The Myths Surrounding Supply Chain Visibility

Supply chain visibility has gone from a nice to have feature to an absolute need to have, but there’s still a bit of confusion surrounding exactly what it means and what it does. We sat down with project-44 CEO, Jett McCandless, to discuss some of the myths surrounding multimodal supply chain visibility.

First of all, can you define end-to-end supply chain visibility?

We like Gartner’s definition, “A capability that provides controlled access and transparency to accurate, timely and complete plans, events and data within and across organizations and services.”

Basically, supply chain visibility is about capturing usable supply chain data and freight transactions as you exchange information between different systems. Your architectural setup—how your company and systems are connected to your business partners and their networks—is the primary factor in achieving true visibility.

Can a company stay competitive without supply chain visibility?

The short answer? No. It’s not impossible for a company to function without supply chain visibility, but they will eventually be phased out of the market by more efficient companies. Supply chain visibility is now essential to maintaining a competitive edge.

With that in mind, why don’t all retailers have systems in place for supply chain visibility?

Most companies aren’t armed with the right technology. Supply chain visibility has been on the radar of most retailers for decades, but they typically use manual and legacy tools—FTP, website scraping, spreadsheets, email, or EDIs—which aren’t sophisticated enough to provide true visibility.

What effect does that have on a company?

Aside from negatively affecting their bottom line? It can hurt their reputation among consumers. 33% of consumers in the US place the blame for stock-outs squarely on the retailer, which has a negative impact on brand loyalty and long-term customer retention.

Who shoulders the responsibility for that?

It’s not about placing the blame on any one part of the process, it’s about solving the issue by replacing archaic technology. You can’t blame retailers when 75% of shippers report that their visibility tool doesn’t integrate with their operating system, and only 39% of shippers collect data with visibility systems to begin with. There’s no way to avoid stock-outs without the ability to make dynamic decisions based on real-time data exchanges.

What can be done to fix these issues?

Companies must seek solutions that provide them with end-to-end supply chain visibility. Over $5 billion was projected to be invested across supply chain companies last year alone, but that money will go to waste if these companies don’t build systems that can overcome these connectivity gaps caused by EDI and legacy systems.

That’s the beautiful thing about Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). APIs are an excellent modern middleware solution that connect all transportation partners—retailers, suppliers, carriers, etc.—and allow them to make informed decisions based on real-time data.

By adopting a single API-based network solution that also offers a suite of freight services, companies can accelerate visibility and deliver superior service. Ultimately with a modern, multimodal (think: Truckload, Rail, Intermodal) connectivity system, retailers can build customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, while also increasing internal efficiencies and boosting profits.