Why Visibility Is Essential for a Robust Supply Chain

Stakeholders have always looked to create more efficient supply chains. Given its complex nature and the tough conditions under which companies operate, one can seemingly never have too much efficiency.

Today, data collection and analytics play an important role in pushing our world towards efficient supply chains more than ever. One of the most important advantages data has created is supply chain visibility. Visibility’s advantages extend far beyond merely letting everyone know where their goods are.

Thanks to stakeholders using data-driven insights, entire supply chains are now a collection of predictable, repeatable and optimizable processes. Here are a few ways in which visibility is helping businesses overcome supply chain challenges and boosting stakeholder profits.

Better routing

Delivery routing is a complex process, irrespective of the distance goods have to travel. These days, it’s common for manufacturers to produce goods on one continent and ship them to customers on another. The complex chain of decisions that ensure goods arrive safely and on time remains hidden behind next-day shipping expectations.

Stakeholders routinely use data gathered from multiple sources to plan the shortest, most efficient route. For instance, the best way to ship goods to an address might not be via a straight line or the route that offers the shortest distance. Geopolitical considerations, changing customs regulations, and weather conditions along the route might turn the shortest route on paper into the longest one.

Route planning is especially critical in the food and healthcare supply chains. Those goods need to be preserved in fixed conditions for optimal use. They also have defined expiry dates, and time is always critical. Visibility into different datasets and running analyses helps stakeholders react to changing conditions quickly and plan optimal delivery routes.

Condition monitoring

When transporting condition-sensitive goods, monitoring the cold chain storing them is essential. Firms use a wide range of data loggers and sensors to track conditions such as temperature, humidity, shock, and light. These sensors, powered by wireless networks, optical scans or radio waves, transmit data for analysis and logging in real-time.

The data sets generated from this activity are immensely valuable to all stakeholders. Manufacturers can track both the location and condition of their goods. Logistics providers can ensure their clients’ deliveries are being transported according to SLAs, and consumers can monitor the condition and status of their orders.

End-to-end transparency of this sort helps resolve many disputes. For instance, if goods are damaged, condition-monitoring data pinpoints the exact moment when damage began to occur. By localizing the issue quickly, insurance liabilities can be determined easily, preventing the wrong party from getting stuck with a hefty bill.

Transparency of this sort also helps stakeholders react quickly to damage as it begins to occur. Manufacturers can define threshold condition limits and alert their logistics partners the moment they’re violated, assuming the logistics provider hasn’t reacted already. Thus, loss mitigation becomes simpler.

Better procurement

Manufacturers these days rely on supply chain data sets to plan their production schedules and project demand. For instance, logistics data from previous manufacturing schedules helps them figure out which service provider delivered goods in ideal conditions, and which raw material supplier performed the best.

Procurement is an important part of manufacturing and ties in with marketing campaigns as well. For instance, if a company decides to run a sales promotion offer, it may need to manufacture more units to meet increased demand. Under such pressure-packed conditions, it must figure out who the best suppliers are based on the condition-related data of previous shipments.

These data also help them determine whether projected manufacturing schedules are realistic or not. When creating production models, companies must assume many variables. However, the supply chain doesn’t have to be one of them, thanks to the presence of data from all parts of the product’s journey.

Integrated data platforms promote full visibility and help manufacturers procure and plan their campaigns to a high degree of accuracy.

Flexible supply planning

Better procurement leads to flexible supply plans that can react to changing conditions along the supply chain. For instance, if weather conditions or customs regulations change along the supply route, logistics partners can refer to old data sets and plan new routes quickly.

There’s far less guesswork involved in this process thanks to data leading the way. Once again, integrated data access helps manufacturers and logistics partners work together to overcome tough situations. Data collected from retailers also play an important role.

For instance, a retailer might lack storage space to cope with increased demand. A manufacturer can implement a more flexible, just-in-time supply system that maintains ideal inventory levels at the retailer and adjusts schedules upstream.

Data makes handling these complex situations simple.

Visibility removes guesswork

Supply chain stakeholders don’t need to rely on guesswork or intuition anymore to create robust processes. Data from every portion of the supply chain assists them in making the best decisions. More importantly, visibility into every section of the supply chain helps them design better processes in the future, with enough slack to absorb unforeseen changes.


Alex is a small business blogger with a focus on entrepreneurship and growth. With over 5 years of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Alex has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, approachable and entrepreneurial-minded blogger. He has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners, and is able to provide actionable advice and strategies for success. Alex has interviewed successful entrepreneurs, and covered major small business events such as the Small Business Expo and the Inc. 500|5000 conference. He is also a successful entrepreneur himself, having started and grown several small businesses in different industries.