with providers with the right visibility tools and capabilities. The more data that’s available, the more insights can be gained, leading to better, smarter decisions across the supply chain.
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