Despite all the industry chatter surrounding the concept of end-to-end visibility and the state of supply chain nirvana it’s expected to achieve—as in real-time decision-making that increases efficiency, reduces cost and/or creates an amazing customer experience—some companies have simply written off the effort required to achieve that Holy Grail state.
But they shouldn’t.
That’s because there are numerous opportunities and benefits to be realized from what should be considered an ongoing journey to vanquish the barriers associated with achieving this state, according to five experts featured in the article, “In Search of the Supply Chain Holy Grail,” published in the first quarter 2019 issue of MHI Solutions magazine.
Among the challenges are the increasingly international footprint of both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) supply chains, the fast pace of inventory movement, and consumer whims, says Guy Courtin, vice president of industry and solutions at Infor.
Likewise, customers expect a high level of visibility, says Sean Wilcox, vice president of marketing at GrandCanals. “The challenge there is having third parties, like FedEx, UPS, DHL, the United States Postal Service (USPS), less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers and others, involved. Each has different abilities to communicate and to provide data on where items are and where they’re expected to be,” he says.
Further up the supply chain there’s inherent complexity in attempting to align all the different internal data and information generating systems required to run it, notes Toby Brzoznowski, co-founder and chief strategy officer at LLamasoft. “Each of these different systems has its own very finite and focused data model built to run its individual part of the process. But there isn’t a system out there that has a full end-to-end data model.”
Neil Hampshire, chief information officer at ModusLink, agrees that gaining access to the multiple, disparate sources of data needed for end-to-end supply chain visibility is a potential barrier.
“At a macro level, supply chain visibility is really about access to information and then the ability to integrate that information. But within a single organization, you’ll have, potentially, multiple different silos and platforms and databases and logistics systems,” Hampshire says. “When you look at the full farm-to-fork type of supply chain, connectivity between companies and bringing that data together in a unified way, is a huge challenge.”
Finally, simply gaining buy-in to change long-entrenched mindsets about how supply chain processes work can be an enormous task, notes Pawan Joshi, senior vice president of products and strategy at E2open: “It’s not just individuals, it’s also departments and companies overall. They believe they’ve already optimized their supply chain processes—and they did, 15 to 20 years ago. Now, technology has caught up and, in fact, has moved much further ahead of entrenched business processes.”
To overcome these challenges, a combination of multiple Next Generation technologies will enable the digitization of supply chains required to enable end-to-end visibility, say the experts. Among them, cloud computing, Big Data analytics, Blockchain, sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) all have a role to play. To decide which combination is right for a given supply chain, it’s first important to know what visibility means to the organization.
“There are lots of technologies out there that can be put in the visibility toolbox. But first and foremost, companies need to conduct an audit to determine exactly what information they’re looking for, what they want to do with it, and what they have already,” says Courtin.
Want to find out more about why the quest for end-to-end supply chain visibility is a worthy one? Read the full article by clicking here.