As supply chains grow longer and more complex, the risk of waste is greater than ever. A 2021 study conducted by the commercial recycling and waste management company RTS revealed that approximately 30-40% of food produced by farmers is never consumed.
One of the biggest reasons for this is the prevalence of waste throughout the supply chain, where even the most advanced and vigilant tracking systems still suffer from significant blind spots. Enhancing visibility is the best way to combat the loss of product, since stakeholders gain a full view of potential bottlenecks.
Here are five ways logistics managers can improve the visibility of their supply chains.
Identify Weak Links
When conducting supply chain reviews, most companies automatically identify inventory management as a weak link. However, this might not apply to all companies. You need to involve every stakeholder in internal reviews if you’re going to identify what’s truly holding visibility back.
For instance, inventory management might be a problem, but the real issue might be a lack of technology that allows you to monitor and react to storage condition violations. Identifying weak links should be followed by an evaluation of the best solutions to fix the issue.
Often, the problem doesn’t lie with technology but with internal workflows. Unnecessary paperwork or process steps might be jeopardizing shipment quality. Identify the goals you’d like to achieve before creating a process workflow.
Involve all process stakeholders, including input solicited from third-party vendors and customers, before defining a new workflow. Set a deadline to implement the new process.
As the need for visibility in supply chain logistics grows, companies need to review the technology they rely on. Tracking systems are the building blocks of a transparent supply chain. While analytics packages help you identify patterns and design smart delivery routes, they’re built on data provided by data loggers attached to shipments.
The more you track every step of your supply chain operations, the more you can refine and create more efficient processes. For instance, monitoring the condition-related data of your on-site inventory will help you identify any blind spots in inventory management.
Tracking is extremely useful when determining the cause of damage. Was a product transported in a compromised state, or was it the shipper who caused the damage due to faulty storage? The answer to these questions have significant insurance impacts, and tracking is the only thing that will help you avoid issues.
Data tracking also helps you gain a full picture of the performance of your suppliers and shipping vendors. Some vendors might perform better during certain times of the year, while others might have infrastructure suited for specific products. Create a product map of your vendors and rate their performance.
This way, you’ll always know who’s best to turn to when a new order hits, based on the specifics of that order.
Increase Vendor Collaboration
Many logistics providers keep their vendors at arm’s length and consider them as fully replaceable. There’s no doubt that the shipping landscape is competitive, and there are many service providers offering bargain rates.
However, choosing a provider based on pricing alone isn’t always wise. Bringing your vendors on board with regards to processes will help you identify the pain points they face. For instance, the route you’re choosing to transport goods might not lend itself to maintaining product integrity, irrespective of the infrastructure the shipper has.
Alternatively, your data might not be up to speed, and the shipper will have better insight into local conditions, having navigated them regularly. Taking these considerations on board and communicating your new process goals will help you create a cohesive supply chain network.
Your vendors will help you achieve your visibility goals when you collaborate to create processes with them instead of forcing new work models onto them.
Invest in Analytical Talent
Data collection happens all the time throughout the supply chain. However, making sense of data is easier said than done. Most companies have been slow to invest in analytical talent that can help them clean, prepare, and analyze the vast amounts of data they collect.
Some logistics providers have turned to AI to help them create better processes. However, AI isn’t at a stage yet where it can completely take over the process. These algorithms need training, and this is where a data analyst or scientist comes in handy.
These people will help you avoid biases in your analysis methods and will help you create robust models that automate processes for you. The result is less clerical work and more value creation.
Employing data science-oriented talent in your company will require you to change your culture. However, the investment will be well worth it.
Refine and Improve
Increasing visibility in the supply chain is an interactive and iterative process. You have to constantly track your data and improve your thresholds.
Storage and external conditions change all the time. Constant refinement will help you stay on top of these trends.
Create regular reviews of your data and automate reporting. Identify new KPIs that can measure your efficiency more accurately.
Throughout all of this, keep up your collaborative efforts with your vendors.
A Perspective, not Just a Process
Bringing increased visibility and transparency to your supply chain requires you to adopt a different perspective from the past.
Think of your supply chain as a network instead of a collection of different parts. This attitude will help you design better processes that will delight your customers and increase your bottom line.
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