October 29, 2020

Collaborative Supply Chain Visibility: The 4 Types of Visibility & Why Each Are Important

Miles Varghese
Miles Varghese
Helping independent freight forwarders/brokers better stay in-sync, collaborate, and improve operations with their shippers/clients. Co-founder & CEO @ Cargologik.com

Approximately five years ago, as few as 16.9% of supply chains possessed end-to-end supply chain visibility, says Supply Chain 24/7. While that number has improved, there are still significant opportunities for growing visibility throughout global logistics networks and even among digital freight forwarders. And part of the issue goes back to how individual organizations define visibility. According to Alexis Bates via Supply Chain Brain, “What do we mean by supply-chain visibility? In many discussions, visibility refers to in-transit transparency — tracking the movement of product once it’s shipped as well as nodes it’s passing on the way to final delivery. Other levels of visibility might be from supplier to manufacturer to buyer, which are often deemed end-to-end.” But what does that mean? Does it include visibility beyond traceability during transport? If not, visibility falls short. Consider these top four types of visibility and why each is important in full digital transformation.

Supply Chain Visibility Into Rates

The first form of supply chain visibility surrounds rates. Supply chain leaders need to know what they pay for when moving freight. It is remarkably simple on paper. However, rate complexity increases exponentially when applied across thousands of shipments, dozens of potential mode combinations, hundreds of carriers, and countless fulfillment centers. That variety contributes to lost opportunities to increase visibility. As such, supply chain leaders without that level of insight and transparency are making decisions without the picture’s full scope.

Visibility Into Supply Chain Activities, Such as Quotes and Bookings

The next side of visibility in the supply chain surrounds all the activities that go into supply chain management. Quoting processes, booking confirmations, sharing of paperwork, documentation management, creating the bill of lading or proof of delivery, and many other functions need visibility too. All supply chain activities should be traceable. What happens if something goes wrong? Without visibility, it is impossible to isolate and address the problem promptly.

Visibility Into Records for Auditing

The idea of finding problems leads directly into the next form of logistics visibility, visibility into auditing processes. Auditing visibility means having the ability to dig back through all existing transactions, data, and documentation to review, validate, and complete freight settlement. Furthermore, auditing visibility forms a cornerstone of maintaining compliance with applicable regulations. That is of the utmost importance for companies operating across international borders.

Visibility Into Current Cargo Location

The fourth and perhaps most crucial form of supply chain visibility is the real-time location of the cargo. Think about what someone says when asked, “what is the most important form of supply chain visibility?” The chances are good that the response will involve something along the lines of knowing shipment status. That is the foundation of all visibility discussions. Knowing real-time location data and status is critical to scheduling, payments, providing notifications, and planning. This form of supply chain visibility supersedes all others in that it involves the physical freight. And as a result, supply chain leaders that overlook the other three forms of visibility in the supply chain are missing out.

Increase Supply Chain Visibility With a Collaborative Freight Forwarding Platform That Unifies All Visibility Types

It is possible to unify supply chain visibility for all freight management parties, including freight forwarders. While freight forwarders already have an arsenal of tools at their disposal, they need more. Yes, they can track freight shipment status, manage documentation, and perform other vital functions. Still, any missing step of the four primary forms of supply chain visibility will open the door to risk. Fortunately, freight forwarders that apply a robust software-as-a-service freight forwarding platform can achieve the well-rounded level of visibility needed to maximize efficiency and productivity in the digital era. And Cargologik can help your organization achieve that goal. Sign up for access to Cargologik online to get started.

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