What does supply chain visibility mean?
1 October 2018
There is a supply chain goal shared by industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals and aerospace: visibility.
Complexity is a hallmark of any supply chain with this goal. When the list of unknowns grows too large for comfort and the grasp of control loosens, that is where visibility becomes a necessity. These complex supply chains want to better understand what is being created by whom, when this element of the chain will be delivered, whether the element is on budget, and overall, if this supply chain partner be trusted to deliver.
The brand-with-a-capital-B associated with the finished product will be the most concerned, as the final push to market comes from this company, and it is likely to incur the biggest reputational damage if something goes wrong. Interdependency dictates that everyone along the chain be concerned with these questions to varying degrees.
What does supply chain visibility achieve?
Throughout the business world the desire for data is clear, and will increase as technology makes it more accessible. Competitive advantage relies on the right insight.
On top of the competitive desire that requires information visibility, standards and regulations are pushing for greater assurance within the supply chain. Look below the numerous standards – global, regional and industry specific – and the purpose becomes clear: to remove uncertainty and mitigate risk. Complex supply chains are the new norm and change is required to ensure the end product is of high quality and safe for the public.
In the example of the aerospace industry, supply chain partners are no longer suppliers that are simply dictated to. They are often experts in their own field looking to define their own requirements. With innovation comes uncertainty.
Within pharma and healthcare, meanwhile, there is increasing pressure to not only deliver a safe product, but to be able to demonstrate value for money. Measuring the outcomes required to understand this value takes collaboration for the lifecycle of that product and a total view of cost throughout the supply chain.
Visibility achieves risk mitigation and competitive advantage.
How are supply chains achieving visibility?
Pockets of visibility are appearing within specific processes. We are not yet at the ideal of real-time visibility across the supply chain. Defining processes and success gates reveals key information at the right time. So as the process moves forward, problems and knock-on effects are picked up as early as possible.
A key point for visibility is the point before the production line is activated. Many industries are focusing on visibility at this stage. Within the aerospace and automotive sectors an entire “production part approval process” dictates a long set of requirements that surfaces data from the supplier and gives the end-customer the assurance that risks have been identified before the high-cost production phase.
Market reception is another key point for visibility. Feedback makes its way from the patient all the way back to the hospital or pharmacy, then wholesaler and finally pharmaceutical company or medical device manufacturer. Whether the focus is on outcome, dealing with a potential quality issue or new product development, the situation requires an active sharing of information.
The only way to efficiently increase visibility at these crucial stages, to achieve risk mitigation and competitive advantage, is through the use of software.
What is the future of supply chain visibility?
Software-driven collaboration that will deliver real-time visibility is the future. As a sweeping statement, business software is in a period of transition from closed systems to cloud. The rapid shift in the way we communicate in our personal lives is still rolling out across complex supply chains.
One of the benefits that this software development brings is the opportunity to share information in a way that isn’t currently possible. Visibility means that collaboration must extend beyond the company firewall, with greater system access rather than the manual sharing of data at key success gates.
With this system access businesses will achieve the faster time to market – whether that be for a drug or an aeroplane – that every business craves.
Read more about Q-Pulse – Ideagen’s quality management software – to see how our products support each stage of the supply chain.
By Jennifer Sillars, Product Marketing Manager, Ideagen