As the saying goes, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. This can be true in many parts of the business world, but nowhere does it seem more prevalent than in supply chain management -often a complex, logistical, and behemoth part of operations.
The process of taking a product from warehouse to delivery – your supply chain – dictates your company’s revenue, efficiency, and customer satisfaction to a significant degree. If you’re not doing supply chain management correctly, your company isn’t reaching its potential.
To understand where you have opportunities to improve and maximize your potential for more revenue, fewer resources, and happier customers, you have to make supply chain visibility a priority.
Visibility in this context is essentially putting the right tools and methods in place to track how your products came to be – and what happens to them after they leave your warehouse. That means you have eyes on its entire supply chain journey. In theory, it might seem like most companies already do this. If a product leaves a warehouse on Monday at 3 pm and arrives at a customer’s doorstep on Wednesday at 10 am. But what about everything that happened in between? Was 10 am the soonest it could have come? Were resources wasted in the process of getting that package to that doorstep – maybe the truck was only 15% complete on that specific route. That’s a lot of wasted space. Consider, too, the steps that occurred to get that product manufactured and logged as inventory in your warehouse.
Yet, with complete visibility, you can better manage capital, give customers better status updates related to package location, identify wasted minutes, predict setbacks, and cut excess steps. That ultimately translates into more shipments delivered on time to happier customers.
By embracing technology solutions, supply chain leaders and managers will experience many benefits, including:
AI technology empowers managers to make better decisions to impact the future of their operations because they have access to better data.
A current struggle in the supply chain industry is that managers waste time being reactive to incidents or problems. With better data, these types of scenarios will be predicted and managed before they occur.
For companies with more than one ideal client, AI technology allows you to create multiple supply chains geared towards each unique set of clients. When you can meet customer needs effectively, you increase retention and loyalty.
List the problems you already know about: Some inefficiencies will be obvious. For example, you might already know that you need better communication with one of your suppliers or that your transportation creates tons of bottlenecks. Get these on the board right away.
Identify key performance indicators: With problems you already know about in mind, create goals for your supply chain visibility. What’s an ideal outcome of increasing visibility? Would it be a 10% bump in revenue? Fewer customer returns? Faster deliver service for eCommerce? These will be your base key performance indicators (KPIs). You can work from these to determine what will be needed to reach them.
Collaborate better: Because most supply chains inevitably include multiple players, communication between each must be strong. Consider any external parties as your partners in creating visibility, rather than just parts of your network. Knowing your KPIs, be proactive in asking these partners to provide specific KPI information on a regular cadence.
Invest in the right technology: Technology is the meat and potatoes of creating supply chain visibility. With the right tools, such as an ERP to forecast trends in product demand and shipping flow, an advanced track and trace solution, or a navigation system that reports on time spent in transit, you can pinpoint those problem areas that weren’t previously on your radar. Technology is also an integral way to measure progress; use the data from your systems to easily report on your KPIs.
How much visibility do you have into your supply chain? What other ways could you increase visibility? Share your ideas in the comments section below!