What is Supply Chain Visibility?

Supply chain visibility means different things to different businesses. If you look up the definition, you’ll find lots of variations, most of which are as complex as supply chains themselves! At the basic level, supply chain visibility means you can access information and know what’s happening across your supplier network at any given time.

Take Pizza Hut, for example. As they’re rebranding and updating restaurant locations across the country, visibility into their supply chain is critical. They need to know how materials and products are moving – where they’ve been, where they’re headed, and when they’ll be delivered – to keep the entire project on schedule.

The complexity comes in when you consider that supply chains are moving away from relatively simple linear models to networks that look more like spider webs, with vast networks of manufacturers, distributors, logistics providers and other stakeholders. Each piece of the puzzle may have its own data collection, reporting and analytics mechanisms, but the magic happens when you can access and USE all that information.

Why It’s Important

You may have encountered the phrase “Amazon effect” in reference to the retail giant’s influence on consumer behavior and its impact on supply chains. While Amazon isn’t solely responsible for rising customer expectations, its powerful influence is illustrative of customers’ new expectations for better, faster products. Those expectations affect suppliers and customers alike.

 “The value of supply chain visibility is in the ability to capture information at an item level and improve the overall business processes supporting the supply chain because of it.”– Ryder

Only when you can open the curtain and see a single item move through your entire supply chain can you begin to evaluate the entire process. You can identify bottlenecks and redundancies, pinpoint areas of risk (and reward!), and put the data to use for improved forecasting, precision and responsiveness.

Improving your supply chain visibility takes you out of a reactionary stance and into a proactive position. It will help you move away from putting out fires toward making strategic plans and decisions. Ultimately, supply chain visibility will allow you to deliver a better customer experience while your business improves its bottom line.

Even if you’re not yet able to achieve supply chain nirvana, Stage 5 in the 2016 Gartner report, an enterprise-wide investment in data gathering and analytics across your internal supply chain functions is worthwhile. Visibility within your internal supply chain will reap benefits and put you in a better position to collaborate with your supply chain partners.

Another option for gaining supply chain visibility is by working with a third-party partner like Accuserv, whose core competencies lie in supply chain management. Because supply chains are their primary business, they’re likely to regularly invest in technology upgrades that will benefit you. Learn more about the benefits of outsourcing your supply chain.

If you’ve got supply chain questions, Accuserv has answers! Contact us to see how our solutions can take your business to the next level.

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