4 steps to real-time supply chain visibility


supply chain visibilitySupply chains, by nature, are composed of disjointed entities working together through complex processes to deliver a product. Innovative supply chains are providing leaders with access to data and operational information in real time, after the core components of the enterprise are fully integrated and activities are coordinated.

Demand for real-time supply chain technology 
A recent study from Bloomberg Businessweek Research Services illustrated how crucial innovative supply chain tools are for corporations that want to meet performance expectations and complete complex processes. Customers are demanding global access to products and services, further pressing enterprises to meet these needs with faster operations that are enabled by real-time information. Competitive businesses need to make decisions quickly and adapt to market fluctuations. While 75 percent of decision-makers said forecasting and planning tools help achieve certain goals, supply chain visibility technology that optimizes real-time data is becoming more important.

To achieve an integrated, real-time supply chain, decision-makers need advanced management solutions as well as data analytics technology that can translate real-time reports into actionable insight to support changes or strategies moving forward. Real-time information supports decision making and enables a more flexible environment in which supply chains can respond quickly to market dynamics and consumer demand.

As the real-time, cloud-based supply chain management solutions evolve, interfaces are becoming more user-friendly and optimization capabilities are available at every step of the process. Enterprises are adopting cloud-based supply chain visibility solutions at a rapid rate through partnerships with third-party providers to enhance long-term sustainability and innovation.

Creating a real-time supply chain 
In a piece for Logistics Viewpoints, Andero Botero, global lead for supply chain management marketing at SAP, outlined several steps enterprises must take to ensure real-time capabilities are enjoyed throughout the supply chain.  

1. Enable actionable insight
Supply chain leaders must have all data presented to them in a business context, ensuring the information is understood as a stand-alone report as well as fitting within the larger picture. Real-time data analytics is a critical component to modern supply chain management strategies. It provides visibility into fragmented aspects of processes so key performance indicators can be measured and valuable insights can be applied elsewhere in the company.

2. Sales, operations planning integrated
Sales and operations business planning must be included in tactical strategies when determining what steps can be taken to achieve new goals, and what impacts these processes will have on other aspects of the business. Innovation is made possible when a balance is struck between operational advancements and financial support. Data analytics can help decision-makers simulate various outcomes to predict the financial impacts and make wiser selections.

3. Improve supply chain visibility
Clarity in the supply chain is in high demand for both leaders and customers. Demand-driven supply chains are taking over markets, resulting in greater use of social media and market data research to gauge consumer sentiment and preferences to enhance offerings.

According to Fleet Owner, real-time visibility into operations is key for internal oversight as well as monitoring of third-party logistics and activity. When all aspects of a supply chain are able to be viewed on a global scale in real time, businesses reduce errors and costs, while increasing flexibility and adaptability. Supply chain processes are using this real-time data to respond faster to market changes, reduce planning cycle times, and accelerate delivery of products to shelves.

4. Apply data to order management and fulfillment
Within supply chain management solutions, there are many components that can benefit from real-time data integration. Logistics and order management are key when advancing a management system and taking on more complex processes. The more steps involved in delivering a product, the more important it is for the order management solutions to be updated with real-time information so any change or delay is recorded and acknowledged.

Fleet Owner recommends using the real-time data to:

  • Measure business objectives vs. actual management capability
  • Monitor logistics statistics to pinpoint areas of weakness
  • Accumulate data streams for reporting on specific and overall performance

The use of real-time data shared in a cloud-based environment will help supply chains modernize operations, accelerate decision making and meet market demands more readily to optimal growth potential.