Summary Supply Chain Café #2
Jun 2021

Summary Supply Chain Café #2

Summary of the Supply Chain Café by PICS Belgium: “What is supply chain visibility and is it something for me?”
Moderator & writer: Kris Van Ransbeek

Supply Chain Visibility – An honest attempt to demystify one of the most hyped supply chain concepts of 2021 in just 1 hour

Supply Chain Café by PICS Belgium 29/07/2021
Moderator & writer: Kris Van Ransbeek, Chief Commercial Officer at Streamside

What is supply chain visibility?

The CEO of your company probably thinks that at any moment in time you perfectly know where every purchase order, every truck, every box in stock, every sales order, every product batch is.  A pandemic here, a blocked mega carrier there nor a global container crisis, the supply chain department never loses the overview. So why is everybody talking about supply chain visibility? Is it just to know where the truck is? Or is it so much more, a real game changer?

The supply chain, contrary to other functions in the company, is managed by a large set of IT tools, going from supplier management and procurement tools, inventory management and S&OP solutions, WMS, TMS etc. Contrary to what people might expect, these tools are not always perfectly connected in real-time.  A simple question like the impact of a container blocked on the Ever Given in the Suez Canal on the production planning and customer service, can take quite some time to answer.

Is visibility track & trace? Visibility is absolutely more than just tracking & tracing shipments. The track & trace systems we know from the DHL, UPS or any parcel service will inform you of the scans your parcel has gone through. They are one-way communication systems; based on manual scans and do not provide the solution in case the package is lost. On top, it is limited to the transportation leg of the supply chain i.e., the tracking only starts when the package is handed over to carrier.

Is supply chain visibility than real-time transportation visibility, provided by tools such as Project44, Fourkites or Shippeo? This technology is based on collecting the GPS coordinates from the on-board computers of the trucks. If you than know which order is transported by which truck, you know the exact location of every order. Using predictive driving estimation, the tool calculates the estimated arrival time of the truck. The limitation of this technology is that you must know which truck (licence plate) is pulling the trailer with your order and that the trucking company has agreed beforehand to share the onboard computer data with the real-time visibility tool. In a market with a lot of sub-contracting, the latter can be an issue.

Supply Chain visibility is certainly not limited to transport. Yes, there are delays in transportation, however most of the delays are due to late departure at the source. This delay is not pro-actively captured by transport visibility only. SC visibility covers the end-to-end supply chain from source, over make, to deliver and include return visibility

Are supply chain control towers the ultimate visibility tools? Supply Chain Control towers are more ‘what if’ or ‘scenario management’ solutions.  They will allow companies, based on internal or external demand variations, to simulate different scenarios of the demand and supply plans. Something traditional s&op processes are not really equipped for. So what can be expected from supply chain visibility?

Supply Chain visibility transforms your supply chain from being reactive to a pro-active. This can only be realized by connecting your supply chain stakeholders, detecting pro-actively events that are not running as planned and bringing immediately the right people across the different stakeholder together to find a solution to minimize the impact. Connecting the stakeholders is more than connecting the systems, it is also connecting the people.

There is one technology that is fully accepted by all users across the globe and that is the ‘social tech’: the Whasapp, Facebook Messanger, Linkedin or Slacks of the world.  Surprisingly, these social tech tools are not widely used within industry, with the exception of Slack among IT developer. It is because these tools are not designed for one purpose or business process. Streamliner is such a social tech tool, designed for supply chain professionals managing orders from generation to fulfilment.

Supply Chain visibility is not yet a standard across all supply chains. However, it has clearly already outgrown the piloting stage. It also has a very clear business case to justify the investments. Streamliner developed together with PWC a business case template to help companies understand the qualitative and quantitative benefits of supply chain visibility.

The conclusion of the workshop was that:

  • Supply chain visibility is more than track & trace and transport visibility only, it is end-to-end
  • It is more than technology only; it is about bringing all the stakeholder pro-actively together, using social tech tools designed for supply chain
  • Supply Chain visibility has evolved beyond the status of pilots and is becoming a mainstream capability
  • The investments can be justified by a quantitative business case

The PICS Supply chain Cafés are 1 hour’s interactive lunch sessions, where an industry expert is invited to present a supply chain topic in 20 minutes, followed by a lively debate among all participants. 

PICS Belgium