When 113 global supply chain leaders were asked their priorities for implementing digital technologies, supply chain visibility received the most votes, at 87, according to a 2021 survey by McKinsey & Company. In a repeat survey in 2022, supply chain visibility went from first place to fourth, presumably as more companies now have this type of solution or software in place.
Supply chain visibility is not going away; instead, it’s helping to propel more supply chains forward in other areas of advancement, like optimization and planning, by having the benefits of visibility as a foundation. However, the term “supply chain visibility” has had so much recent growth that it’s difficult to keep pace with all the available applications, from traditional supply chain visibility solutions to more specific applications like carbon emissions. Each type provides vital information to contribute to the shipper’s operational goals.
What is Supply Chain Visibility (SCV)?
Supply chain visibility (SCV) is, simply put, a company having the tools and data to deepen its understanding of what goes on within its supply chain. From there, companies use this data to inform their decisions and strategies for improving their supply chains. To shine a light on the blind spots within the chain, companies use supply chain visibility solutions — software or other technologies that provide the resources to gather, organize, and interpret the data in a way that works smoothly with their users’ workflows.
The Goals of Using Supply Chain Visibility Solutions or Software
The goal of visibility solutions or software is to have data drive the best course of action, whether supporting a change, like a pivot or growth, or simply making improvements to existing operations. To come out ahead of their competitors, companies should seek resilient and agile supply chains capable of withstanding disruptions and adapting to new needs. This is often achieved by focusing on increasing efficiency, saving time and money, mitigating risk, and improving the customer experience.
Types of Supply Chain Visibility Software and Solutions
There are several subsets of visibility software or solutions for shippers to plug into their supply chains, each designed to solve a blind-spot problem. Here are eight types of solutions available.
Traditional Supply Chain Visibility
Traditional supply chain visibility solutions typically come to mind when people think of supply chain visibility. They address the supply chain generally, following the different components that make up an order, such as raw materials, all the way through until an order is complete. They show inventory levels, manufacturing status, supplier’s delivery date, order status, and shipping details, showing the current progress at any point. By themselves, these solutions best serve the manufacturing and order processes in general, but they don’t address other areas of the supply chain that a shipper might need.
Container Tracking Visibility
Container tracking solutions bring light to the exact location of shipping containers, an area of visibility that, until relatively recently, many shippers did not have a way to access. Rather than shippers vaguely knowing their cargo is in transit on a vessel crossing the ocean, they now can channel thousands of data points from various sources through a supply chain visibility solution like VIZION, which converts data into milestone events that the shipper can use, such as gate-in and gate-out for empty and stuffed containers, departures and arrivals, and port calls, along with real-time ETA calculations and updates.
Providing another type of location-related visibility, transportation visibility solutions cover the parts of moving a load by truck or another mode. With updates and alerts, location tracking is one major piece of these solutions so that shippers can always account for the status of their orders. Transportation-specific solutions also give macro-level information on processes and performance by showing transportation spend, on-time in-full status, and other metrics.
Cargo Condition Visibility
This type of supply chain visibility solution can give shippers more specific information on the condition of their cargo in transit. Temperature and humidity monitoring are particularly vital for refrigerated shipments or the cold chain. A visibility solution takes simple tracking a step further by ensuring the data is available in real-time, enabled with alerts in case of a change outside the acceptable conditions. Other conditions shippers can have access to include exposure to light, shocks, or tilts.
Rate visibility software is an available option for shippers to understand the rates they see on their freight and track their transportation spend. From the port to the destination, this solution covers different modes and includes the various types of fees that get added to the total costs. Across several thousand freight shipments, from contracts with carriers and warehousing companies and additional spot freight agreements, a substantial amount of data can help shippers reduce their spend and negotiate future rates.
Booking and Container Allocation Visibility
For booking and container allocation, there are supply chain visibility solutions that contribute to better processes for shippers. Container allocation management requires visibility into the status of shipments and carrier performance to decide which carriers to book with and at what shipping volumes. A solution like Slync.io provides this transparency for shippers, BCOs, and freight forwarders with a platform that also assists with increasing efficiency related to these booking and allocating processes.
Supply chain visibility solutions that offer auditing visibility help shippers get clarity on past shipments and payments, checking for mistakes and issues. If there are repeated issues, shippers can identify the source to make corrections for the future, whether it’s an internal or external problem. If there are consistently added fees with a particular carrier or type of shipment, they can work to reduce their total cost. Auditing is also a way to catch errors, like keystroke errors or overpayments, that, unless shippers have the visibility solution to avoid these problems, can lead to costly consequences.
Carbon Emission Visibility
Carbon emissions is an increasingly important topic for many organizations, and this type of supply chain visibility solution gives shippers insight into developing more sustainable supply chains. One visibility provider helping companies reduce their carbon footprint is Searoutes. With Searoutes, shippers get data into their freight and transportation-related carbon emissions from past bookings and data from other sources to understand how they can reduce their CO2 emissions by partnering with different carriers or utilizing various freight services.
Get Complete Container Tracking Visibility with VIZION
Knowing your cargo’s exact status and location of your cargo helps every piece of the supply chain down the line. VIZION provides real-time, complete container visibility, collecting from many sources and mapping the data to events that companies depend on in their decision-making processes. To learn more about what container tracking can do for your business, reach out to us today to book a demo.