Recent Supply Chain Issues Exposes Weaknesses in Shipping Visibility

There is a lot to be said when it comes to the affects of supply chain issues in the past two years with many of them showing various weak spots in how businesses currently run their operations. Out of those, shipping visibility seems to be a universal issue that has started to take center stage. Many in the tech world have been working on solutions to curb this pain point, so what can all-encompassing solution-based software do for you?

What is supply chain visibility?

If you are a company that manufactures goods, you likely obtain your products to make those goods from other areas of the country and/or world. You have set goals and forecasting to cling to, so those goods need to be made timely and efficiently for your company to not just stay in business but turn a profit as well. Being able to see where and when your products and resources are at all times helps keep your production forecast in order and assist in keeping your operations flowing smoothly.

“Supply chain visibility (SCV) is the ability to track individual components, sub-assemblies and final products as they travel from supplier to manufacturer to consumer. The scope — for example, are raw materials included, and will the item be tracked with forwards and backwards tracing — depends on the product.” –

SCV is also relative to your operations when it comes to procurement, quality control and other aspects that need to be tracked and monitored. How these operations are “seen” varies in forms of technology but must all be connected to each other to deliver effective communication to ensure accuracy.

What’s the problem?

The almost normal environment of supply chain issues has shined light on holes is business operations in companies across the globe. The biggest of them being an inability to see and track all moving parts of a business effectively not just for their sake, but for the customers as well.

Visibility issues within organizations have come to light, in part due to shortages and port delays. Before covid, SCV was not a top-of-mind issue for most organizations. There were no supply and demand highs and lows like we are now used to seeing nor were there lockdowns that fueled these. But since the shortages and shutdowns at plants and ports it has created perfect storms for products and materials to be neglected in whatever status they are in. It has become an issue companies cannot ignore as they face problems that they are now forced to find solutions for.

“Extensive survey data from a myriad of shippers and logistics providers (the respondents) indicates that the adoption of visibility solutions for ocean shipping is lagging across the industry, despite recent industry buzz surrounding supply chain visibility and transparency. 46% of respondents said they had either limited ocean shipment tracking capabilities, or none at all. A majority of respondents reported that their company does not currently have a visibility solution in place, and of those that do, 43% said their current provider does not provide them with the tools they need to monitor ocean shipments.” –

While this directly affects companies like manufacturers and producers of raw materials, this indirectly affects logistics companies, shippers, and 3PLs, and most of all, consumers. Everything from planning routes to being able to calculate the space needed in a warehouse to store goods can be affects by poor visibility. Companies are losing money by holding spaces in warehouses for their goods, waiting for them to get there and unable to provide real-time updates to their shipper. This creates back up and logistical nightmares for the shippers and 3PLs that use these spaces.

Remember how we mentioned technology that needs to communicate with each other and streamlined in order to deliver accuracy? Part of a visibility issue can be bad data. Operations teams that are going off of data that may be a day, or even hours behind could mean the difference in how deliveries are scheduled out, warehouse space availability and availability of products.

“Today, logistics companies need to track every order in real-time; it is the requirement of the market and end customers. But supply chains are complex and nontransparent because of extensive networks, worldwide shipping, differences in compliance requirements, etc.” –

There are many companies out there that are looking into harnessing cutting-edge technology and embracing the IoT (Internet of Things) to enhance their SCV which in turn is giving them a lead on competition. Not having your ear to the ground on every move of your operation could be costing you.

The solutions are out there…

But it could come at a price. Most larger companies have recently incorporated high tech solutions and have thrown out the old way of SCV practices.

Before, organizations would have individual programs that would have to be manually monitored and pulled together to determine a specific result. One software would, for example, tell them when raw material needed for a product would be produced, where another program would tell them when that product would be shipped, while another would alert them it is ready to be inventoried on site. With so many moving parts of the supply chain in one organization and multiple sources of information needing to be gathered, it can be nearly fated that miscommunication or miscalculation can happen.  

Companies that still rely on this method are likely falling behind in their industry as those that are making the switch to more cohesive procedures and programs are leading the competition. All inclusive platforms that connect every program under one hub are becoming the leading solution for supply chain visibility issues.

Having a central point of intelligence that houses all tracking data in real time is the answer to a lot of SCV issues within a company, but there are many of them and some of these are not cheap. Most are cloud based with open API’s (basically, they can integrate freely with most programs being used already) which makes for quick, real-time updates with little need to worry about data storage.

In logistics, TMS software offers these tracking solutions for asset management and tracking but can also work with larger, more encompassing programs that can be the “one-stop-shop” for their supply chain operational needs. When looking for a good program that will improve your SCV, the following are a few of the key abilities to pay attention to:

  • Order receipt by supplier
  • Status of raw materials to complete order
  • Supplier's manufacturing program and status
  • Delivery date from supplier
  • Shipping details
  • Customers and regulatory information
  • Current order status, especially with regard to actual progress to plan

Almost all SCV solution software these days offer the above as bare minimum while adding on a few bells and whistles. But in order for companies to get a leg up they will need to do away with the old way of tracking and move to a more robust, aggressive practice that helps them and their customers.

Keep in mind that when revamping your tracking and supply chain visibility solutions, other tech investments will need to be made. The programs that companies use also are connected to a myriad of IoT devices that are all used within the software. Primarily used for tracking and forecasting delivery times, these devices will be needed if not already in use.

Most major SCV programs integrate with most ERP’s so that everyone involved has full visibility and can looks at supply in real time as well as budgeting for the next quarter. Technology has turned logistics and operations on its head and will continue to as more functions within an organization begin to thrive off of streamlined, all-connected informational platforms.

Meadow Lark has embraced new technologies over the years and continue to as we carry out or commitment to benefit all parties that we do business with. For information on how our operations can benefit your business, call us at (866) 736 – 5233

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