What Is Supply Chain Visibility?

September 1, 2021

May 21, 2023


x min read

What is supply chain visibility? It’s much more than knowing the location of a shipment. Supply chain visibility involves leveraging the latest track-and-trace technologies and supply chain visibility software platforms to gain 100% transparency into dozens of activities that take place from end-to-end. 

But if it’s really that simple, why do so many companies struggle to achieve end-to-end supply chain visibility? The main culprit could be a lack of understanding of what is available for real-time, in-transit visibility solutions and what each company considers “visibility,” since different companies and industries might require more granular visibility than others.

This article explores what supply chain visibility is, the various types — shipment visibility, transportation visibility, supply chain process visibility, to name a few — and some benefits of having end-to-end visibility.

Types of Supply Chain Visibility

At the heart of any solution that provides supply chain visibility is a control tower, essentially an agile, cloud-based platform that integrates with suppliers, manufacturers, transportation providers, logistics service providers and other supply chain partners through their ERP, WMS or TMS solutions. The control tower aggregates real-time data from tracking sensors used in the three forms of supply chain visibility.

  • Shipment visibility: Everyone wants to know where their shipment is at any time, so any discussion of shipment visibility begins with real-time location tracking. However, that merely scratches the surface of what data is available. Shipment conditions, such as temperature, humidity, exposure to light, and shock events can also be tracked, recorded and reported in near or real-time. Motion, acceleration and tamper detection is also possible.
  • Transportation visibility: Sure, this also contributes to answering the question, “Where is my shipment?” but this aspect of visibility also encompasses seeing all the processes from order of product, arrangement of freight and freight spend, OTIF status, ETAs and other in-transit details, such as weather and traffic conditions. Stakeholders must be able to see all the important details associated with the transportation journey at any time, regardless of the transportation mode being used.
  • Supply chain visibility: This takes a much more macro view of supply chain visibility, offering insights into internal and external end-to-end processes and milestones. Here, data surrounding sales and purchase orders, and internal and external inventory levels across suppliers, manufacturing, maintenance and repair partners. 

Collectively, these three types of supply chain visibility break down the silos that have often stunted collaboration in traditional supply chains. The value of that lies not just in the treasure trove of data that can be shared among stakeholders — it’s what actions can be taken as a result of having that real-time data.   

Benefits of Supply Chain Visibility

Rock-solid reliable data and real-time communication capabilities make it easy to further expound on what supply chain visibility is. For instance, supply chain visibility is agility...and confidence...and peace of mind. The ability to make decisions based on reliable real-time data puts stakeholders in a position to move forward with confidence because they not only know what’s happening at the moment but also what’s coming down the road. Here are some of the many other benefits of supply chain visibility:

  • Creates greater collaboration: Strategize more effectively with stakeholders across the supply chain to drive improvements, efficiencies and accountability.
  • Promotes more proactiveness: Knowing ahead of time when and where disruptions are likely to occur empowers risk mitigation efforts, up to and including sending a replacement shipment when needed. 
  • Gives the ability to save shipments: No one likes surprises, especially when a shipment has been compromised. Customized real-time alerts that trigger while in-transit can launch mitigation efforts. In some cases, like with this pharma shipment, that could mean millions of dollars in savings.
  • Aids in freight claims filing/proof: “Freight claims are an expensive problem, so improved processes and information are priorities,” Mark Campbell of Cass Information Systems told Food Logistics. “Better visibility is the key to understanding root causes and knowing what corrective action to take.”
  • Enhances customer experiences: Optimizing fulfillment lead times and the ability to mitigate exceptions in real time will help increase the percentage of on-time, in-full orders — which makes for happier customers and greater brand loyalty.  
  • Saves and controls costs: Mitigating or avoiding costly disruptions altogether, strategizing inventory stock levels and supplier relationships, and the use of disposable trackers are just some of the ways end-to-end supply chain visibility can be leveraged to make a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.
  • Quantifiable Return on Investment: Supply chain visibility helps all stakeholders see tangible results in terms of fewer lost loads, fewer insurance claims, increased customer retention, increased revenue, reduced costs and a reduction in invested capital.  

Tive Demonstrates the Power of Supply Chain Visibility  

When everyone is on the same page, proactively focusing on in-transit shipments and using reliable real-time data and updates to mitigate potential disruptions, well, that is the definition of what supply chain visibility is. Stakeholders who are tightly aligned with real-time supply chain visibility drive continuous improvement, gain a greater degree of focus and control, and move toward a more optimized supply chain network that delivers OTIF with greater consistency. That means they’re delivering on the promises they’ve made to their customers, which is what Tive is all about. Let us show you how our world-class trackers and software make that happen. Schedule a demo today. 

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