Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Supply Chain Visibility

As we consider the role of IT in current supply chain thinking, it is easy to get lost in prophesies of doom as in Rettig [1] or fall into the trap of thinking that carefully considered IT implementations can cure all of our woes.

One evolving aspect of supply chain development is the concept of Visibility – it is impossible to begin casting about for information on current thinking without encountering references to visibility and how to maximize it.

Check out this verbiage:

Infosys unveils enhanced Supply Chain Visibility & Collaboration Product Suite 
“New and enhanced product suite enables organizations to leverage closed loop analytics for unlocking efficiencies and strengthening their supply chain for collaborative decision making and actionable insights.” [2]

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?

In short, the concept of Supply Chain Visibility simply refers to methods that make it easier for participants in a supply chain to see where everyone else is, ideally in real-time. For a supplier this might mean being able to track a customer’s inventory and current rate of consumption so that they are ready to produce and deliver when the customer needs to be restocked, but not before. For a manufacturer, “visibility” might mean real-time tracking of an anticipated delivery in order to adjust the tooling of a specific production line “just in time” in order to minimize disruption to work flow. The more various players in a given supply chain know about the state of their counterparts upstream and downstream, the more efficient their operations can become.

Supply chain visibility is a game changer, and there are a lot of players in the arean looking at ways to monetize it or integrate it into their existing set of processes. Here’s the thing: the entire concept is impossible without ubiquitous IT.

It is becoming cheaper to gather real-time information on the current state of any given component of a supply chain. What low-overhead game-changing uses for that information are yet to be realized? Where can you find “low hanging fruit” for your industry or application?

[1] Rettig, C. (Fall 2007) “The Trouble with Enterprise Software” MITSloan Management Review Retrieved 2 October 2012 from http://www.lhstech.com/ISM/Articles/Rettig_Enterprise%20Software.pdf

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