- Supply chain visibility is now the third greatest strategic priority for 623 industry professionals in 17 countries, according to the GEODIS 2017 Supply Chain Worldwide Survey.
- Despite these priorities, only 6% of respondents could claim full visibility this year, according to Supply Management. The survey also found 67% of the most successful companies placed supply chain leaders in upper management or at the corporate level, and those with industry professionals at the board level saw higher earnings.
- The survey also identified five main challenges professionals are facing, which include: cost containment, global competition, changes in customer quality expectations, need to reduce transit times and developing reliable logistics infrastructure.
Supply chain visibility is the buzzword of the year; but it may as well be the buzzword of the century — the 21st century, that is.
The digital age that erupted in the late 1990's and on to the millennium brought with it Big Data, and the promise of data-driven insights. But first, supply chains had to invest in visibility and gain access to a suppliers', partners', and even the chain of internal facilities' network of information. In two decades now, countless books have been written on the topic, so why have only 6% of 600 or so companies succeeded in achieving the topic?
One answer is that the concept has been a moving target: What supply chains expect from 'visibility' is different in 2017 than it was in 1990. But far more structural challenges exist, too. A typical model for thinking of implementation challenges is to look at people, processes and technology.
For true transparency to exist, harmony among teams within the organization must exist. Collaboration between departments can't be overlooked, as any opacity will prevent the company from reaching a goal. The C-suite must be as willing to invest resources into visibility as partners.
In that sense, processes are another ingredient of transparency implementation. Ensuring that the necessary systems are in place, such as electronic data interchanges (EDI) that make it possible for programs to communicate, is invaluable. And, if new technology is at play, the appropriate training must be in place to ensure people know how to take advantage and continue pushing visibility initiatives.
Lastly, if visibility requires transparency and the use or understanding of Big Data, new technologies must also be implemented. Yet, this requires a willingness to invest capital, which may be unattainable for even the most willing managers. It's not always about the capital, however: time is also a key element, as transitioning ERP systems, or uploading data into the cloud can take years to complete.
At a time when cost containment, quality controls and reducing logistics lead times top the list of challenges facing supply chain managers, it's easy to see how visibility could fall by the wayside. At least, according to the survey, the concept continues to rise in supply chain managers' priority lists.