Genuine visibility across every player in a logistic network is becoming increasingly important. It supports better co-ordination of shipments for reduced transport and delivery costs, speeds turnaround and drives better customer service. It’s the vital component in creating a genuinely unified order-to-fulfillment process.

Being able to co-ordinate single orders across multiple suppliers brings the global supply network to life, unlocking cost efficiencies and further supporting manufacturers in creating to actual demand. If products come from a single source, having a firm grip on how the inventory appears across the network will give suppliers the best chance of being able to fill orders.

To make this greater channel visibility a reality, the creation of stronger relationships between trading partners is a must. Critical suppliers open to constructive dialogue are effective in improving competitiveness and profitability for both parties. It’s within these closer relationships that the tracking of inventory stored outside the business becomes a more realistic proposition.

Pooling resources supports less investment in safety buffer stock, while being aware of returns early and avoiding underestimated inventory helps traders to juggle fulfillment. Production can be stimulated at the right level, working capital is freed up and the risk of obsolescence reduced – without the need to impact on service levels. Issues around lost or late shipments and incorrect or damaged orders can be identified and dealt with quicker, significantly reducing their impact.

Visibility doesn’t mean the same to everyone
To a manufacturer, visibility may relate to having an understanding of how many days production can be supported by the materials on hand. For a retailer, this isn’t important. As such, achieving genuine visibility throughout the supply ecosystem involves properly understanding the requirements of each and every stakeholder. This depends on full co-operation from all parties – without everyone’s contributions, it’s impossible to create a trustworthy claim of real-time completeness.

It’s also important to note that visibility should go beyond the traditional boundaries of the supply chain, and include more than the partner network alone. In today’s digital world where consumers are also more connected, providing real-time information about what they are buying, whether it was produced in sustainable manner, and when they can expect it to be delivered to them should also be considered important. Offering visibility right through to the end consumer offers real value to manufacturers and retailers alike.

Making it happen
Moving forward, there are a number of initiatives businesses can embrace to drive changes in supply chain visibility. A solid understanding of the individual entities making up the network allows successful segmenting of product/ customer relationships – the basis for choosing the right logistic solution for the best service at the widest margin. The right ERP and BI tooling is important in creating the right groupings and forging more intimate, mutually-beneficial relationships built on long term customer-vendor trust.

Creating genuine insight throughout the entire ecosystem is also dependent on all stakeholders proactively sharing information. Successful firms already share and link together masses of information from multiple sources (also referred to as big data) for interpretation with business analytics tooling. This expanded data can boost forecasting accuracy, which in conjunction with improved communication throughout the chain can drive higher revenue, lower working capital and decrease costs.