We’ve all experienced disruptions to supply chains over the past few years and, despite some improvement, it looks like we will be dealing with supply chain challenges for the foreseeable future. Economic uncertainty, geopolitical risk, cybersecurity, and concerns about resiliency will continue in 2023.
A lack of visibility into the supply chain can be expensive. A delay in one area can have a ripple effect throughout your entire supply chain. With a lack of visibility in supply chain resources, you may not even know there’s a problem until it’s too late to meet your deadlines.
As organizations have outsourced increasing parts of their supply chains, it’s become more difficult to track everything. Monitoring and tracking raw materials, parts, and components from multiple manufacturers and suppliers before they get to you, while they are within your control, and into the hands of your sellers or customers is increasingly challenging.
You need robust systems, tools, and applications to navigate supply chain visibility to mitigate disruptions, ensure agility, and meet the demands of consumers. So, what is supply chain visibility?
What Exactly Is Supply Chain Visibility?
Supply chain visibility allows you to track different products or goods in transit, so you have a clear view of everything in your entire supply chain. This provides greater insights into your freight to optimize operations and make better decisions.
To operate efficiently and cost-effectively, you need both proactive and reactive supply chain visibility solutions. To meet customer demand and ensure customer satisfaction, you need to track items and parts, know where products are at every point in your supply chain, and what’s inside every shipping container.
Key Areas of Supply Chain Visibility
Several key areas of supply chain visibility directly affect performance:
- Shipping operation
- Inventory flow
- Inventory management
- Supply chain activities
Let’s break down each.
Real-time visibility of trailers and contents is a crucial part of transportation visibility in the supply chain. If there’s a potential disruption, you need to know about it early enough to plan properly or re-route shipments from suppliers. This is especially critical when the freight includes raw materials for just-in-time production.
You also need to have real-time supply chain visibility into every aspect of your in-transit goods, including things like terminal dwell time and lane assignments, to improve efficiency in inbound and outbound shipments.
Another key area of supply chain visibility is inventory flow. From raw materials to suppliers to distributors to retailers, companies need an accurate way to monitor and measure inventory received and sent out. Not only is this crucial information to meet purchase orders and customer demand, but it has a big impact on the company’s accounting procedures. Whether you account for goods on your general ledger using a first in, first out (FIFO) or last in, first out (LIFO) valuation, you need an accurate inventory flow.
Many of the bottlenecks in supply chains over the past two years have also played havoc with the company’s capacity utilization rate and how it's optimized. When manufacturers are left guessing about incoming raw materials or inventory, it’s easy to find output falls well below targets yet still be on the hook for labor and production costs.
Optimizing the capacity rate also requires accurate supply chain visibility to ensure working at peak capacity.
Even once goods reach your facility, managing inventory can be a problem. A shocking number of warehouses, distributors, and manufacturers have inventory unaccounted for. Not only can this hurt production and sell-through, but it leads to expensive holding costs and dead stock.
Accurate inventory management as part of your supply chain visibility is critical to meet customer demands, and avoiding backorders, rush orders, overstocking, and stockouts.
Today, passive radio frequency identification (RIFD) tags help track assets, making it easy to identify, categorize, and manage inventory efficiently. Significantly less expensive than active RFID tags or Bluetooth, passive RFID tags are a good solution for large returnable packaging assets and fleets. Tags can be read quickly (and consistently) as they move through docks and warehouses. For example, a passive RFID reader can get information from a large number of tags as they pass without slowing down.
A study by Auburn University showed that RFID can increase inventory accuracy from 69 to 99.9% accuracy.
Supply Chain Activities
Supply chain activities are too complex to track manually. Forget spreadsheets and logs, you need to automate your processes with real-time data to make timely decisions. When you know where everything is and when everything will arrive, you can better manage operations, increase production capacity, and right-size your staffing needs.
Visibility is also important when it comes to managing returnable reusables. For example, every year the automotive industry loses between 16% and 18% of reusable packaging assets. It’s a multi-billion-dollar problem. As supply chains have become more complex, inefficient handling of returns to suppliers has become more commonplace. Often, this has led to chargebacks or forcing expensive shipping fees to expedite returning reusables.
The Importance of Real-Time Visibility in Supply Chain Processes
By tracking products across the entire supply chain with real-time visibility, you get the information you need to work more efficiently. These insights can help you:
- Anticipate potential problems
- Find and eliminate supply chain bottlenecks
- Mitigate disruptions
- Improve inventory flow and accuracy
- Reduce safety stock
- Optimize capacity utilization
- Meet customer demand in a timely manner
- Provide better operational visibility for customers
Achieve Greater Visibility with Surgere
From transportation and freight visibility to yard management to asset management, you get end-to-end supply chain visibility with Surgere. Offering connected solutions like certified IoT sensor-based hardware, RFID tracking, and industry-leading software, Sugere provides complete visibility into every step of your supply chain with 99.9% data accuracy and fidelity.
Sugere solutions help identify inefficiencies, improve traceability, improve inventory management, and save time and money. With greater insight into your supply chain, you can make better decisions to increase productivity and profitable revenue.
Contact the supply chain visibility experts at Sugere today. Let us design a customized solution to help manage your supply chain more efficiently.