Finding an integration partner and determining what supply chain technology your business needs to achieve the ‘all-important’ visibility is no mean feat. But the bigger challenge can often come once that technology has been decided.
Regardless of whether you’re a manufacturer organising distribution or a transport company managing logistics, supply chain issues have certainly been a challenge in recent years given the unprecedented disruption that’s occurred worldwide. But one thing is clear – accurately tracking and delivering goods on time to serve your customers properly will ultimately determine your success.
Supply chain visibility software is fundamental to helping organisations achieve this. But it’s not just as simple as finding a ‘set and forget’ solution. Understanding how to implement, manage and evolve your supply chain visibility platform as your business faces the challenges of continual disruption is pivotal to your success. Often its the details left untold when implementing visibility software that can cause significant issues later down the road.
Supply chain visibility software provides a centralised platform that allows businesses to integrate or connect with most other systems used by partners within their chain. It then pulls relevant data from each into one place and transforms it into one consistent language to provide meaningful context as to what’s happening across the end-to-end supply chain.
Not only does it provide accurate tracking of goods and understanding of what set of activities are to follow, but it also helps highlight issues and inefficiencies in the chain so businesses can quickly make informed decisions to adapt to changes or disruptions.
It also allows businesses to keep customers and all those within the chain better informed and to adapt or change as things happen, in real-time. Add-on solutions such as Customer visibility portals are able to leverage the real-time visibility data to provide richly contextualised information and tools in a user-friendly interface.
Every organisation is unique and has different requirements for how they want a visibility system to work. If it’s set up well, it can provide huge benefits, over and above just being able to track and trace goods. It can centralise data across your supply chain so all those within the chain can collaborate more efficiently and it also has the power to help optimise and identify areas within the business where it can improve performance further.
But to achieve that, there are four fundamentals that need focus in order to create the long-term success of a supply chain visibility platform.
This guide outlines each in detail and how you can employ them in your business to ensure your supply chain becomes a well-oiled machine.
One of the key benefits of a supply chain visibility platform is its ability to pull in, and process, data from all players within a chain, regardless of the systems they use, to provide a clear picture of where your, or your client’s goods are right now. Integration plays an important role and is, in effect, the glue that binds information from a range of sources together by pushing and pulling the data and converting it into the desired format.
Once in the visibility platform, the event data from other systems is often a mess, with out-of-order events, events that are meaningless or late and so on. Understanding how the platform integrates, how to onboard new integration partners and also having systems in place that know how to respond when events from those partners are missing, inaccurate or late are critical to achieving a high level of visibility.
This can sometimes be a complex exercise and there are some pitfalls and rookie mistakes to look out for. Knowing the right questions to ask before implementing visibility software can save time, costs and headaches. This includes:
Assess the integration capabilities of your partners
Knowing what your integration options and capabilities are when committing to new contracts i.e. you really need to know where and how you’re going to get the supply chain data needed and how to fill the gaps when information is missing.
Identify potential integration bottlenecks
Your clients and partners may be quick to offer integration - but can they really do it and how are you going to make it happen? Make sure your integration and supply chain applications are extendable outside your organisation to meet these demands.
Implement notifications and alerts
Exception and notification services in your supply chain(s) are crucial when disruptions happen as you will be alerted to them and can quickly take action.
Be prepared for change
Build supply chains that are sustainable. If the supply chain needs to change, then make sure you have processes in place that can manage that change. Building into the supply chain redundancy to keep the chain moving, no matter if you are missing data or there has been a change to the supply chain, is vital and often gets missed.
Regardless of whether you’re a distributor of goods running a supply chain or a logistics company, it’s vital your contracts clearly stipulate the level of data your providers are expected to feed into the system to achieve the right level of visibility your business needs or is already providing. You also need a clear plan and method around how you, and your contractors, are going to achieve that.
The key is having an understanding, from the outset, about the type of information that’s required from all parties so everyone’s clear on their obligations. Every movement of a good within the chain also needs to be recorded and measured on what time is needed to carry out the events and the length of time they need to be reported on. If these requirements aren’t formalised, it simply won’t happen, which can then jeopardise the success and visibility that’s possible. This level of detail is now expected, with supply chain service buyers increasingly making this a pre-requisite for tendering for their work
Key questions to consider:
In our industry, data makes the world go round. Everything is dependent on it.
There’s two ways data fuels supply chain visibility; it helps inform what the supply chain needs to be right now under the current resourcing constraints and how that supply chain needs to be planned to collect the data to ensure it’s all going to plan.
At Origin, we work with data every day and intuitively know what’s needed and how it has to interact with the system. But for the inexperienced, this can potentially be a minefield given there's lots of different ways data can interact with a system.
There are two key ways data needs to be employed:
Getting a client’s requirements up-front and then identifying the gaps is the first thing to do when putting a supply chain management system together. At Origin, we then look at how to design that supply chain to make it work in the most efficient way. Data is key to determining that.
Most organisations find they have an initial view of how they think their supply planning would work. But typically when a third-party, like Origin, looks at the data, it may not be possible for it to work that way. The key is to ensure the data is going to support the complete supply chain. It’s a skill in itself to identify what’s needed and then map it out to ensure the supply chain moves with the operational restraints that may be in place. That comes with experience.
The next challenge is finding the information gaps once the system is live. The system requires constant tweaking and ongoing improvement to provide the right outcomes. While events may be flowing into the platform, they may not be coming in a sufficiently timely manner to prove productive in the supply chain. If they’re not being reported in near real-time when they occur, then the whole supply chain can break down as it means the next set of events aren’t made available for the next leg in the chain.
Having automated processes that can report on, and handle, these types of occurrences is essential to achieving end-to-end visibility for the business and its customers.
In our team’s collective experience, even the most sophisticated supply chains aren’t necessarily going to get all the information they need initially, at the right times. It takes ongoing work and perseverance with partners (existing and new) to ensure that issues are quickly identified and rectified as the visibility solution evolves.
Origin customer example
A good example is an Origin client specialising in the movement of livestock. It provides its subcontractors with its own in-cab transport system (developed by Origin) to use so that they can properly feed data into its supply chain visibility software in real-time to get the outcomes it needs. In some cases, it has also given sub-contractors the ability to use its system to log their jobs through visibility portals and allocate their own trucks, in order to achieve better planned operational results that meet the client’s required delivery times.
The key is that, once the system’s in place, the real work actually begins in order to get it working efficiently by continually identifying gaps and ways to improve the information flow within the supply chain.
It’s also important that KPIs related to getting those events in the system are being met continually and that everyone in the chain can see how well they’re performing. Providing information in real-time to all parties achieves a better outcome in meeting contractual obligations.
When it’s all working together, that data is gold as it can then be used to keep customers more informed and to also identify issues well in advance before they become real problems. This has huge benefits for your service levels and reputation as a business.
Inevitably, businesses change and evolve over time. Contractors also come and go and you need to be able to adapt and manage this efficiently within your supply chain engine.
Supply chains also change based on operational requirements and where goods are being sourced from. Disruption to supply and service has almost become a norm in the last couple of years. We’re all suffering from a lack of resources to meet demand and some diverse thinking to get around these issues has a large impact on supply chains.
You need to be able to quickly and effectively adapt, set up new supply chains at the same time as making sure you’re still getting the same level of visibility, regardless of who’s involved and how things play out.
That means having things in place to constantly monitor your visibility to ensure it’s running as it should and in line with your KPIs. The whole point of having a supply chain engine is to ensure things are delivered in full and on time (DIFOT). When things don't go to plan, the system needs to be able to raise exceptions and warn you before things actually happen that have an impact.
If one part of the supply chain is running late, or you haven't received an update from a partner or a service provider on the next movement or the estimated time for that to occur, the system needs to raise a red flag. This can then prompt a direct query with that contractor which, in some cases, can even be automated via SMS or via an app.
From day one, you will have gaps or be missing event data. But it’s about being smart and working through ways the supply chain can still keep moving.
It's one thing to deploy visibility software and have the ability to monitor your chain. It’s quite another to have the right eyes and ears on it to make sure it's doing what it should, long-term.
Navigating the supply chain management world can sometimes be complex and all-consuming. Supply chain software can provide businesses with so many benefits, but it’s how you leverage it from the outset that makes all the difference.
With the right expertise, requirements and contracts, the right data can be identified and used to set you up for long-term success.
Inevitably, things will evolve and change. New supply chains and providers will come and go within your business. The secret sauce is also in ensuring you have the right resource to onboard new providers and customers, get solid contractual arrangements in place and then monitor progress to take full advantage of the technology.
Origin specialises in helping organisations not only connect their supply chain together to create meaningful context, but also help win new contracts and grow their businesses.
We’re experienced in working in the complex supply chain space and helping organisations take the next step in creating better visibility across their chain as well as diversifying their services to meet their changing customer needs.
Our team follows a proven methodology to define and configure supply chains and maps all available information and interchanges to create an ‘up-to-the-second’ visualisation of performance.
Visibility is a core benefit of the Origin platform as it centralises data across your supply chain so you, your customers and suppliers can collaborate for optimal efficiency. The Origin team can integrate with any customer, supplier, 3rd party or internal system to bring together all the available supply chain events.
Origin’s platform then makes sense of all the available data, providing visibility and context to all events across the wider supply chain. All participants within the chain can then benefit from accurate, real-time data being fed back into their systems from a single version of the truth.
Origin's core visibility solution is often delivered with configurable customer portals for:
Looking to achieve visibility for your supply chain? Talk to our experts today