Companies that work with a host of vendors and suppliers know just how complex and essential their supply chain is. It is imperative that each connection with a vendor or supplier is documented in a formalized system. The data in those documents is critical to tracking inventory, shipments, purchases, supplies, etc., as well as building areas of common benefit. When a product stakeholder runs into outdated forms or data, trouble worth thousands of dollars can roll up and down the supply chain to the customer. This is where the importance of supply chain visibility comes into play. In this article we will discuss the various aspects of supply chain visibility, why transparency is critical, and how your company can achieve a fully visible process.
What is supply chain visibility and why is it important?
Supply chain visibility is defined as the ability to track individual manufacturing components, assembled parts and final products as they travel down the supply pipeline — from supplier and manufacturer all the way to the customer. In a supply chain that models good visibility, the chief supply officer would have access to detailed data throughout the distribution process. This would include things like an order receipt by supplier, status of raw materials to complete order, delivery date from supplier, current order status, etc.
In today’s digital world, visibility is usually improved through the use of supply chain technology, which provides data about shipping logistics, manufacturing statuses, and supply chain operations. The data this tech produces helps companies improve their efficiency by avoiding inventory shortages, removing process bottlenecks, meeting standards requirements, and tracing products through their delivery stage. Even further, a transparent supply chain helps your company stay competitive. The supply chain includes a large piece of many companies’ operating budgets, so inefficiency and bottlenecks directly impact the bottom line. Visibility allows companies to spot and fix inefficiencies throughout the chain to quickly reduce costs.
How can my company achieve it?
In order to achieve full supply chain visibility, your company needs to factor in various pieces of your current processes. The first step involves identifying your primary pain points and business objectives. What are the major problem areas that would most benefit from increased visibility? To answer this, meet with internal departments and your primary vendors to discuss the issues they face day-to-day when dealing with the supply chain progression. Do your research, review the data and logistically decide which areas to confront first.
Once you know what your focus will be, create your plan of action in the form of objectives. Meet with your team and consider these questions; is time-to-market more important than risk management? What visibility benefits can you take advantage of? How can you help our customers achieve their biggest objectives? The answers to these questions will become your primary goals when creating a transparent process. As with any business objective, never forget to give your goals a deadline.
The next step, and arguably the most crucial, is to invest in a system that will support the organizational needs of your supply chain. Luckily, there are a lot of software systems out there to choose from. When deciding which supply chain management software your company will employ, look to your identified pain points, needs, and chosen objectives. This will help you decide what features your company requires and vet out which vendors meet those requirements. Once this technology has been implemented, make it a priority to track and measure your development as compared to your original goals. Based on your specific objectives and documented pain points, determine which key performance indicators (KPI) are most important to measure. Then, keep regular records and maintain open lines of communication with your collaborative partners to make sure progress is being made.
Creating visibility throughout your supply chain doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re managing specifications and other manufacturing documents, implementing a specification management system (SMS) that integrates with ERP systems can further increase visibility and streamline your packaging life cycle. By pushing data back and forth between your systems, an SMS provides transparency across product lines by giving you the ability to drill down into product and packaging specifications to find Where Used and produce reports that inform critical business decisions. To find out more about how DocXellent’s ENSUR Specification Management Software can help you manage your supply chain relationships more efficiently, contact us today.