Top Operational Challenges Solved Through Supply Chain Visibility Solutions

 

Supply chain visibility enables proactive decision-making and effective risk management by providing a clear, end-to-end view of the movement of inventory. Specifically, it provides the data and metrics necessary to improve and control up and downstream processes.

Over the years, many companies have invested significant amounts of money to address their visibility issues, yet most are still searching for a better option. The problem is not with the tools themselves, but the fact that they are providing information based on inaccurate and incomplete data. For true visibility, and subsequently, proactive supply chain management, accurate data is crucial.

Without addressing the underlying data problem, operational challenges around inventory, partner relationships, risk management, and cash flow are difficult to solve for. Furthermore, as a supply chain scales, the inaccurate data coming in increases exponentially, and affects all aspects with supply chain.

We’ve aggregated the top operational challenges of supply chain management that our clients face and explain how ClearMetal provides the visibility needed to improve each one.


Cost Control

Costs are affected by both external factors as much as they are by internal factors. For example, the rise in fuel costs, increasing number of global customers, and government regulations affect costs as much as an increase in the price of raw materials or shipping costs can. Improving and ultimately, controlling costs is only possible when there is visibility within a company’s supply chain.

The best visibility, requires access to data and software that can leverage it. Accurate data gives insight into important information like where shipments are or when containers are ready for pickup. Unfortunately, for most companies, accurate and complete data is difficult to acquire and labor-intensive.

AI and machine learning based technology, like ours at ClearMetal, make this scenario a reality. We provide information and predictive insights so proactive planning becomes the norm, not the exception. If we have access to the data our platform can provide the visibility you need.

Custom alerts to highlight, collaborate, and focus on key emerging challenges in your shipments lets you shift from reactive, contingency based planning to being proactive, strategic, and equipped to make informed cost-effective decisions. The result —  increased revenue, reduced fees, and more control over cash flow.

Risk Management

Mitigating risk is crucial because a small disruption from a localized event can have extreme consequences. Such disruptions can materialize from both inside and outside the organization and vary in their effects. While external risks are often out of the company’s control and driven by events either upstream or downstream in the supply chain, internal risks can often be avoided if visibility to those risks is readily available..

Risk management involves making decisions of significant impact, yet in the current environment, these decisions often rely on information that is inaccurate, not available, or available only after the fact.

More often than not, decisions are made while goods are in transit because disruptions and exceptions could not be accounted for. This results in reactive, in-the-moment management decisions made by supply chain organizations that may, or may not be effective downstream.

Visibility provides detailed insights and fosters improved risk management allowing providers to forecast what may happen within their supply chains and how they can manage such events before they cause disastrous consequences. With the right technology, you can get alerts before disruptive event happens, preventing any unwanted surprises in your supply chain. You won’t have to rely on stale data and can be more proactive in your response.

Digital Transformation

The need for companies to invest in technology and begin the transforming their supply chain is imperative as we move towards a more digital world. Archaic ways of gathering, processing, and analyzing information will no longer be enough to keep up as customers become more demanding. To meet requirements and build agility and responsiveness into supply chain, organizations need to have visibility into everything happening up and downstream. Without it, companies will struggle to satisfy customers and remain profitable.

Where are my containers? Where is my customer’s order? Seemingly simple questions that send people running in different directions to get information. Data silos, inaccuracies, and unavailable information result in limited visibility making it difficult to provide customers with accurate information. Subsequently, due to the lack of information, organizations are reactive to events, rather than proactive.

With digital transformation, lack of information will no longer be a worry. Take our ClearMetal app, with our customizable filters and data tables, you can minimize noise and get the information that you need, locate the exact location of your container on our map, and see the path that your shipment will most likely take to the delivery port.

Data Quality, Security, and Management

Data powers supply chain visibility and without it companies cannot gather enterprise-wide insights into their global supply chains. Data has become an important tool in creating a balanced and efficient supply chain, yet most of the data needed to do so is scattered across various systems, entered in different formats, and impossible to view all at once on one screen. Current management of data is very manual and gathered from many different sources including carrier sites, internal notes and spreadsheets, resulting in internal and external silos that limit functionality.

For the most part, supply chain organizations have been reactive due to the lack of accessible, quality data. The result - long supply chains with cash trapped in "working capital". When every kink slows down cash flow, how do you shift to being proactive, lean, and cash-rich?

Investing AI and machine learning technology is the first step towards solving data problems. With advanced AI algorithms, your data will be gathered, processed, analyzed, and mapped to provide valuable insights, trends, and prediction that can help inform your day-to-day decisions.  You will be able to transform into a forward facing organization and take advantage of strategic opportunities with the new found visibility that your data provides.

Inventory Management

Visibility with respect to inventory management means knowing where inventory is at any given time and how well goods can be tracked as they move from the manufacturer to their final destination. When this information is readily available it enables quick responses to any disruptions within the supply chain. The best visibility tools offer predictive insights that allow for proactive solutions - like recalculating demand and redirecting supply whenever, and however, it is necessary.

For example, with increased visibility mishaps are more readily anticipated and buffer stock can be preemptively dispatched or redirected to hit delivery windows. As a result, customers are happy and the amounts of buffer stock can be reduced, resulting in a leaner process. Without precise knowledge of actual consumer demand, inventory, and shipments, agility and responsiveness are impossible. Proper supply chain visibility helps cut risks, improve speed to market, reduce lead times, and help identify shortage and quality problems along the supply chain.

Relationship Management

Like any other proactive action in business, performance and trends must be monitored in order to make smart decisions. Trade partner relationships play a large part in performance quality. For this reason, gauging performance and building a standard for high performance where communication, transparency, and visibility are valued is important for a company’s success and healthy business relationships.

Companies that focus on their data and metrics have substantially better visibility and as a result form better relationships with their partners that can be leveraged to gain competitive advantage and become leaders within the industry. This in turn will improve standing with end customers, since customer service depends on the ability to provide customers with as much information as possible and delivering the right product in the right quantity at the right time and place.

Good customer service also depends on how much visibility is provided and whether delays, mishaps, and changes are communicated before they cause issues for the customer. Without proper visibility outstanding customer service is near impossible. Companies that have begun to invest in technology and tools to transform their supply chain and improve their visibility will rise above those that don’t because they will be able to provide and share accurate data with their customers.


All of these challenges must be met in order for companies to continue to create value for customers. Carrying out a very focused and honest review of a company’s supply chain partners, overall performance, and customer service metrics can pay big dividends, help identify internal and external drains on the company and inform any restructuring that may be necessary.

Many underperforming companies also have underperforming supply chains and accompanying customer service challenges, which more often than not, is the result of poor visibility. These negative outcomes can result in increased operating costs, loss of revenue and impacts on customer service which all affect earnings. Conversely, successful companies are very good at leveraging supply chain visibility and partner relationships to stay ahead of the game and establish themselves as industry leaders.

 

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Nandini Nallasivan