What are the Types of Supply Chain Visibility Software, Applications & Technology to Consider?

What are the Types of Supply Chain Visibility Software, Applications & Technology to Consider?

The right supply chain visibility software can offer immense value, enabling organizations to create a more transparent, agile, and reliable supply chain. However, supply chain visibility remains a challenge in many ways, and finding and implementing the best supply chain visibility software is often easier said than done.

In this article, we will explore what supply chain visibility means, its advantages, and the challenges still standing in the way before diving into some of the top supply chain visibility applications on the market today.

What is Supply Chain Visibility? It Depends on Who You Ask

Supply chain visibility is a somewhat nebulous term, with its definition sometimes changing dramatically depending on who you ask. For many organizations, supply chain visibility simply means track and trace capabilities that allow them to track the location and status of their freight. However, supply chain visibility can also mean visibility into shipping processes or data visibility.

For some organizations, visibility means the ability to track shipment conditions. For example, a pharmaceutical company shipping vaccines that must be kept in specific temperature and humidity conditions needs the ability to track the conditions of its shipments in transit to guarantee their quality and safety. For an organization striving to lower its carbon footprint, meanwhile, visibility might mean the ability to track carbon emissions throughout the supply chain.

This varying definition of supply chain visibility is one small reason why building a transparent supply chain is so challenging. Once you can define what visibility means for your organization, though, choosing the supply chain visibility technology needed to make it happen becomes much easier.

What Are the Reasons Why Visibility is Important?

Given that the definition of supply chain visibility can change from company to company, the reasons why visibility is important can vary from company to company as well.

If you define visibility as the ability to track the location and status of ocean freight in real-time, then there are several key reasons why visibility is important. For one, shipment visibility software such as VIZION API that provides real-time container tracking enables organizations to identify exceptions quickly and respond in a much swifter manner. This type of supply chain visibility also enables organizations to better manage their inventory levels by accurately pinpointing when new inventory will arrive. Lastly, the ability to track container location and status means that organizations will be able to facilitate better communication with both their customers and partners, leveraging standardized data to more easily collaborate with partners and providing timely and reliable updates to their customers.

Visibility into shipment processes and data visibility, meanwhile, offers several significant benefits as well. By creating a transparent supply chain with complete visibility into shipment processes, organizations can form a much better understanding of their supply chains that can be used to identify processes where there is a need for improvement. Visibility into shipment processes also makes it much easier for organizations to pivot to new solutions or service providers when disruption occurs.

Depending on the organization, other types of visibility can also offer a lot of importance. We've already mentioned how visibility into shipment conditions and emissions can be highly beneficial for certain organizations. In some cases, these types of supply chain visibility are the most important for an organization to attain.

Though the specific definition of supply chain visibility and its benefits might vary from organization to organization, suffice it to say supply chain visibility is something of immense importance  — especially in these challenging times when creating an efficient, cost-effective, and reliable supply chain is more vital than ever.

Challenges of Visibility

End-to-end supply chain visibility is something no organization would turn down if given the opportunity. However, it is also something that most organizations have yet to achieve due to several key challenges.

The first of these challenges is a lack of synergy between automated systems and manual processes. Though more and more supply chain managers are embracing the power of automation, even the most tech-forward companies still rely on a range of manual processes throughout their supply chain as well. Unfortunately, transferring data between these manual processes and automated systems is often an inefficient and time-consuming process.

Speaking of data, difficulties collecting, organizing, and analyzing shipment data is another key challenge of supply chain visibility. Shipment data is the fuel that powers supply chain visibility, but manually collecting this data tends to be a tall order. Even if organizations can manually collect the data needed to achieve supply chain visibility, it is almost certain to be messy, unorganized, and therefore difficult to analyze for insights. In addition, shipment data that is collected manually also tends to be error-prone, eroding the reliability of the data collected and any insights drawn from it.

Another challenge of supply chain visibility is the disconnect that exists between many supply chain managers and visibility solutions providers. Over the years, supply chain managers have been sold a lot of false promises regarding supply chain visibility, leading to an understandable degree of distrust. This distrust, combined with difficulties understanding how global supply chain visibility software functions and the ever-growing number of available solutions, makes it all the more difficult for organizations to find and implement the solutions they need to achieve supply chain visibility.

These challenges have made achieving supply chain visibility something that remains a seemingly unattainable goal for many organizations. The good news, however, is that each of these challenges can be mitigated or overcome entirely with the right supply chain visibility technology.

Types of Visibility

There are several different types of supply chain visibility that are worth considering as you go about defining what visibility means for your organization. This includes supply chain visibility types such as:

  • Transportation Visibility – Transportation visibility entails visibility into the location and status of an organization's shipments and answers the questions "where is my cargo” and “when will it arrive”? For organizations that need to track the condition of their cargo in transit, transportation visibility can also entail visibility into shipment conditions, such as the ability to monitor temperature, humidity, and shock absorption.
  • Data and Analytics VisibilityShipping data and analytics visibility offers visibility into the data typically provided by a transportation management system (TMS), such as carrier scorecards, KPIs, carrier performance, and shipping spend.
  • Insider Shipping Visibility – This type of supply chain visibility provides insights into shipping processes, enabling organizations to form a much more thorough and transparent understanding of how their supply chain functions.
  • Capacity Visibility – Capacity visibility entails visibility into the capacity of the organization’s carrier partners, enabling the organization to ensure that there is always space available for the cargo they need to ship.

There many different types of data included within these four types of supply chain visibility. Once again, the types of supply chain visibility that apply to an organization depend on the specific organization in question. Thankfully, there are proven ways to improve supply chain visibility no matter what type of visibility you hope to achieve.

How to Improve Supply Chain Visibility

Improving supply chain visibility starts with choosing the best supply chain visibility software for your needs. Let’s first look at transportation visibility, the ability to track the location and status of ocean freight in real-time without the need for manual data collection. This is by far the biggest key to achieving transportation visibility and is a capability that VIZION API is making more attainable now than at any point in the past.

With VIZION API, organizations can receive real-time container tracking updates automatically pushed to any software system or spreadsheet. This innovative technology empowers organizations to always know their ocean freight’s location and status and also enables organizations to identify shipping exceptions quickly. Best of all, VIZION's no-code platform makes it easy for organizations to create their own custom container tracking APIs without spending countless time and money working with a software development firm.

Data visibility is another type of visibility provided by VIZION, thanks to the VIZION Data Hub. With the VIZION Data Hub, organizations can track port performance, vessel wait time, vessel dwell time, and import dwell time from a centralized and user-friendly dashboard, providing invaluable visibility into the shipping processes that make up the organization's supply chain.

For organizations that require tracking shipment conditions as part of transportation visibility, Tive's hardware trackers make it easy to monitor shipment conditions in real-time across various measurements, including temperature, humidity, light exposure, and shock absorption. When combined with transportation visibility software such as VIZION API, Tive's hardware trackers enable organizations to monitor every aspect of their shipment's condition and track its location and status, providing complete transportation visibility.

For organizations trying to achieve emissions visibility to lower the carbon footprint of their supply chains, Searoutes is an excellent shipment visibility software solution to consider. By highlighting the carbon emissions of various carriers and other service providers, Searoutes makes it easy for organizations to build their supply chain with sustainability in mind.

Finally, Slync.io is a supply chain visibility software solution that enables organizations to achieve visibility into carrier performance and the carrier booking process. By providing in-depth insights into carrier performance, Slync.io empowers data-based relationship management and can provide organizations with valuable leverage when it comes time to negotiate a new contract with a carrier. By providing visibility into the carrier booking process and automating many of the tasks that this process entails, Slync.io also enables organizations to create and manage carrier bookings more efficiently and in a way that is far less prone to disruptions due to carrier cancellations and changing ETD dates.

While choosing the right visibility software is far from the only key to attaining supply chain visibility, the software solutions we've covered above can certainly go a long way toward helping organizations create more transparent, efficient, and reliable supply chains.

The Role of Data in Supply Chain Visibility

We cannot stress enough that quality data is the fuel that powers supply chain visibility. Solving the challenges of data collection and organization is by far the most important step to achieving supply chain visibility. However, not all data will offer the same value, and data quality is critical when it comes to supply chain visibility.

Starting with the obvious, the shipment data that an organization collects must be accurate and reliable. Inaccurate data leads to faulty insights that can sometimes prove more damaging than having no data at all. Data accuracy isn't nearly as much of a concern with automated data collection. With manual data collection, though, errors are unfortunately common.

It's also essential for shipment data to be well-organized and easy to analyze. Trying to glean insights from raw datasets that are messy and unorganized is like trying to find needles in haystacks. Along with being inefficient from both a time and cost perspective, trying to analyze raw, messy data can once again lead to faulty insights.

The final criterion concerning data quality is standardization. Collaborating with supply chain partners requires the efficient sharing of data back and forth between partners. If the data your organization collects is formatted differently from a partner's data, collaboration becomes much more challenging.

Due to the importance of data quality, we at VIZION have prioritized providing real-time tracking data that is accurate, organized, and standardized, ensuring that organizations can leverage their shipment data to its maximum benefit.

The Benefits Gained From Improved Visibility

Supply chain visibility is something that can provide a broad range of benefits. Like most everything else regarding supply chain visibility, the benefits gained from visibility will vary from organization to organization. With that said, some of the more generalized benefits of supply chain visibility include the ability to:

  • Better anticipate and respond to shipping exceptions and other forms of supply chain disruption.
  • Provide customers with accurate and timely updates on when their orders will arrive.
  • Create a more agile supply chain that allows for swifter pivots and adjustments when disruption occurs.
  • Manage inventory levels more effectively.
  • Maximize partnerships and strategic relationships.

Thanks to these substantial benefits and the many more organization-specific advantages that visibility can provide, supply chain visibility remains one of the most important goals for supply chain managers to strive toward.

Conclusion

The challenges of supply chain visibility are substantial, but the benefits gained are even more substantial. Thankfully, there are a number of supply chain visibility software solutions available today that can help mitigate these challenges and make supply chain visibility a feasible goal for your organization.

If you would like to see for yourself how VIZION API enables both transportation visibility and data visibility via unrivaled real-time container tracking capabilities and the insightful VIZION Data Hub, be sure to sign up for a demo of VIZION API today!

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