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4 Must-Haves to Achieve Supply Chain Visibility

This is an excerpt from C3's White Paper: "Supply chain visibility: Illuminating the path to responsive, agile operations" by Gregory Braun Senior, vice-president, C3 Solutions. 

If you feel your organization is hopelessly out of touch in terms of supply chain visibility, the necessary conditions are certainly not out of reach. We have listed below what we believe are the 4 Key elements to consider when embarking on the path to Supply Chain Visibility.

Fully integrated systems

This means not only within your own operations, but also with your suppliers and vendors. There can be no system silos. You need to be able to share the identical information in real time with all the parties to the chain so that decision making is in sync. [1]

Integrated supply chains require more than just technological alignment, however. They require agreement on objectives, on metrics and lots of face-to-face collaboration.

Cloud systems

[For more discussion of the value of the cloud see our white paper on SaaS Supply Chain Management Systems]. Cloud-based systems are the best means to a collaborative, connected supply chain, as they permit true cooperation between supply chain partners. Essential supply chain applications like transportation management (TMS), warehouse management (WMS), dock scheduling and yard management (YMS) are all delivered on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model now. They offer cost-effective solutions that are scalable, easy to integrate and quick to implement. The more businesses look for visibility across their operations and beyond the more reliant they will become on cloud-based apps.

Mobile Technology

Rapid development has been the hallmark of mobile devices, to the point that the average person now carries in their pocket the equivalent of what was a supercomputer as recently as the mid-1980s [See our whitepaper: "The Internet of Things and the Modern Supply Chain"].

Mobile allows for on-the-ground communication among remote supply chain partners, as well as reliable, real-time data collection and transmission. Devices are cheap, powerful and reliable and seamlessly link up with cloud-based apps. They create the conditions for more informed and faster decision making.

Reliable Data

You need to know what to collect, how often and where. It can't be random, late or intermittent. You have to be able to define specific business processes in order to get the data back you need for analysis. Otherwise it's back to that old programmer's nightmare, GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).

"Before deploying any B2B system, companies must begin at the basic level…define their business processes carefully, then assign specific meaning to data elements based on events known to occur within these business processes," said Rob Handfield, Director of NC State University's Supply Chain Resource Consortium (SCRC) in an article written back in 2002.[2] And if you think that sounds easy, he recounted this anecdote: "Recently, a consulting company hosted a session to assign business process events to specific information system terms. The group spent more than two hours defining the term 'on-time arrival'!"

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1 - "Supply chain integration: Definition, model, examples", Ben Benjabutr, www.supplychainopz.com, undated article. http://www.supplychainopz.com/2013/09/supply-chain-integration.html

2 - "Data reliability – A critical requirement for integration", Rob Handfield, Supply Chain Resource Consortium, NC State University, June 1, 2002. https://scm.ncsu.edu/scm-articles/article/data-reliability-a-critical-requirement-for-integration.