Windows to Success: 5 Suggestions for Improving Supply Chain Visibility

As a consumer electronics company, some of the most important goals you can work towards are improved forecasting, and higher customer satisfaction. Both of these advantages come from increasing supply chain visibility, and ensuring transparency regarding where inventory is located at any given moment. Supply chain visibility provides actionable information that can be essential to supporting customers and business managers alike – improving productivity and maximizing results.

According to a report by the Aberdeen Group, 63% of companies surveyed regard supply chain visibility as a high priority for improvement. What's more, companies with visibility capabilities are 1.54 times more likely to capture actuals. It's no secret that increasing your supply chain visibility can mean a higher profit for your business. 

Why is supply chain visibility so crucial?

Before listing the ways in which executives can uncover the clarity provided by supply chain visibility in their own businesses, it's worth understanding why the matter is so important. In a majority of surveys conducted about supply chain challenges, visibility almost always ranks towards the top in terms of necessity. According to Jeff Dobbs, global sector chair at KPMG, obtaining visibility throughout the supply chain can reduce capital expenditures and risk, while improving production speed. As such, he defines it as maybe “the single most important step a global manufacturer can take.”

Ideally, supply chain visibility should help synchronize the flow of a product from supplier to end customer – providing a smooth and efficient delivery system. The impact of supply chain visibility appears in: 

  1. The ability to recognize problems within the supply chain
  2. The improvement of lead times and performance
  3. The reduction of supply chain risk and business costs

Following are some suggestions on achieving more visibility in your own company.

1. Analyze your current systems

Before investing in any technological tools or business enhancements, it's a good idea to examine whatever is currently going on within your business, to identify not only the areas that need to be improved, but also the aspects that are functioning efficiently. Search for gaps within your existing materials requirement planning (MRP), and take a look at the options available within your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to determine whether there are solutions available for improving efficiency.

While examining your current systems, make sure to think about your key performance indicators (KPIs), and the goals that you hope to achieve in the short and long-term. If you can properly define your expectations, you can ensure that processes throughout your business are more collaborative, by setting benchmarks to measure progression. Once you know what you are trying to achieve, you should be better able to identify untapped areas of potential, which might help you narrow your search for supply chain visibility solutions.

2. Facilitate better collaboration

For supply chain visibility to thrive, information needs to move effectively between different people and groups. Identify the roles of each member within your supply chain, and trust that each professional has an appropriate understanding of what they're doing. By allowing for improved collaboration between each member of the team, including individuals outside of the enterprise, it's possible to provide an end-to-end process view to all supply chain partners. After all, as businesses grow, and the links that form around them become more complex, it is increasingly crucial to foster a level of trust between each tier within the industry. 

With the use of the appropriate technology, and access to clear and visible data, information must move throughout the supply chain in order to connect partners within the network. After all, building relationships that underline expectations, established benchmarks, and deep understandings ensure that everyone where accountability lies.

3. Invest in appropriate technology

It's almost impossible to drive better functionality and visibility within an organization today without some investment in innovative technology and new resources designed to gather and utilize crucial information. A significant challenge in supply chain management appears in sharing data throughout different systems for information. After all, connecting a company that uses enterprise-wide ERP with a supplier who manages their business on a spreadsheet can be complicated. Fortunately, new concepts such as data collection software and cloud computing have begun to make supply chain control powers more possible.

When searching for appropriate technology, attempt to find a solution that not only diminishes the problem that you have identified within a core process of your company – but also one that reflects the core mission of your organization, and your available resources. 

4. Understand your customers

For any industry – from services to consumer electronics – customers play a crucial role in the overall success of a business. Customers can even play an important role in helping an organization develop better supply chain visibility if they get involved. Indeed, these initiatives may even serve as market differentiators in the competitive business market of today. Your aim should be to keep your customers in mind throughout every aspect of enhancing your business processes.  

Enhanced visibility will have an impact upon your supply chain in more ways than you might imagine. Because of this, it's crucial to make sure that any decisions you make are in the best interests of the customers, and involve a consideration of every party involved. By consistently moving towards an established goal, you can help show your consumer base that you are reliable and dedicated. 

5. Streamline your supply chain

By closely considering the resources that are available to you, the needs of your suppliers, partners, and customers, and your goals for the future, you should be able to determine which solutions are the most appropriate for your needs. Often, it's a good idea to use a phased approach to implementing any new solutions, focusing initially on areas that affect the bottom line and processes.

Make an effort to streamline your supply chain wherever possible when establishing business process improvements. To some degree, this may mean pruning areas of your supplier base, and using blanket orders to cover your needs. The more steps you eliminate within the supply chain, the easier it will be to access complete visibility and obtain better efficiency throughout. Remember, the fewer areas you have to consider, the less risk your business will face.


While the above suggestions should help you to optimize supply chain visibility, it's important to remember that true visibility is likely to be an ongoing endeavor. Some organizations struggle to see the full extent of the supply chain due to blind spots caused by poor integration points with suppliers and trading partners. The aim should be to remove these blind spots wherever possible, so that you can obtain the proper metrics in generating more value from your business. After all, capturing critical data, collaborating with trading partners, and increasing customer trust through visibility are all key elements to achieving success.

What steps have you taken to improve supply chain visibility within your industry or organization? Discuss your ideas with us in the comments below.

3 comments on “Windows to Success: 5 Suggestions for Improving Supply Chain Visibility

  1. Bob Gahagen
    January 6, 2016

    Excellent suggestions Aaron. Would add an additional suggestion on how integrating supply chain partners (suppliers, transportation providers, 3pl's, etc.) drives enhanced visibility across networks. Always easier said than done and subject to constant modifications given changes in sourcing patterns and supply chain partners. Maybe one of the reasons why attaining true end to end visibility is comparable to the search for the holy grail. Cheers.

  2. SerenaMikell
    January 13, 2016

    Supply chain professionals have a hard time of generalizing what is good supply chain visibility.

  3. KenKlaver
    February 5, 2016

    Supplier payments visibility is increasingly important for modern business, mainly because executives are nowadays looking into internal data as a way to drive nuanced decision-making, benchmarking.

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