In the era of global businesses, your supply chain is a competitive advantage. The pace and landscape of supply chain management is changing rapidly, as logistics has moved beyond human scale. If you look at some of the largest companies in the world - Apple, Walmart, Amazon - supply chain technology is core to their business, and to their success. They have near-total visibility into all aspects of their chain, from manufacturing to final delivery.
Supply chain visibility is more than just knowing where your container is. It may sound daunting, but even midsize businesses can achieve visibility into their whole chain, by adopting some of the affordable new technology that’s coming to market. Let’s have a look at what “visibility” means today, by breaking it down into four key areas that will move your capabilities far beyond “track-and-trace” and enable you to turn your own supply chain into a key competitive advantage.
How much are you spending in transportation costs? If you work with multiple providers, can you determine at a glance the fully landed cost of goods on each trade lane, using each of those providers? Transportation complexity increases as your business grows, and trying to manage spreadsheets and emails and your memory can feel exhausting. To add to that, rates are typically fraught with surcharges and confusing terms that make a quick apples-to-apples comparison of quotes or options challenging. As your company size grows, multiple stakeholders in the chain, from traders to operations to accounting groups, need to make such comparisons as efficiently as possible to do their jobs.
Increasing visibility around rates by leveraging the best, most reliable data shifts the nature of the game. It enables you to move from wrangling guesstimates to having answers at your fingertips, which in turn makes it possible to manage partnerships more effectively. Applying technology to achieve rate transparency helps all stakeholders see a sharper version of the larger business picture.
As your company grows, your supply chain team gets larger. How you think about who’s on that team changes, too. Do you consider your manufacturing partners a part of your team? How about your suppliers, or your warehouse provider? Although they’re external to your company, the actions they take are critical to your products getting to where they need to be on time. Visibility on this larger scale requires having a secure system that coordinates central access for both internal and external parties. This ensures that the right people have precise access to the right tools, while always maintaining security best practices.
People are one of the most critical elements in a supply chain organization, and for a global company in particular, they contribute across departments and regions.
Each person on the team plays an important role in a particular set of processes, and you need visibility into what’s happening in those processes. Centralized technology can quickly identify who needs to do what, whether it’s completed or not, and whose actions are next in the workflow. This kind of visibility provides opportunities for proactive management in a variety of scenarios for the firm:
- Continuity: if someone leaves abruptly or gets sick, piecing together where they were in a process is not an impossible task.
- Expansion & Growth: you can identify repetitive workflows and easily replicate, or even automate, those tasks, to keep your people working on what matters.
- Acquiring a new company: you can integrate your new teams onto one platform, ensuring that processes are standardized throughout the company.
- Adding new providers or suppliers: there is a standardized framework in place for engaging with your expanding external team.
Software improves insights into how users are performing their roles and determines opportunities for increasing efficiency for the organization as a whole.
There is no way around it: managing compliance and other related risks in an international supply chain is required for doing business. Sending a bulk shipment of goods across national borders can generate mountains of data and documents from several vendors. Each document may be authenticated and processed by several agencies across any applicable jurisdictions. The faster each party of interest has access to the data, the faster the goods can move through the supply chain.
Problems with document management mean lost time and money. There’s a risk of reputational harm, as well as lost revenue or inventory. Having a keen eye on the audit trail, therefore, matters greatly. This type of visibility allows for more proactive compliance, which is a less costly alternative to a “put out the fire as fast as possible” strategy. A best-in-class technology platform gives you immediate visibility into where something things awry. But, better yet, you can use that same technology to get ahead of any issues by implementing a standardized process in advance.
The final form of visibility is the one that you probably have thought about the most: cargo location visibility. Ultimately, inventory is still “king of costs”. Your capital is tied up in that inventory so you need to know where that pallet is. The faster you can pinpoint cargo location, the faster you can react to threats that might come up - for example, maybe there is a regional political issue. Maybe there’s a port slowdown, or a natural disaster that’s going to lock up that inventory. Visibility allows you to revise plans on the fly for inventory that hasn’t shipped, particularly if it has to take a new route. Reliable, predictive software can address these occasions with less overhead and less opportunity cost.
When you have full cargo visibility, instead of keeping large amounts of inventory on hand, you can more efficiently allocate resources by better predicting where product demand lies. You can respond more efficiently to factory needs, factory slowdowns, or consumer demand. This responsiveness can have a major increase in your bottom line.
Shine a Light on your Supply Chain
Globalization and increasing complexity in supply chains have moved logistics beyond human scale. Along with an increasing number of collaborators, there is an increasing pressure for careful management of trading relationships. Simply put, there are now more potential “blind spots” to navigate. Haven Track & Trace makes full visibility easy and affordable, so the choice to adopt is clear. It delivers solutions for the four critical types of visibility, so your company works more effectively with your supply chain trading partners, and you boost that bottom line. Visibility for global logistics, across teams and geographies, is well within reach.
By Matt Tillman