Collaboration is a key element for supply chain organizations to manage risks and resolve disruptions quickly and effectively, delivering an excellent customer experience.
This collaboration is possible through cloud platforms that communicate in real time, enabling companies to respond with agility to changing market conditions. The element of cloud platforms that enables collaboration is given – in addition to the real-time factor – by the fact that they provide full visibility of all phases of the supply chain, generating a range of benefits.
They thus become a new tool for logistics, and help support the vision of increasingly mature, responsible, resilient and digitized supply chains.
A key factor for collaboration: supply chain visibility
The introduction or improvement of collaborative processes in multi-enterprise supply chain business networks – that is, coordination between internal departments and external partners to support optimized flow throughout the chain – relies on the use of a cloud platform that accelerates communication between companies, thus enabling collaboration. At a minimum, a collaborative platform makes it possible to facilitate data exchange between two different companies, bring third-party operators on board, increase the ability to coordinate all processes, and report any anomalies, thus providing an excellent customer experience.
However, collaborative platforms in turn have a fundamental requirement, and that is to ensure that they offer supply chain visibility, possibly in real time.
“Supply chain visibility refers to the ability to effortlessly obtain on-demand, real-time information on the status, condition, and location of products, materials, and inventory anywhere in the world and at any point along the supply chain pipeline in order to deliver them to customers in a timely manner.”
In other words, supply chain visibility helps track and trace all products in real time along the supply chain, forward or backward.
Supply chain visibility software provide information on inventory moving through chain operations to customers, all in real time. This visibility ensures both control and accountability throughout the supply chain, whether processes or chain partners. Greater visibility also provides cost and time savings, and creates value for the customer.
However, visibility and collaboration must extend across all stages of the supply chain.
Managing global supply chains is impossible without end-to-end visibility, that is from production to delivery to the end customer: production disruptions, labor shortages, limited resources, increased customer demand, inflation, the need to innovate outdated processes, soaring logistics costs, and social and legislative pressure to adopt sustainable practices have prompted the global business community to review how supply chains are managed and invest in digital platforms that increase visibility and facilitate collaboration among diverse stakeholders.
5 benefits of supply chain visibility
We saw how collaborative cloud platforms accelerate communication between companies, improving the effectiveness of partner relationships. It also turned out that the main element of these platforms is full real-time visibility into all phases and processes of the supply chain.
This brings a number of benefits:
- Increased profits: the data that is derived about products and orders (through field devices or other data sources) are essentially "breadcrumbs" that follow an item through the entire chain. This visibility can unveil a wealth of information that can truly transform a business and lead to a much larger bottom line;
- Cost reduction: supply chain visibility often results in reduced costs, especially for customer service and delivery options, which means companies can use their time more efficiently. It is also possible to keep track of defective products destined for distribution, speeding up recall campaigns;
- Better risk management: you can track and trace products more easily, and thus you will have better inventory management, which can help reduce inventory management risks and possible bottlenecks;
- Increased access to data: full visibility means increased access to data, which enables the development of more specific customer and product information. This can improve planning, cost reduction, increased efficiency, and customer service operations;
- Real-time management: one can get a real-time picture of demand and inventory levels and suppliers. Instead of searching for information, one can see real-time product supply and demand, inventory levels in the warehouse, and delivery schedules, and then adjust accordingly.
Cloud platforms as a new tool for logistics
Let's take the concrete case of a food distribution company that needs to easily verify the products received in the warehouses and obtain objective data to provide to different levels of management, and then communicate to the customer the status of their order and make operational decisions. Let us assume that these processes occur in a highly fragmented supply environment, with very high volumes and digitalization (by suppliers) at different levels of advancement.
By adopting a single solution that enables collaboration among different companies on the same platform through dedicated accounts, and by introducing collaboration features to manage activities and data together with suppliers – for example, shipment location, mode and means of transportation, pickup and delivery timings and locations, and many other elements – one can leverag supply chain visibility to communicate the status of the customer's order to the supply chain, thus enabling all operators and managers to work with a common, easy-to-adopt tool.
“The distribution company would thus secure a valuable increase in granular knowledge of its supply chain, digitally simplified supplier relationships, and overall improved operations.”
If, for various reasons, you are not exclusively using a single platform, and should then arise the need to adopt a system that can be integrated with legacy and future systems, there are advanced platforms that allow you to work with suppliers in a simple and collaborative way and to talk – as a connector, even without an API/EDI but through reading emails and documents automatically – with the systems you are currently using or with the platforms used by your partners.
Collaborative cloud platforms accelerate communication between companies, improving the effectiveness of partner relationships and ensuring an optimal customer experience. If the main element of these platforms is full real-time visibility into all phases and processes of the supply chain, then these platforms have what it takes to function as a bridge in B2B collaboration, resulting in a new tool for logistics.