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Supply Chain Visibility: What does it even mean?

25 February 2018

People from different fields see supply chain visibility from different angels, usually based on how it fits into their activities. Some believe it’s simply a track and trace activity, others, with a technological mindset, believe supply chain visibility is all about business intelligence and inventory levels.

Although all of the above are elements of supply chain visibility the actual definition is broader than that.

“Supply chain visibility is knowing where inventory is from PO to POD by capturing data from suppliers, logistics providers, customers and turning this data into useful information”

Currently there is still a big, crappy data quality problem in supply chain management. The majority of companies are struggling with capturing accurate and timely data from their supply chain partners.

In this blog post will explain why it is in your best interest to invest time and resources into increasing visibility.

So what’s the point of getting visibility in your supply chain?

Below I’ve listed some of the benefits of a transparent supply chain:

  • Identify bottlenecks
  • Identify process improvement opportunities
  • Be able to react to unexpected problems in a timely manner
  • Management by exception
  • Reduce overhead to manage your supply chain
  • Improve on-time delivery and reduce lead times
  • Become more reliable and responsive
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Reduce transportation costs
  • Improve carrier performance
  • Reduce lead time variances

By monitoring and measuring all parts of your supply chain you will have a clear view on what’s going on. The idea of getting sufficient, trustworthy data can help an organization to build intelligence reports which will go a long way in helping them successfully collaborate with their business partners, therefore improving the performance among other benefits.

Has supply chain visibility gone mainstream?

The topic has been covered numerous times by world's leading information technology research and advisory companies. The word has spread throughout the industry like wildfire and caused the “idea” of supply chain visibility to go mainstream.

Yet, in reality, it’s still spreadsheet madness out there! Daily “Where’s my shipment?” phone calls and wasteful one-to-one email communication.

These are all signs of low visibility and collaboration.

SaaS solutions to the rescue

As Gene Tyndall of Thompkins International explains: “Cloud computing will go mainstream. The speed to execution, lower costs, higher service levels, and preservation of capital related to Cloud-based apps is so compelling that companies will continue to take this path”

The adoption of these cloud-based technologies will make double data entry obsolete and will drastically reduce overhead by eliminating countless manual tasks.

When these Cloud-based SCM solutions combine the advantages of social and mobile technologies, they can make a significant impact on the collaborative dialog about order status. Supply chain and logistics professionals don’t want to track orders, they want to communicate about orders so they can take appropriate action before the damage is done.


It’s clear that logistics and supply chain departments need to reinvent themselves.

Aspects such as flexibility, adaptability and pro activity have gained importance and can only be achieved by the implementation of new technologies. Technology driven approaches can evoke radical changes to the performance of your organization.