In a perfect supply-chain scenario, raw materials would efficiently be produced into finished products that then seamlessly flow on to customers.

However, there are always inefficiencies in the supply chain and one way to reduce those inefficiencies is to increase visibility within the chain. Thanks to cloud-based solutions and other technology, increasing supply chain visibility is easier than ever.

Keys to supply chain visibility

Ultimately, the supply chain must be optimized to lower risk, improve performance and make indentifying or solving problems easier.

In order to optimize the chain, we must first start by realizing all the information we need exists in separate silos – whether those silos exist within your company or across separate organizations. For example, the sales department’s figures, production schedules and supplier inventory number are often all held in separate systems. These departments, companies and system data must all interact to achieve optimum visibility.

To boost visibility, a company must first ensure essential supply-chain processes are collaborative, with all stakeholders taking an active role. For example, if a sales department can provide data about its projects, suppliers can boost or lower their production accordingly.

A highly visible supply chain is also built on a foundation of trust and mutually beneficial relationships. If stakeholders aren’t willing to share key information because they don’t trust their partners, the visibility of a supply chain will collapse.

The visibility of a supply chain is also based in technology. Disparate information systems must be able to pass data back and forth and technology is crucial in making that happen. Cloud computing and other technological solutions should allow for data to be properly formatted so that it can be shared up and down the supply chain.

Taking steps to increase visibility

If you’re looking to increase the visibility of your supply chain, you should start by assessing its various stages. Sourcing, purchase order process, order management, tracking and reconciliation all need to be assessed. As you examine the overall process, identify the collaboration points, manual updates and events where an alert could be triggered. The point of this exercise is to figure out how performance of each stage of your supply chain works.

After an examination of the supply chain, many companies are moving to set up a supply chain ‘control tower’ or ‘community.’ Each model involves the coordination of order data, order statuses and other crucial statistics in as close to real time as possible. The goal of both models is to handle demand signals more accurately to lower inventory levels, respond to customers’ needs more quickly and accurately and soften the effects of demand deviations.

The success of a control tower or community is based on the buy-in of all parties involved. Experts suggest engaging partners early in the process to increase the likelihood of full participation.

At ZDA, we know that successful supply chain management and other business process are founded on talented employees, which is where we come in. Drop us a line to connect with the area’s top talent that can fit your needs.