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Effectively managing your company's supply chain can lead to increased revenue and less expense on preventable problems. However, it's difficult to control a supply chain that you can't fully visualize. Many businesses today have difficulty with maintaining control and visibility over their supply chains so they can effectively monitor the cost of merchandise or supplies, which is often the most significant expense for a company—even more than overhead costs. For a business to become a market leader in 2019, supply chain visibility is going to be crucial.

What Is Supply Chain Visibility and Why Is It Important?

First, let's explore what supply chain visibility is. Tech Target defines supply chain visibility, or SCV, as "the ability of parts, components or products in transit to be tracked from the manufacturer to their final destination. The goal of SCV is to improve and strengthen the supply chain by making data readily available to all stakeholders, including the customer."

Essentially, SCV is making the entire process of ordering, manufacturing, shipping, and inventory visible and easily accessible to everyone involved in any aspect of the supply chain. When data isn't shared between key players in the process, the system isn't optimized.

So why is supply chain visibility so important? According to Retail CIO Outlook, supply chain visibility is important because it balances supply and demand, allows you to rapidly respond to disruptions in the supply chain, optimizes your company's processes, and manages global suppliers. All of this boils down to the most important thing: increasing customer satisfaction. Industry Europe says, "Supply chain data has remained in information silos for too long. When data is not shared, the supply chain cannot access critical business information and remains inefficient. The supply chain is not optimized." 

How Companies Make the Supply Chain More Visible

The answer to making the supply chain more visible is simple: smart software. Gartner says, "Supply chain leaders can improve performance and lessen risk by using multi-enterprise, collaborative software for real-time insights across the value network." Automated tools built specifically to manage the various aspects of a supply chain will encourage a smarter supply chain. In turn, a smarter supply chain will make it easier for companies to maintain visibility.

Inbound Logistics says, "The key to supply chain visibility is a common system that all stakeholders can use to plan their moves, be alerted to changes as they occur, and make real-time adjustments to keep the supply chain moving smoothly. The backbone of visibility and active cooperation is a cloud-based collaboration portal that can be shared by the customer, the supplier, and carrier partners. This portal can be accessed on all computers and mobile devices wherever the stakeholders may be. This single platform will be used as a dynamic record of truth for the changes that need to occur across the supply chain to keep the delivery of goods moving efficiently." 

Why 2019 Will Change the Supply Chain Game

Experts agree that 2019 will be the year that supply chain management and visibility become easier than ever before, thanks to massive technological advancements. The CEO of GateHouse Logistics, Jesper Bennike, tells Industry Europe that "The year 2019 will see the supply chain become much smarter and more efficient by embracing the freight data visibility era. Increasing the flow of supply chain data through automation between shippers and carriers will become the norm and this will help shorten time to visibility."

Supply chain management software companies will spend 2019 focusing on not only obtaining valuable data, but also gaining insightful analysis on the data so informed decisions can be made. Inbound Logistics says, "Suppliers and carriers working together on a common technology platform will not only create efficiencies for the customer, they will increase their ability to deliver superior customer service." This means that, with upgraded technology, platforms designed to effectively manage the supply chain and increase visibility will enable carriers to arrive on time and unload quickly. This will give suppliers visibility and control over their orders and inventory, as well as maintain transparency with the customer regarding shipment plan and delivery. 

There's no doubt that increased technology will bring new changes to companies struggling with supply chain management and visibility in 2019. But are companies up to the task? Businesses must be willing to adopt forward-thinking changes that may be very different from how they normally do things. The transition can be challenging for some businesses, especially older ones who still track various parts of their supply chain on paper, but the payoff is worth the effort.

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About Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.

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