Can You Ever Achieve True End-to-End Visibility of Your Supply Chain?

Published : December 5, 2014

man-on-ladder-looking-through-binocularsFrom the very beginning of business itself, the need for an owner or manager to get a bird's eye view on operations has driven innovation. New methods of production, operation and fulfillment mean that an elevated platform over the factory floor won't cut it anymore, and digital solutions are cropping up as quickly as the issues they mitigate. Vendor management best practices, end-to-end connectivity and a supply chain willing to grow and change with the times have become the earmarks of a successful modern business.

Closed Loop Equals Power

Much like a circuit, you'll get the most energy out of your business efforts in a closed loop reporting scenario. As Evan Puzey notes in a TalkingLogistics piece, it's important to give your supply chain the tools and ability to form and upkeep a closed loop. Whatever management systems or practices a company decides to put into place, they should be obtainable or scalable to the smallest link in the chain.

While larger vendors and an end companies may be able to comfortably work with expensive or technologically advanced systems, if they innovate beyond the capabilities of their smallest supply chain partner, they are opening up troublesome holes in their end-to-end connectivity. These holes may also end up putting the reliability of their metrics in danger.

Decide Which Direction to Face

Larry Lewis explains to TalkingLogistics that a company essentially has two choices when it comes to making their metrics work for them throughout a supply chain. They can use point solutions for day-to-day examination and tweaking of metrics or a gather-and-implement strategy to direct metric results and KPIs back into decision-making processes. Mingling the two could muddy the waters, so a company should carefully consider which approach would work best for them and keep it consistently in place.

That isn't to say that approaches can't change back and forth over time in response to growth or need, but if half of your supply chain is using a different approach, it can be hard to interface from node to node. This approach is not only important for vendor management best practices, it should be echoed through intra-company interactions to ensure everyone is speaking the same proverbial language in metric implementation.

Screens Don't Tell the Whole Story

A recent report from Supply Chain Insights reinforces that while EDI— electronic data interchange— is necessary to build, store and examine modern metrics, it isn't everything. Ignoring the human element of business is a methodology that isn't sustainable in an increasingly versatile market.

Essentially, computers are like a fuel tank in business, but human insight and interpretation are the gas that goes into it. From the largest vendor to the smallest business, discussion and open communication between representatives and scheduled "check ins" will help support a goal of mutual success. No matter how advanced a computer system or metric database grows to be, there will likely be some useful observation that simply can't be parsed in binary or spreadsheets.

No technological advance will ever completely replace the power of a discussion between knowledgeable business minds.

The key to harnessing all the powerful feedback in a supply chain is implementing, monitoring and remaining open to change in vendor management best practices, warehouse management systems and all the other small considerations that coalesce into an end-to-end solution.

No approach will ever achieve "set it and forget it" status, but proper research and maintenance can get your end-to-end transparency as close as possible. Consider your entire supply chain, ask for their input, and step away from the computer once in a while and you'll be well on your way to connecting both ends of your supply chain.

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Topics: Vendor Management

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