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What you need to know about supply chain visibility platforms

Jonas Mehrhoff
Jonas Mehrhoff
May 17, 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.

Definition of a supply chain visibility platform

Supply Chain visibility became the hop topic and buzzword in the last couple of years induced by COVID-19 disruptions which saw customers either scrambling for goods or scrambling to find out where their goods were in the supply chain.

Although supply chain visibility has been a key component of supply chain management for many years, COVID-19 amplified its importance in the industry. The global supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic highlighted to the world what could happen to businesses when there was no visibility or mediums to view the visibility.

Visibility is key to identifying issues affecting supply and finding solutions for those issues making it a necessary tool in any company’s supply chain strategy. Visibility in modern supply chains can only be created, tracked and leveraged through the use of advanced digital technology platforms.

Supply chain visibility platforms are real-time platforms combining integrative and predictive technologies to provide analytics to track the full scope of supply chain activities from procurement to execution.

- Orkestra SCS

The need for a supply chain visibility platform

Modern supply chain visibility platforms can track the movement of raw materials from source through the manufacturing and distribution process till delivery to the end-user in real-time. This tracking creates visibility to all the stakeholders in the chain through the provision of real-time data allowing them to be responsive in the management of their supply chain.

Supply chain visibility platforms provide transparency in supply chain management leading to a better quality of products and services and are used extensively in managing inventory levels and distribution services. A supply chain visibility platform integrates with various other software used in supply chain management for the management of demand planning, CRM and TMS.

Digital transformation continues to be a strategic imperative for supply chain organizations and as per Gartner’s 2019 Supply Chain Technology User Wants and Needs Survey, a majority of respondents claimed digital transformation as a part of their core strategy and focal point in supply chain management and the associated technologies were seen as a way to have a competitive edge.

By 2023, 50% of global product-centric enterprises will have invested in real-time transportation visibility platforms.

- Gartner

Capabilities of a supply chain visibility platform

Advanced supply chain visibility platforms can extend visibility across the various modes of transportation covering ocean, air, rail, road, and parcel services and take them deep into yards, depots, warehouses and distribution centers in real-time. This allows customers to create sustainable and efficient supply chains which are agile and streamlined ensuring the complete digital transformation of supply chains.

A typical supply chain visibility platform should have the ability to:

  • Track products at various stages such as shipping, in transit, or delivery
  • Automate operations across the entire supply chain
  • Improve product fulfillment and reduce lead times
  • Optimize the use of products through reallocation
  • Monitor supplier and carrier performance
  • Find the optimal transportation model at the best price
  • Identify and address transportation disruptions
  • Manage the documents required for transportation
  • Analyze the efficiency of supply chain activities
Supply chain visibility platforms

Supply chain visibility platforms can be used to ensure OTIF (On Time In Full) cargo delivery ensuring complete customer satisfaction and customer trust in a company’s ability to provide supply chain services.

Customers can leverage the benefits of a supply chain visibility platform to

  • Improve negotiation with suppliers and vendors
  • To improve cargo receiving and delivery schedules in the warehouse
  • Maximise staff and other resource allocation
  • Create Better demand planning
  • Improve choice of carriers based on performance data
  • Manage inventory efficiently
  • Achieve cost savings on avoidable expenses like storage, demurrage, and detention costs
  • Automate inefficient manual processes like spreadsheets
  • Enhance ineffective legacy systems like ERP platforms
  • Manage complex networks of service providers
  • Integrate various systems and IoT devices and applications
  • Smooth onboarding of customers
  • Smooth collaboration with various supply chain partners
  • Create trust and predictability

A supply chain visibility platform is scalable, secure, and intelligent and can be used to digitally transform your supply chain using the power of big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. It can be seamlessly integrated into a company’s logistics ecosystem providing real-time shipment visibility and increasing reliability in a company’s transport flow. Through the effective use of technology, companies can manage logistics and service expenses, reduce carrying costs and landed costs of their products, prevent lost orders and avoid cargo claims and risks.

Companies can use the performance data to benchmark vendors and logistics providers to ensure that the customers are getting the best service possible which also reduces customer support requirements.

Using transformative technologies such as cloud computing, machine learning, real-time data streaming and advanced analytics, companies can provide complete visibility in one platform from order placement to execution allowing for an exceptional customer experience.

Key Take-away

Supply chain networks are complex and have undergone many changes and are going to have to adapt to new shifts in supply chain patterns due to the pandemic. Customers have moved from “Just In Time” to “Jus In Case” patterns which could increase storage space, cost, time and also the number of activities involved in the monitoring of the same.

A supply chain visibility platform providing effective solutions using transformative technologies should be an integral part of a company’s supply chain strategy.

Supply chain visibility platforms allow supply chain managers to make fact-based decisions based on the real-time data tracked and the full end-to-end visibility and control. There is also an increased awareness in relation to sustainability and supply chain visibility platforms can also assist in reducing carbon footprint by monitoring the movement of goods through the various stages in the supply chain and following best practices.

Supply chain visibility platforms consist of some of the most transformative and disruptive technologies in the global supply chain space with many supply chain visibility tools reaching maturity and being adopted across the industries.

Supply chain visibility has become an essential tool to build a resilient and future-proofed supply chain and supply chain visibility platforms are providing opportunities to companies to focus on their core mission to achieve an efficient, flexible and seamless supply chain.

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What you need to know about supply chain visibility platforms

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