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About the Author

Stephanie Miles
Senior Vice President, Commercial Services
Amber Road

As Senior Vice President of Commercial Services, Stephanie Miles leads Amber Road's professional services and support teams for the delivery, implementation and ongoing support services for the company's global trade management solutions.

Prior to joining Amber Road, Stephanie ran the supply chain visibility company, BridgePoint, for 7 years as a first tier subsidiary of CSX. While at BridgePoint, she held the positions of Senior Vice President and General Manager, and also served as a Board Member. Stephanie entered the supply chain management industry in 1992, where she held numerous positions including product and project management, and Manager of Government Programs.

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Supply Chain Comment

By Stephanie Miles, Senior Vice President, Commercial Services, Amber Road

August 29, 2013

Optimizing Cost and Service – What Can Supply Chain Visibility Leaders Teach Us?

A Strong Visibility Approach Includes Integrated Processes and Technologies that Close the Loop Between Planning and Execution, from Raw Material to the End Customer

Many companies list supply chain visibility as a critical strategy for reducing costs and improving operational performance with their complex global supply chains. It’s crucial for the tight synchronization of supply and demand, including the movement of goods, information and funds. However, supply chain visibility is much more than tracking shipments. A strong visibility approach includes integrated processes and technologies that close the loop between planning and execution, from raw material to the end customer.

Below are strategies leading companies use to maximize their revenues and supply chain operations.

Miles Says:

A collaborative approach requires a flexible architecture that unifies all interactions within an adaptable business process framework.
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1. Take control of the supply chain. Leading companies actively monitor and share their supply chain data. By placing themselves at the center of their supply chains, they gather more data.   These companies automate communications with and between trading partners through utilizing business process triggers.  The triggers may initiate a formal action or filing, or perhaps provide an executional signal of an upcoming shipment handoff.  Best in class companies also adopt collaborative technology and global standards to manage and share external supply chain data.

2. Integrate automation tools to coordinate and synchronize visibility. Global trade management tools allow leaders to dynamically manage product, information and financial flows across an extended global supply chain. By using technology, best in class companies are able to have online visibility into in-transit inventory.  They are able to quickly access supply chain data for decision making; and automate or redirect in-transit flows and orders to balance higher demands or inventory imbalances.

3. Collaborate both at the internal and external level. While all companies need effective internal communications, the need for external collaboration grows with the degree of overseas sourcing. Leading companies place a higher priority on controlling their supply chains and coordinating with external parties.

4. Find and strengthen the weakest link. A collaborative supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. While a leader may have adopted global standards and supply chain visibility technology and processes, an external partner may not have. Best in class companies not only have collaborative visibility processes, they use them and they strive to ensure their suppliers, carriers, trading and 3PL partners have the same capabilities.

5. Track transport and logistics events to the unit level. Global supply chain shipments involve a myriad of partners, including suppliers, carriers, 3PL partners and the end customer. Ocean transport in particular can involve long lead times and a variety of hand-offs. Leaders are more likely to be compliant with global standards, such as GS1, at the unit level, and monitor activities at the unit and container levels. They are tightly interconnected with their LSPs and other partners and receive status updates on their transport and logistics events.

6. Improve upstream visibility. Typical supply chain visibility dead spots include tracking raw materials; suppliers’ production in-process events; and suppliers’ projected production plans. Better upstream visibility helps improve supply chain planning, ultimately leading to improving on time delivery to customers.

7. Leverage supply chain finance and intelligence. Using financial solutions gains leaders visibility into logistic, trade and financial costs. By following a shipment from order to final delivery, including all compliance and finance milestones, as well as cost and financial settlement transactions, best in class companies can intelligently manage and analyze their supply chains. Leaders are more likely to automate their customs event statuses; total landed costs, including tariffs, duties and fees; and monitoring of logistics bottlenecks.  

8. Enable dynamic collaboration.
Data sharing isn’t a one way street. Leaders not only share and receive information from supply chain partners, they collaboratively work with partners and adapt processes as needed. By utilizing responsive control center technologies, they are able to act on information when changes, roadblocks or opportunities occur.

Final Thoughts

A collaborative approach requires a flexible architecture that unifies all interactions within an adaptable business process framework. With a seamless and integrated process, your company will be able to have faster turnaround times; increased visibility; better coordination of shipments; reduced transport and delivery costs; improved customer service; and a unified order-to-fulfillment process.

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