How different types of visibility can create truly resilient supply chains

Whether you're trading gold, cars, luxury clothing, or freight of any kind, it's guaranteed you would want a cost-effective, resilient supply chain.

The past few years have highlighted the fact that supply chains need to be more resilient. But what if we told you that “redundant supply” and “just-in-case” aren’t your only bet for creating stronger supply chains you can depend on? What if, instead, we said there’s a cost-effective capability that can help focus efforts and investments to enhance supply chains before and during disruption?

The concept of visibility is not new, but advancements in technologies, the introductions of new tools, and various other disruptions are helping organizations of all sizes make major changes in this area. Intelligent visibility is the cost-effective road towards greater resiliency. 

Traditionally, supply chain resiliency was thought of as having buffer stock (extra goods sitting in your warehouse), more flexible manufacturing (manufacturers situated in various parts of the world), and/or redundant supply sources. All these options have high costs associated to them thereby forcing customers to pay more for goods and investors sacrifice short term returns. 

But it’s also possible to cost-effectively create a more resilient supply chain with greater visibility. No longer are companies just limited to keeping more inventory and building redundant capacity across the board to guard against potential disruptive events. Instead, they can build new capabilities that 1) help them assess where they’re most vulnerable; and 2) enable them to see exactly what’s occurring across their extended supply chain. With these insights, companies can make quick, fact-based decisions to head off negative impacts from disruptions as well as better focus their investments to improve structural resilience. 

Supply chain visibility can really be broken down into two areas: 

Structural Visibility

You could think of structural visibility as an X-ray that gives a company a snapshot of its operations at a point in time or over a certain period and helps uncover hidden issues. Several companies are generating greater structural visibility with a digital twin—a virtual supply chain replica of their company’s operational backbone. With a digital twin replicating the typical behavior of a supply chain, a company can use advanced analytics to simulate and scenario model its supply chain’s performance and stress test its supply chain for risks and vulnerabilities. Such visibility is critical to preparing for disruptions. 

Dynamic Visibility

If structural visibility is an X-ray, dynamic visibility is more like a video that enables a company to monitor and respond to events in real time. Dynamic visibility, typically generated with the help of a supply chain control tower, is a progression of increasingly mature capabilities that help companies see where their products are, how their warehouses are running and when disruptions occur. This allows organizations to take quicker actions in the case something goes wrong or there are critical issues that need to be solved. 

Closing thoughts

Firstly, when it comes to building resilient supply chains, visibility delivers. Companies with greater visibility are better positioned to weather all kinds of disruptions

Second, full visibility across every node of the supply chain isn’t necessary or even economically smart. The focus should always be on the part of the supply chain that is most important and most susceptible to disruption. Focus on the really important areas of the business. Remember, good enough is, usually, good enough. 

Finally, dynamic visibility should always be the target. Companies should aim for maximum resiliency through predictive visibility, autonomous execution and a control tower that can make decisions quickly. 

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