The Case for Supply Chain Visibility

An in-depth review of a conceptual technology model of a supply chain visibility hub


An in-depth review of a conceptual technology model of a supply chain visibility hub

As economic success relies more and more on superior agility and collaboration capabilities, marketplace competition is being won and lost on the supply chain front.
Companies able to control supply chain costs, satisfy customer demand and bring products to market faster than their competitors succeed. At the same time, the disparity between top-performing and average organizations widens.

Clearly, despite widespread efforts to enhance operations among companies and their suppliers, partners and customers, a great deal of potential benefits and areas for improvement remain in supply chain operations, as yet untapped. Over the past several years, a wide range of technology initiatives have been implemented to improve supply chain processes. However, many have failed to live up to expectations or realize their full potential. There are several reasons for these shortfalls, including a lack of visibility into supply chain events; poor understanding and communication of business processes (both internally and with trading partners); and, most significantly, insufficient data quality.

This article will discuss how companies can implement a supply chain visibility platform as a foundation for improving and extending the return on investment (ROI) of existing supply chain systems. In addition, a visibility hub can drive more efficient collaboration among organizations, their customers, suppliers and trading partners. Finally, this article will show how companies can make dramatic enhancements to operational efficiency, without spending a great deal of time or money on new technology.

Visibility Defined

There are numerous definitions for supply chain visibility usually the description depends on the viewpoint of the particular vendor or industry analyst. Most supply chain practitioners, however, understand that by any definition, visibility into processes and data is critical today, and will only increase in importance in the future. For the purposes of this paper, supply chain visibility is defined as:

The integration point that senses and responds to process changes within the supply chain and collects, cleanses and disseminates supply chain data with trading partners and internal departments.

This point or hub exists on the boundary of the enterprise, integrating internal systems and extending those systems and business processes to supply chain partners and customers.

The Importance of Data

Each of these systems contains data that is critical to its individual business process. More importantly, this same data may also exist in varying levels of completeness in other systems and will be employed by end users of these systems to make informed business decisions. Companies are constantly challenged to synchronize data across disparate systems. This effort includes developing a process to push relevant data to the proper systems, identify discrepancies and correct errors. Process support is imperative and allows users to make timely decisions with confidence.

As a company matures, it becomes increasingly important to manage and improve this process. The first step in accomplishing it is to measure internal capabilities against a maturity model that can help identify an organization's collaboration readiness.

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