Supply Chain Trends and Issues: Our Weekly Feature Article on Important Trends and Developments in Supply Chain Strategy, Research, Best Practices, Technology and Other Supply Chain and Logistics Issues  
  - May 1, 2012 -  

Recommendations for Supply Chain Visibility Success


Make It Actionable, and Learn the Cost Justification Math among Key Recommendations

  by SCDigest Editorial Staff  

Improving Visibility is near the top of the priority list for many supply chain managers, but the topic nevertheless remains somewhat vague and fragmented for many companies.

We tried to provide some clarity to the topic recently in our most recent edition of the Supply Chain Digest Letter, focused this month on the subject of Supply Chain Visibility. You can download an e-version of that full SCDigest Letter here: Supply Chain Visibility Resources Page. See also Five Points for Getting Value from Visibility Solutions.

SCDigest Says:
While we tend to think of visibility as something that is technology based, leaders often actually spend a lot effort to get at data and insight that canít be captured systematically.

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Below, we have excerpted a section of that Letter on some recommendations for developing a Visibility strategy within a supply chain organization. We also include our just released framework for Visibility later on the page, a model which takes a more holistic view than the logistics-oriented one that for many years dominated visibility thinking (i.e., Where’s my stuff?”).

Recommendations for companies pursuing higher levels of visibility:

Focus on “Actionable” Visibility: Procter & Gamble may or may not have invented the phrase, but it uses that concept to help guide where and how it invests in improved visibility. Visibility for visibility’s sake doesn’t do a company much good.

Supply chain managers must focus on and clearly define what specific information will enable them to makes better decisions and effectively act faster to problems and opportunities.

Build a Proactive Plan and Roadmap: Too many companies we see add supply chain visibility in a sort of scattershot fashion, based on perceived needs in some area or another at a given point in time.

While the nature of visibility lends itself to falling into that fragmented approach, development of a master plan that sets priorities for effort and investment, and what sorts of visibility platforms need to be acquired or built (and it will always be several) will lead to a more effective and cost effective result.

Learn the Cost Justification Math: Visibility applications can be sometimes hard to justify. Managers know there are qualitative improvements, but find the hard savings at times is not easy. Vendors can help here - they go through this over and over again. But companies need to take their templates and really dive down into the details to not only produce a plan to gets the project approved, but also leads to the promised results delivered.

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Recognize that Much/Most of the Information You Need Will be External: If you have outsourced or virtualized much of your supply chain, by definition most of the data you need will reside outside your enterprise. This can be true even if a company has retained manufacturing and other functions internally. That in turn means connectivity becomes core to the visibility quest; we have found that some simply lack the will to make the effort.

However, an increasing number of cloud-based vendors have achieve significant pre-connectivity to hundreds of companies and logistics providers.

Invest Effort in Non-Systematic Visibility: While we tend to think of visibility as something that is technology based, leaders often actually spend a lot effort to get at data and insight that can’t be captured systematically at the start. Cisco’s advanced Sales & Operations Planning process has matured to the point now that among the top concerns is finding out “qualitative information we can’t see” about market conditions, customer plans, etc., an executive there
recently said.

As Boeing’s 787 disaster fades and it now faces a flood of new orders, it is sending more than 100 supply chain managers and engineers into the field to work with suppliers on a regular basis --- sometimes daily --- to monitor schedules, inventories and other factors that could impact supply.

Many have heard the old saying that “What gets measured gets managed.” That’s certainly true, but we could now add a corollary that “You can only manage what you can see.”

The supply chain winners of the future may largely be the ones that have more information at their disposal, and use that information more smartly than their competitors.

Welcome to the visible supply chain.

What would you add in terms of keys to supply chain visibility success? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

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