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LONGITUDES

Shedding New Light on Supply Chain Visibility

Digital map of earth imposed over cargo ships

Supply chain visibility is not a new concept. But true, real-time, end-to-end supply chain visibility is something few companies have been able to obtain due to the inherent complexities and investment required.

COVID-19 has been a stark reminder that a lack of visibility leaves companies struggling without the tools to make the important, timely decisions needed to steer their organizations in the right direction.

As companies shift strategies in the new normal, failing to seek and embrace comprehensive visibility is risky. Without the ability to see their digital supply chains, businesses are stumbling in the dark without a guide.

Now is the time to renew focus on visibility

Even with existing technology, seeing and managing the status of supplier orders manufactured, consolidated and loaded onto a vessel, cleared through customs, drayed and inbounded into a distribution center, cross-docked, inventoried for immediate sale and distributed to the end customer — from one provider in one integrated system — is purely aspirational for most companies.

COVID-19 and the acceleration of the e-commerce movement have forced many companies to try to make the visibility dream a reality.

“Without the ability to see their digital supply chains, businesses are stumbling in the dark without a guide.”

The crisis exposed vulnerabilities such as whether or not the business could quickly shift sourcing or production in the event of a virus-related lockdown, forecasted inventory levels exceeding warehouse capacity, dangerous weather, grounded air transport, road closures and labor issues.

As a result, visibility has become a key topic for many of our customers in the past year.

Leading companies have used visibility tools throughout the pandemic to be more agile with their supply chains and faster with their responses to changes, whether due to issues with a supplier, changes in customer demand or an unexpected problem along the way.

Companies with end-to-end visibility can see weaknesses in the supply chain, helping them shore up cash management, cut costs and mitigate risk.

Visibility is key for companies to better and more quickly understand their operational health and their suppliers’ performance, making it easier to conduct detailed risk management, develop prioritization and recovery plans, manage other compliance issues and react swiftly to change.

“COVID-19 and the acceleration of the e-commerce movement have forced many companies to try to make the visibility dream a reality.”

One company’s journey to a coordinated digital supply chain

The companies most prepared for the pandemic were already thinking ahead and looking to optimize their supply chains through digitalization.

In 2019, a global high fashion jewelry producer wanted to ensure the longevity of its business in a rapidly changing consumer market.

The company struggled to serve its retail network and global consumer channel effectively and economically. Company leadership decided that working with a single provider to design, execute and continuously improve its supply chain, while providing comprehensive visibility, would cut out complexity and create efficiencies.

UPS is helping transform the company’s digital supply chain all the way from purchase orders to deliveries and returns, making that visibility dream a reality. A new global visibility platform that will help bring multiple logistics systems together is part of this holistic solution.

“With the right technology, businesses can access accurate, connected data and derive actionable insights or take corrective actions as needed.”

The future of the digital supply chain will empower businesses

Managing the large amount of data across supply chain nodes can be a difficult undertaking, especially when relying on manual processes or old technology. Disparate systems can cause frustration and a lack of data harmonization.

With the right technology, businesses can access accurate, connected data and derive actionable insights or take corrective actions as needed.

Predictive and prescriptive analytics, backed by the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, can help companies understand why problems occur, when they are likely to arise and how to prepare for them (or better yet, sidestep them completely).

Control tower solutions will help companies moving forward, leveraging these new digital tools to truly optimize supply chains — all from a single source of truth (SSOT).

Having a connected, seamless and collaborative network will help supply chains evolve into connected, digitally enabled networks.

Choosing a partner that continually invests in digital capabilities can help companies unlock the potential of Supply Chain 4.0. Companies embarking on their digital journey can start with visibility.

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Longitudes explores and navigates the trends reshaping the global economy and the way we’ll live in the world of tomorrow: logistics, technology, e-commerce, trade and sustainability. Which path will you take?

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