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Latest developments in supply chain visibility platforms

Jonas Mehrhoff
Jonas Mehrhoff
May 23, 2022
5 min read

Note on the authors

Heiner Murmann is the founder and CEO of Orkestra SCS, a logistics, technology and services company. In addition, Heiner serves as Executive Chairman for Evolution Time Critical and President of The Five Inc., and as an Advisory Board Member for both Metro Supply Chain Group and Black & McDonald Limited. Notably, Heiner previously held various senior executive roles at DB Schenker, one of the top three global logistics companies, as a Member of the Board of Management responsible for Air and Ocean Freight, and as CEO of the Region Americas.

Arnold da Silva, Senior Ocean Freight Advisor for Orkestra SCS, is head of an ocean freight consulting company where he actively advises global shippers on ocean freight strategy and execution. With 40 years of experience in the ocean freight industry, Arnold served as Executive Vice President for Ocean Freight Region Americas for DB Schenker. Arnold's passion is to conceptualize and implement innovative ocean freight solutions that transform one’s supply chain and promote a shipper's success.

The vulnerabilities across global supply chains were exposed with the arrival of Covid-19, compelling managers to admit that supply chain visibility platforms needed to be implemented as a matter of urgency. Visibility provides crucial oversight in every process within the supply chain in real time. There are several new visibility platforms being developed that provide valuable insights for more strategic management processes. Here’s a look at some of the latest developments, and how they can help supply chain operations.

Only 21% of industry professionals have no difficulty with supply chain visibility (SCV). The rest of the market players need to find ways to improve the situation — and the way out of the crisis can be intelligent SCV solutions. These software solutions allow tracking deliveries in real-time, which is a global trend in logistics digitalization for 2021 and 2022, as many organizations implement it. 

- Forbes

What are supply chain visibility platforms?

Visibility within the supply chain means managers are able to track the individual components, sub-assemblies and final products across the supply chain, right from manufacturer to consumer. This seemingly insurmountable undertaking is made possible by technological innovations that offer accurate, real-time data about supply chain logistics. With such supply chain visibility, managers are able to monitor demand, avoid inventory shortages, prevent bottlenecks and address customer queries timeously.

What are the risks of a lack of visibility in supply chain

Where supply chain visibility is lacking, companies are putting themselves at considerable risk. Some of these include:

  • Inconsistencies in data collection leading to information loss and inaccurate data for business decision-making. 
  • Ineffective business strategy which impacts risk management.
  • Lack of synchronization between digital and manual operations leading to an increase in errors. 

What are the latest developments in visibility?

In a Supply Chain Digital and Analytics survey, conducted by Deloitte, 76% of respondents said developing digital and analytics capabilities was most important or very important to delivering the overall supply chain strategy. 

New technology platforms are seen by many businesses as a means to completely change what they do and offer end-to-end services, from factory to delivery to customers on other side of the world.

Some of the developments that have taken place and are progressing at scale in the world of supply chain visibility are

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI)
    AI has the ability to process vast amounts of data on cloud platforms which can be used, among other things, to anticipate consumer trends and identify productivity lapses that need to be addressed. AI also provides the supply chain with increased visibility in terms of route planning. Variables such as weather patterns, geopolitical concerns and raw material availability can factor into the most optimal route at any given time. There’s also the enhanced customer experience whereby AI allows consumers access to real-time tracking on all purchased goods.
  2. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT
    The interconnectivity of devices and sharing of relevant data is another technological development that has benefitted supply chain visibility. While the Internet of Things (IoT) is proving useful in commercial and residential applications amid the fourth industrial revolution, supply chain is benefitting even further from industrial-level IoT. Using IIoT devices, production efficiency can be assessed and equipment efficiency monitored. Sensors in warehouses measure deviations in humidity, temperature, light and other conditions which could damage stored goods.
  3. Third-party integration
    Another development in visibility platforms is the use of third-party logistics (3PL)-based technologies which provide freight management and order fulfillment. With 3PL-based technologies, supply chain managers are also able to integrate multiple management systems through application programming interface (API). This overcomes technological limitations and creates a much more seamless operation.
  4. Application programming interface (APIs)
    API is a type of software intermediary that allows two applications to communicate with each other. API in the supply chain can accelerate the interaction between carriers and suppliers by allowing the transfer of relevant data across different systems. APIs can also provide access to information related to shipping costs and automatically negotiate better routes.
  5. Centralized data storage
    The rapid rate of technological development has resulted in cloud-based storage solutions which are beneficial for visibility platforms. By working with cloud-based suppliers, companies have direct access to sophisticated data storage infrastructure without the cost burden related to employing qualified personnel and ongoing server maintenance. The data gathered can be used for running analytics to determine future demand, with end-to-end overviews of the supply chain right from procuring raw materials through to customer delivery.
  6. Transportation management systems (TMS)
    Developments in supply chain visibility also extend to innovative end-to-end TMS platforms that include warehouse management systems. This sophisticated logistics technology allows companies to continuously track products throughout the supply chain. The development of natural language acquisition in TMS platforms means companies don’t need to rely on qualified IT personnel to analyze the data – it can be done by most employees. This further enhances visibility within the supply chain. 
  7. Blockchain
    A key area of supply chain visibility is the integration of blockchain technology. This technology increases supply chain transparency and minimizes disruptions, thereby improving customer experience. By leveraging blockchain technology, the various components along the supply chain can be consolidated into a single platform accessible to all relevant stakeholders. Operations such as invoicing and payments can also be executed through this blockchain technology.

Key takeaways

SCV technologies improve and strengthen the entire supply chain, giving everyone involved 24/7 access to data. GPS transponders, RFID tags, truck telematics systems, electronic logging devices and appropriate software solutions help companies track the location and status of products all the way from the point of sale (POS) to the end customer.

- Forbes

The past two years have brought into sharp focus the speed with which global disruptions can impact the supply chain. The current economic, geopolitical and environmental climate are indicative of more disruptions yet to come. Companies that want to effectively minimize risk and navigate the turbulent times ahead should be prioritizing visibility in the supply chain. 

To attain transparency in the supply chain, companies need to implement the latest technological developments on the market. From artificial intelligence and the internet of things, through to cloud storage solutions and blockchain, there are many factors to consider. Making a partnership with an experienced software supplier to promote visibility an improvement customer experience. 

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Latest developments in supply chain visibility platforms

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