With the world becoming a global village and businesses catering to the needs worldwide, challenges of conducting the business smoothly have also soared. The widened scope of supplier networks and its channelized management have become major issues faced by companies today with supply chain optimization being a top priority. Thus, the use of efficient and structured supply chain systems has become inevitable.
As reported by Logistics Bureau, businesses with optimal supply chains account for 15% lower supply chain-related costs, 50% lesser inventory holdings, and almost three times faster cash-to-cash cycles, than those who do not focus on optimization of their supply chain systems. Accenture study had surveyed supply chain officers, and 70% of them predicted that by 2020, Supply Chain shall become a key driver in ensuring better customer service for enterprises.
But, there’s more to simply have a supply chain solution in place. Businesses today need real-time visibility and advanced supply chain analytics solutions to achieve transparency at every level and finding deviations, if any, right at the source, in real-time.
In fact, GEODIS Supply Chain Worldwide Survey, 2017, has placed Supply Chain Visibility amongst the top strategic priorities of companies globally.
A piece of in-depth knowledge and real-time information of operations taking place within your supply chain can help your company make informed decisions regarding deliveries, customer feedbacks, logistics planning, etc. Another fundamental role of better supply chain visibility is that it can help in getting swift, in fact, predictive responses to deviations in supply chain processes. It helps businesses manage their materials, inventories, logistics, and deliveries in a better way by identifying supply chain incompetency before it actually happens.
Key supply chain complexities that require a new outlook
1. Inefficient or sluggish communication within the network:
For making informed decisions, uninterrupted and rapid flow of data within the supplier network is vital. However, slower information flow through emails and chats are one of the major hindrances in optimization of supply chain and its visibility.
2. Reactive handling rather than a proactive approach:
Responding to problems after they have occurred will not be adequate in the times, we are living in. Lack of predictive analysis of the supply chain is the biggest reason why businesses are not meeting customer expectations and incurring losses. To put it simply, project leaders are not able to develop a foresight due to slack in using the previous insights to anticipate the future issues and address them beforehand. Hence, there is a dire need of proactive assessment and management of probable errors and inefficiencies.
3. Disruption in inbound supply networks:
Businesses are still using the conventional methods of Excel-based or BI led analytics leading to lost vision and control of managers over inbound supply networks. This may result in interrupted logistics, inventory management, and other inbound operations. Thus, the need of the hour is to have advanced supply chain analytics that uses the iterative approach of finding, analyzing, and foretelling the problems before they occur. The supply chain analytics should be designed in a such a way that it can record any aberration before time or in real-time, and raise alarm or flag-off the issue to managers while there’s still time to take corrective steps. It can help in the rapid fixation of any errors or identification of any loopholes/wrongdoings for smoother functionality of inbound supply networks in the long run.
4. Lack of intelligent system to sieve through the sea of data:
With the massive flow of data, every minute, hour, and day of the year, manual or data-entry based reporting can be seen as obsolete or rather slow and error-prone systems. It can lead to delayed response time and inaccurate actions from businesses. Developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) based solutions, accompanied by Machine Learning (ML), is what organizations need in order to be proactive in decision-making. Not just diagnosis, but the prognosis of data, to identify changes in trends is what is required for businesses to take preventive measures to eliminate the chances of damage.
Three ways to achieve better supply chain visibility
Deployment of advanced integrated technologies, greater employees’ sensitisation at all supply network tiers, and robust workflows are three pillars that can build highly effective supply chain visibility for your businesses. Let us discuss each one in detail:
1. Deploying the best technologies:
Understanding the needs of individual supply chain management and investing in a system that resolves all its challenges can give you relevant insights leading to better business decisions. As discussed above, AI and ML backed technologies can play pivotal role in expanding supply chain visibility through providing highly accurate, predictive as well as prescriptive reports to act on. Smart AI can help anticipate and track fallacies beforehand, alert the right people, offer the right suggestions, and provide insights for decision-making, thereby allowing the managers to eliminate problems quickly.
2. Expanding employees’ span of supply chain visibility:
In the conventional way of business operations, employees remained limited to their specialization and would just be involved with a part of supply chain network. Business needs an environment where employees at all levels of management can ideate, communicate, and collaborate together, to address the issues and aid better decisions. This would bring around the highest level of transparency, where instead of pushing blame, employees can actually work together and find solutions to the upcoming problems proactively. Enriched and empowered employees can prove instrumental in predicting, identifying and rectifying errors and inefficiencies timely.
3. Developing strong workflows:
Robust workflows are the essence of informed and rapid decision-making. Seamless workflow systems connecting all supplier networks under one cloud based eco-system is one of the most effective ways of achieving supply chain optimization. This requires complete integration of supply chain silos. Once all the systems get integrated, streamlined workflows can be designed that aid in smooth functioning of the supply chain.
Reaping the benefits of supply chain visibility
Leveraging the power of AI/ML to develop smart supply chain ecosystem that can automatically provide accurate analytics reports and spot any gaps is what businesses should focus on developing for better management of inbound and outbound operations. A highly predictive real-time and holistic approach towards supply chain management is imperative to meet customer demands, cut operating costs, and stay ahead of the competition. The magic of achieving optimal supply chain visibility lies in the inherent understanding of your business needs, building a transparent and an intuitive supply chain network that aims at improving customer interaction with your products and services.
This article has been authored by Gaurav Kumar Mishra, Principal Consultant, Acuver Consulting.