An efficient supply chain can give you an edge on the competition. It helps to build loyalty with customers and to improve financial performance. But, as complexity grows, it’s hard to keep on top of every facet of the supply chain.
Core processes often rely on siloed systems or unsophisticated methods like phone, email, spreadsheets and fax machines. And colleagues or partners act on different versions of the facts. It all creates uncertainty, which leads to inefficiency and waste, frustration, lost sales and damage to your brand.
To create sustained competitive advantage, the supply chain needs to work with one heartbeat; one version of the truth. So, all stakeholders have real-time insight on the key events which affect performance.
There’s a sea of providers offering to help. They’re all promising full visibility of your supply chain. But, when it comes to finding your trusted advisor, the devil’s in the detail.
To make sure your investment pays off, here are some of the key points to consider when looking for a supply chain partner:
Can they demonstrate a deep understanding of what it takes to achieve agility, visibility and traceability in the supply chain?
A visibility partner with your best interests in mind will start with you, your aims and your processes. They’ll need to appreciate the interplay of people, process, data and technology in your network, while identifying sources of critical information and insight to unlock greater potential from your supply chain. Where are the gaps in the chain? What data do you need to capture? How do you capture this data? Only by answering these questions can they create a connected supply chain.
Do they have a strong track-record of enabling visibility or traceability across complex supply chains?
Experience of giving clients a complete service is key. From auditing your supply chain, to process optimisation, you will lean heavily on your partner. Make sure they have the case studies and references to prove they are up to the task. Who have they worked with? In what sectors? What challenges did they overcome? Do their credentials demonstrate a specialist understanding?
Do they have the access, independence and expertise to offer best-fit technologies for real-time data capture?
Make sure they are not tied to a particular vendor or type of technology. Check their technology portfolio and ensure that they are conversant with the latest data capture and automation tech. This way, your solution will be led by your best interests – not what they want to sell.
How easily does their solution integrate with mainstream or non-mainstream systems?
An experienced systems integrator will know how to integrate new software to your host system. Their knowhow is key to unifying disparate technology and data quickly and easily, without a disruptive system overhaul.
Can they scale and grow with you as your business changes?
As your business grows, so can the complexity of your supply chain. You need your supply chain visibility platform to accommodate change. This includes extending to new processes or partners.
Do they provide a data collaboration platform which is scalable and secure? And which can capture the speed, volume and variety of data from across the supply chain, regardless of its source?
You need to capture huge and varied volumes of event and transactional data in real time. This data comes from edge technologies (including IoT sensors) and business systems dispersed across your supply chain eco-system. A scalable and flexible cloud-based data collaboration platform is essential to achieve this.
Can their solution provide customised performance dashboards and reports for people in different roles and organisations?
Collecting data is just the start. Transforming the data into powerful performance insight is key. To empower the stakeholders of your internal and external supply chain, you must give them visibility and control when, where and how they need it.
Can they keep your supply chain agile, whilst maintaining full visibility and reporting?
Agility is essential. At peak periods, you’ll be adding temporary, teams, suppliers, warehouses, and transport. So, make sure your partner’s solution is built to flex. That way, you can scale up and pare back quickly. Without losing sight of anything in your chain.
Can they give you visibility of your supply chain worldwide?
Supply chains are global networks. And the systems (and sophistication of systems) within them can vary a lot. So, you need a provider with reach and flexibility. Not only should your partner have a visibility platform that can harmonise global data, it needs to offer local support on the ground.
How quickly are they able to get up-andrunning and deliver ROI?
Supply chain visibility is about prioritising issues and solving specific problems. You don’t need to solve everything at once to make improvements. Start with quick wins and then scale up. This might mean targeting your worst-performing suppliers. Or understanding how to maximise on-shelf availability. This approach will prove far more cost-effective than trying a full end-to-end approach in one go.