Ask any Logistics Manager his or her top 5 priorities or concerns and the answer most likely to be included in the list would be ‘Visibility’.
But drill down further and you will realize that the word ‘visibility’ means different things to different people.

For a Warehouse Manager it could be visibility of inventory information within the four walls of the warehouse.

For a Sales Manager it could be Order Status information – from the point the order was received to the point the freight was delivered to the customer.

For a Distribution Centre Manager it could be advanced information on incoming shipments.

For the CEO, it would be dashboards and analytics on company performance.

Visibility is like Happiness – every one wants it but find it difficult to define.

There are several vectors of difference in visibility across functions.

Visibility is multi dimensional and the needs will vary across industry. The requirements of visibility for a Logistics Manager working for a manufacturing company will differ to those required for a person working with a Retail Company. The needs for a 3PL would be even more complex as they work to meet the varying needs of multiple customers.

Choosing a solution for Supply Chain Visibility starts with defining the business problem and the answers you want to get out of the solution. There is no one-size-fits-all solution available.

There are various Commercial off-the-shelf software products (COTS) in the market which tout supply chain visibility. But each approach the problem from a different angle. Some focus on event and exceptions management, some on track and trace while others on Business intelligence. cekongkirsemuaekspedisi

In many cases one solution alone may not address your problem and you will need to invest in two or more solutions.

Lets look at some of the solutions available:

1)    Traditional ERP/Best of Breed solutions: Though strictly they do not sell under the visibility category, they provide good visibility information depending on the category of the solution. A Warehouse Management System (WMS) for eg. will give good visibility on inventory status, putaway and pick volumes, order fill rate, labour productivity in the warehouse etc. A Transport Management Solution gives good visibility on loads tendered and executed, open orders, shipments in transit, planned delivery times etc.

2)    GPS/Telematics/RFID: These solutions provide visibility under the track and trace functions. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are useful for tracking trucks/trailers during their movement. For costly cargo or cargo more prone to theft like electronics, pharmaceuticals etc. this type of solution is ideal as it provides real time visibility on the position of the truck/trailer.  Geo-fencing ensures that any deviation of the truck from the planned route is immediately notified to the control room.

3)    Supply Chain Event Management (SCEM) solutions: These type of solutions are used to control processes for managing events within and between companies. They allow you to monitor your supply chain processes, providing visibility within the process and alerting appropriate parties to potential critical situations. They have organized eventing, alerting, and milestone tracking capabilities that allow you to track all supply chain events as they occur and generate alerts and notifications so you can respond immediately and take corrective action before it’s too late.

4)    Portals: Logistics being an activity involving numerous trade partners, it is only natural that on-demand and SaaS (Software-as-a-service) applications find rapid acceptance to the Logistics community because of the ‘network’ effect these solutions offer. Being connected to multiple trading entities through a single platform offers tremendous benefits in order visibility. Examples of portals are GT Nexus and INTTRA.

5)    Mobile Resources: The iphone has been a game changer in how mobile devices are used. More than voice, today’s mobile phones are used more for data transfer, text messages, emails, video streaming, internet surfing etc. A lot of ‘apps’ are available for these devices including some for Logistics. For eg. one such app allows you to monitor position of ships on the sea, from your mobile; the data being captured from AIS – Automatic Identification System. Some TMS vendors have introduced TMS-on-mobile which offers certain functionalities like rate lookup and quotes from your mobile phone. Handheld rugged mobile devices have already existed for a long time and are used by Field operations staff for pickup/delivery confirmation, scanning of POD’s etc.

6)    Business Intelligence tools: These tools serve as a control tower to monitor all business activity. Key performance indicators, dashboards, what-if analysis and analytics provide excellent visibility on operations.

Whatever be the case, addressing visibility needs should be a top CIO priority. Visibility helps in:

•    Getting real time information across disparate systems in one place.
•    Planning and Execution get simplified if information is known in advance.
•    Faster and better decision making.
•    Exceptions management allows you to concentrate on deviations only; so there’s no need to manage normal operations.
•    Empowered employees and
•    Delighted customers.

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