4 Ways to Increase Supply Chain Visibility


August 9, 2023

Supply chain visibility is essential for efficient and accurate workflows. Transparent operations reduce risk by tracking items through every supply chain stage. You can strengthen relationships with suppliers and customers by providing real-time updates on product movements. In addition, supply chain visibility helps your business remain agile when facing disruptions.

Various supply chain challenges cause visibility gaps. Many companies find it difficult to share large volumes of data with all their partners and customers. Outdated or disparate software systems can make these problems even more significant. By reevaluating your visibility procedures, your business can reduce gaps and increase accuracy. Here are four ideas for improving supply chain visibility.

1. Map Your Processes

A strong first step for improving visibility is mapping your operations. By laying out your procedures, you gain a comprehensive view of all processes and communication methods. You can see bottlenecks or areas that consistently encounter disruptions. Then, you can adjust approaches to resolve these issues.

Try mapping supply chain movements for each of your products. You can trace the products’ original suppliers and their passage to your location. In addition, track the communication methods you use between each step. This map displays the relationship between each item and each supplier. You can also map the product’s delivery route to the buyer.

Low visibility can often lead to other disruptions. With an end-to-end picture of operations, you can uncover the reasons behind delays or lost items. Redundant steps, lack of communication, or inefficient work processes can make visibility more challenging. For example, you may notice limited communication between you and one of your suppliers leads to increased distribution delays, or low inventory visibility could cause stock-outs in your online marketplace.

Mapping your processes lets you narrow down the areas needing attention. After you identify aspects that need improvement, your team can build new strategies to address them.

2. Increase Communication

Effective communication is vital for visibility. Consistent and clear communication reduces confusion and keeps all related parties updated. Improving communication methods gives you a clearer perspective of incoming and outgoing shipments.

Supply chain disruptions are inevitable — anything from adverse weather to increased product demands can delay shipments. These delays make it more challenging to maintain visibility and sufficient communication with partners. Due to the supply chain’s interconnected nature, disruptions can have a ripple effect and limit operations for multiple companies.

Your collaboration techniques also impact supplier relationships. The more you update your partners, the more value you gain from the partnership. Many relationships begin with a supplier agreement that defines payment terms, requested items, delivery expectations, and other crucial factors. If any of these factors change, you should update suppliers immediately and expect the same in return.

You can improve communication by:

  • Adding tracking to shipments: Tracking features let partners trace shipments in real time, which can reduce supply chain visibility gaps. They can monitor package movements without having to ask about their whereabouts manually.
  • Being transparent about business status: Demand forecasting lets you anticipate buying behaviors, helping you keep your inventory at the proper levels to meet demand. If you notice changes that could impact your supply needs, you should keep partnerships informed. Proactive explanations give suppliers more time to prepare and fulfill updated needs.
  • Providing and requesting feedback: Feedback helps you and suppliers maintain the most beneficial partnership possible. Stay honest with partners and inform them if you need increased updates or more straightforward communication. You can also ask suppliers if your communication is sufficient or if you need to improve any aspects. That way, you can better meet each others’ needs.

3. Collect and Analyze Data

Data collection can also help you enhance your visibility. Gathering and evaluating data lets your company identify its most effective processes. Analytics can reveal visibility gaps and help you craft informed, data-driven response plans.

Fulfilling orders and maintaining supplier relationships generate large volumes of data. Many companies find it challenging to evaluate all of the information and apply it purposefully. Many software solutions assist with data collection and analytics, reducing manual processing. For instance, your software could generate reports with sales volumes, distribution details, inventory levels, and other important metrics. This relevant data helps you predict potential disruptions and eliminate processes that harm company success.

Sharing data also increases visibility. Updating team members, suppliers, and distributors with data reports creates a stronger sense of unity throughout the supply chain. Different company teams can provide more specific insights into data reports. For instance, your finance team may come to different conclusions than your logistics department.

4. Upgrade Your Technology

Using legacy systems or many disconnected applications can decrease visibility. These limited systems often require you to transfer data manually, increasing the potential for errors and miscommunications. They could also be incompatible with your partner’s software, making communication more challenging.

Many supply chain companies are digitizing their processes, allowing for increased efficiency and accuracy. Digital transformations can boost revenue by 20% and significantly reduce production costs, creating many benefits for businesses. By upgrading your technology, you can meet modern demands and boost visibility across all operations.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) are two comprehensive and effective options for technology upgrades. These tools can link your systems and automatically share data with related parties, providing real-time updates. EDI focuses on transferring business documents, using specific transaction codes to transmit data securely. VMI provides instant insights into inventory levels and product movements.

Committing to a software upgrade can improve efficiency and visibility in many business areas. You can connect with suppliers more easily and build more unified procedures.

Use VMI and EDI to Improve Supply Chain Visibility

Supply chain visibility creates a more efficient experience for suppliers, distributors, and consumers. To reduce gaps, your business can analyze current operations and identify areas that need improvement. Optimizing communication increases visibility between your partners, while technology upgrades streamline many manual procedures.

VMI and EDI solutions transform your existing visibility processes. By upgrading your supply chain software, you can improve communication, boost efficiency, and limit visibility gaps. VMI lets you share instant product updates with supply chain partners, increasing visibility for all parties. The software also analyzes product movements and trends and recommends when to reorder products.

EDI automatically exchanges critical supply chain documents between you and your partners. It eliminates manual communication procedures, making improved visibility easier to achieve.

TrueCommerce offers end-to-end EDI and VMI solutions for businesses. To learn more about how to improve supply chain visibility and how our solutions can help, contact us today.

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