The December 2009 Aberdeen report on supply chain visibility shows that, from a total of 21 categories of events examined in the survey, the top three least visible events (i.e., tracked either manually or automatically) in the supply chain are on the inbound (not outbound) transportation side:
• Raw material arrival at supplier - tracked by only 39 percent
• Suppliers' production in-process events - 48 percent
• Suppliers' projected production plans - 54 percent
These areas, however, are among the top Best-in-Class differentiators in terms of supply chain monitoring. Here, for example, are some specific inbound supply chain events where Best-in-Class performers are leading in monitoring compared to all others:
• Raw material arrival at supplier - 1.47 times more likely to track than all others (53 percent of the Best-in-Class monitoring this milestone)
• Suppliers' production in-process events - .22 times more likely to track than all others (56 percent of the Best-in-Class monitoring)
• Carrier pickup of goods (INBOUND) - 1.28 times more likely to track than all others (86 percent of the Best-in-Class monitoring)
With 79 percent of study respondents saying that they plan to increase their current level of end-to-end supply chain visibility, companies are now primarily trying to look further upstream into their supply chains to address those visibility "blind spots." Better upstream visibility then helps them improve supply chain planning and ultimately improve their own on-time delivery to customers. They are focusing on the low-hanging fruit.
Tomorrow's leaders should upgrade their visibility and monitoring of transportation events beginning with the best opportunities. Joan Carter, director of sales support at Orbit Irrigations Products, sums it all up very well: "At this time, our best opportunities for improvement are on the inbound side, namely, in getting more visibility into our suppliers' production capacity," she says. "We have good visibility after the product has left a foreign port, but would like to have more insight into our suppliers' subcontractors and what is happening in their incoming supply chains. We believe that higher visibility is partly contributing to lower lead time variability, reduced inventory, shorter lead-times, increased fill rates, and other supply chain operational improvements."
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