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What Is Supply Chain Visibility: All Your Questions Answered

November 15, 2023

April 29, 2024


x min read

You’re a leading pharmaceutical company that’s hit the jackpot with a life-saving vaccine. The whole world is buzzing with joy and excitement, but it’s not time to pop the champagne just yet. You’ve got a bumpy road ahead with its distribution. From strict deadlines to maintaining its quality and efficacy at ultra-low temperatures throughout transit, your hands are full. That's where supply chain visibility comes in.

Supply chain visibility goes beyond standard tracking: it offers a real-time and complete view of the entire transport process, ensuring that products not only reach their destination but arrive in perfect condition. Achieving this transparency is challenging; 62% of companies admit their visibility is limited, with 15% only tracking production. Only 6% have complete visibility, and 84% lack visibility beyond their Tier 1 suppliers. 

So, with 67% of companies seeing a lack of visibility as the most significant barrier to end-to-end supply chain management, how can companies break through this wall? This article aims to answer just that by explaining exactly what supply chain visibility is.     

Explaining the Role of Supply Chain Visibility

Commerce today requires a crystal-clear view into your supply chain. That's where visibility steps in—to revolutionize how to monitor, manage, and fine-tune operations.

What is Supply Chain Visibility?

Think of supply chain visibility as your all-seeing eye in logistics. It’s not just about tracking packages; it’s about diving deep and gaining a 360-degree view of every process, every movement, and every change that happens from start to finish. By harnessing the power of the latest technologies and software, we're talking about achieving 100% transparency. From collecting data in real-time and integrating information from different corners of the globe to presenting it all on a silver platter—supply chain visibility ensures that every piece of the puzzle is right there in front of you, helping you to connect the dots and see the bigger picture.

The Importance of Supply Chain Visibility

When you have tools that provide clear insights into your supply chain, magic happens. It's akin to having a superpower for your business—whether you’re a large multinational corporation or a small business aiming to make smarter decisions, enhance your operations, cut unnecessary costs, and satisfy customers. This level of visibility helps you stay ahead of potential troubles—nipping disruptions in the bud and building a supply chain that is robust, agile, and ready for anything.

The Evolution of Supply Chain Visibility

Let’s take a trip through time and explore the transformation of supply chain visibility—from manual processes to key technological breakthroughs to Tive's milestone of achieving one million trackers.

The History of Supply Chain Visibility

Initially, supply chain visibility was practically an alien concept, with businesses relying on manual record-keeping and paperwork to track shipments and inventory. Bulky ledgers and files held crucial information, but accessing it was time-consuming and error-prone. The introduction of technology marked a significant shift, ushering in new tools and possibilities—though still primitive when compared to today's advancements.

How Technology Has Transformed Supply Chain Visibility Over the Years

The evolution of technology has dramatically reshaped supply chain visibility, ushering in an era of efficiency, transparency, and data-driven decision making, including:

  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and barcoding: These tools marked the beginning of the tech transformation by streamlining data transfer and reducing errors.
  • RFID technology: This provided real-time tracking capabilities and enriched data sets, taking visibility to new heights.
  • GPS tracking and real-time data analytics: Using these tools, businesses gained the ability to monitor shipments with unparalleled precision—enabling proactive decision making based on current information.
  • AI and machine learning: These technologies introduced predictive analytics, allowing companies to anticipate potential disruptions and optimize their supply chains accordingly.
  • Blockchain technology: Blockchain ensures data integrity and transparency across transactions, building trust throughout the supply chain.
  • Comprehensive software platforms: These platforms consolidate data from multiple sources, providing an all-encompassing view into the supply chain and empowering businesses with informed, data-driven insights.

The Latest Breakthrough: Tive Sells its One Millionth Tracker

As technology continues transforming supply chain visibility, Tive—led by founder & CEO Krenar Komoni—has carved out a unique niche. Komoni's path from his early entrepreneurial ventures amid the tumult in Kosovo to a basement in Massachusetts has been anything but ordinary. However, it was witnessing his father-in-law tirelessly track truck drivers over the phone that sparked the idea to revolutionize supply chain visibility and establish Tive in June 2015. Now, we sit here eight years later, with Tive achieving the significant milestone of deploying one million trackers.

The data is staggering: Tive trackers have journeyed an incredible 5.5 billion miles—enough to travel to Neptune and back—issuing 3.3 million alerts to safeguard shipments and prevent losses. Furthermore, serving more than 600 global clients, Tive has transcended the boundaries of traditional tracking. It has integrated advanced technology, real-time analytics, and machine learning to provide unparalleled, end-to-end visibility.  

The Components of Supply Chain Visibility

The following key elements bring the magic of supply chain visibility and its transparency to life:

  • Track-and-trace technologies: These are your shipment’s detectives, meticulously following every step of its journey and ensuring nothing goes unnoticed.
  • Software platforms and integrations: Imagine a high-tech control room where all data, tools, and systems are united, working in sync to give you a comprehensive view and total control over your supply chain.
  • Real-time data analytics and reporting: The brains of the operation, this component transforms heaps of data into actionable insights, helping you make informed decisions on the fly.

The Benefits of Supply Chain Visibility

Supply chain visibility provides a clear roadmap in the complex world of logistics by making operations smoother and more predictable. Let’s break down how:

  • Improved operational efficiency and reduced costs: With end-to-end transparency, companies can optimize inventory levels, streamline supplier relationships, and utilize tools including disposable trackers. Doing so not only enhances efficiency but reduces costs.
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty: By optimizing fulfillment lead times and proactively addressing exceptions in real time, businesses ensure more on-time, in-full deliveries. This results in delighted customers, stronger brand loyalty, and repeat business.
  • Risk mitigation and crisis management: Supply chain visibility empowers businesses to anticipate potential disruptions using proactive risk mitigation strategies. Whether by adjusting plans on the fly or sending a replacement shipment, being one step ahead minimizes the impact of unforeseen challenges.
  • Strengthening weak links in the supply chain: Through greater collaboration and accountability across all stakeholders, supply chain visibility helps identify and fortify any vulnerabilities, ensuring smoother, more resilient operations.

Real-World Applications of Supply Chain Visibility

From thwarting cargo theft and ensuring food safety during transit to the complexities of pharmaceutical logistics and mastering intermodal shipping strategies—let's look at some real-world applications of supply chain visibility.   

Combatting Cargo Theft  

Real-time visibility has emerged as a game changer when it comes to facing the relentless challenge of cargo theft. Featuring continuous tracking and innovative light exposure alerts, this technology acts like a vigilant guardian—ready to signal any unauthorized access or unexpected stops, especially in high-risk areas and scenarios. It transforms the way we protect our goods, adding layers of security and accountability that go beyond mere location tracking. From quick responses to unexpected detours to identifying and correcting unauthorized practices, many real-life scenarios highlight the tangible impact of real-time visibility. It’s not just about safeguarding cargo; it’s about creating a transparent, secure, resilient supply chain that stands strong in the face of adversity.

Food Traceability & Real-Time Transportation Visibility

The food industry is revolutionizing how to track and ensure the safety of meals, moving from old-school methods to a world rich in real-time data and transparency. Smart sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices have become allies in this journey, making it easier to monitor food from farm to plate. While there have been strides, the path to complete transformation is still dotted with challenges—and the pace of adoption varies across the industry. Nevertheless, the impact of this digital shift is undeniable, especially when it comes to enhancing food traceability and safety. Now, 60% of case-level produce is labeled for real-time monitoring, marking a significant leap towards isolating affected products quickly, curbing foodborne illnesses, and smoothing recalls.  

Life Sciences & Pharma Applications

As the global life sciences market grows, the supply chain faces increasing complexity—especially for temperature-sensitive products needing strict climate control between -50℃ and -200℃. Add numerous handlers and third-party logistics providers into the mix, and the risks of damage, spoilage, and theft escalate, making robust tracking and real-time visibility essential. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted this necessity, as vaccines with precise temperature requirements were developed and distributed at historic speeds. Yet even a minor lapse in temperature control could compromise entire batches of these critical products. Considering the World Health Organization’s estimate that up to 50% of global vaccines are wasted annually, the demand for improved visibility, rigorous safety measures, and optimized transportation routes to avert delays is more pressing than ever.

Enhancing Intermodal Shipping  

Intermodal shipping is much smoother thanks to real-time visibility, which cuts through the complexity and brings a new level of efficiency to the industry. Imagine being able to track your shipment from start to finish across ships, trains, planes, and trucks—all at the touch of a button. That’s what real-time visibility does by taking the guesswork out of shipping, minimizing risks such as damage or theft, and turning transit times into predictable journeys.  

Mastering Logistics Strategies  

Like an intense NFL game in which anything can happen, strategy, precision, and a dash of finesse are paramount for handling logistics disruptions—and meeting customer expectations. Envision the turmoil caused by a 67% increase in supply chain disruptions during COVID-19, or the shutdown of a major trucking company such as Yellow Corporation. On top of that, consider other challenges like shipping delays from geopolitics or weather, such as the recent drought at the Panama Canal. Consumers are uncompromising, too—97% tie brand loyalty to stellar service, with 72% demanding immediate service.  

Elevating Air Freight  

Navigating the skies with air freight becomes a breeze when you have the right tools at your disposal to make every shipment as precise and predictable as possible. State-of-the-art trackers—armed with GPS, 5G, and WiFi capabilities—provide real-time visibility and condition monitoring for every package coming on or off the aircraft, no matter how delicate. Though transmissions cannot be made during flight, users can integrate data from their Air Waybill (AWB) numbers to track the location for their shipments during transit. Everything, from life-saving organ transplants—with almost 43,000 conducted in the U.S. alone in 2023 (up to October)—to critical surgical implants arrives in perfect condition and on time. And with a bustling air freight market, where over 54% of the cargo is perishable, the stakes have never been higher.

Case Studies: Supply Chain Visibility in Action

We’ve reviewed how supply chain visibility is a crucial element for businesses today. But now let's "walk the walk" with some real-world case studies of how Tive provides enhanced supply chain visibility across industries.

OBE Organic: Blending Sustainability & Visibility

OBE Organic, Australia’s pioneering organic beef exporter, has been mastering the art of supply chain visibility over its 30 years in business. Covering an expansive 20 million acres, OBE Organic manages a robust network, ensuring that their grass-fed organic beef reaches global markets seamlessly. Integrating Tive’s tracking solutions proved instrumental in navigating the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, where international trade faced unprecedented barriers. Tive Solo 5G trackers enable real-time monitoring of shipments, ensuring that beef remains within the required temperature limits—a vital aspect given its perishable nature. Partnering with Tive not only strengthened OBE’s risk management but has heightened partner accountability.

Robinson Nursery: Cultivating Success with Advanced Tracking

Robinson Nursery, a family-owned wholesale grower and distributor of over 200 varieties of shade and ornamental trees, recognized the paramount importance of strict temperature control in their supply chain. With shipments valued between $50,000 to $100,000, their deliveries had no margin for error. So transitioning to Tive’s Solo 5G trackers and cloud-based platform marked a turning point—providing reliable, real-time tracking and ensuring their precious cargo maintained an optimal temperature throughout its journey. This adoption not only improved their operational efficiency, but also bolstered accountability and enhanced customer service.

Southwest Transplant Alliance (STA): A Lifesaving Link in the Chain

STA serves a critical role in organ transplantation, recovering and allocating organs for patients in dire need. In such a high-stakes environment, visibility is not just a luxury—it’s a necessity. The integration of Tive’s Solo 5G trackers filled this gap, providing real-time data on the location and condition of the organs in transit. Not only did this ensure timely delivery—a crucial factor given the limited viability window of transplant organs—it also streamlined the shipment process and provided peace of mind to the medical professionals and patients waiting for a life-saving transplant.   

Overcoming Challenges in Achieving Supply Chain Visibility

Companies strive to track their products and shipments in real time, aiming for a seamless, transparent, and efficient supply chain and achieving end-to-end visibility. However, the road to achieving this visibility is fraught with complexities and challenges.

Complexities & Challenges 

  • Data silos and lack of integration: Often, data is trapped in different parts of the supply chain, making it challenging to get a unified view. To break down these silos, systems and processes need to be able to share data.
  • Inaccurate or incomplete data: The integrity of supply chain visibility lies in data accuracy. Incomplete or incorrect data can lead to misinformed decisions, affecting the entire supply chain.
  • Real-time data collection and analysis: The ability to collect and analyze data in real time is crucial yet challenging. Doing it incorrectly can result in disruptions that linger—and affect the flow of the supply chain.
  • Security and privacy concerns: Sharing data across the supply chain raises concerns about security and privacy. Ensuring data is secure—while remaining accessible to the necessary parties—is a delicate balance.
  • Standardization and interoperability: Different technologies and platforms must work together seamlessly, which is a common barrier to a harmonious and efficient supply chain.

Solutions & Strategies to Overcome These Challenges

Tackling the maze of supply chain complexities requires innovative solutions and strategic thinking. Businesses are stepping up, embracing cutting-edge tech and building strong partnerships to keep data moving smoothly throughout the supply chain. By adopting solid data management practices, they're not just ensuring information accuracy and safety, they're paving the way for a more open and interconnected supply chain. And that's precisely where Tive shines: by bringing clarity and connection to this complex environment.

Where Tive Fits In

Tive stands at the forefront of innovation, offering cutting-edge solutions that address the challenges of supply chain visibility. With a keen understanding of the complexities and nuances of the supply chain, Tive provides real-time tracking and monitoring—ensuring that data is accurate, complete, and secure. Their state-of-the-art technology breaks down data silos, fostering integration and collaboration across stakeholders. By standardizing protocols and ensuring interoperability, Tive ensures that its solutions seamlessly integrate into existing corporate systems to provide a comprehensive and transparent view of the supply chain.

The Future of Supply Chain Visibility

Together, the potential of emerging trends and advanced technologies have the power to revolutionize operations, amplify customer satisfaction, and propel businesses to new heights.

Emerging Trends & Technologies in Supply Chain Visibility

The horizon of supply chain visibility is full of exciting new trends and technologies. We’re witnessing a surge in the adoption of IoT devices, which provide real-time data from every corner of the supply chain. Blockchain technology continues to gain traction, offering an immutable ledger that tracks products from manufacturer to consumer—ensuring authenticity and compliance. Furthermore, cloud computing enables unparalleled access and analysis of supply chain data, fostering collaboration and driving efficiency.  

The Role of AI & Machine Learning in Supply Chain Visibility

AI and machine learning are at the forefront of this tech transformation—acting as the brains behind the operation. They analyze vast amounts of data, predict potential disruptions, and recommend optimal solutions—making the supply chain smarter and more proactive. With AI and machine learning, businesses can anticipate demand, optimize inventory levels, and reduce waste—ensuring that the right product is in the right place at the right time. 

The Future Outlook for Supply Chain Visibility

Looking ahead, the future of supply chain visibility is bright and filled with potential. As technologies evolve and integrate, businesses will become equipped with an even deeper understanding of their supply chain, enabling more informed decisions and strategies. The focus will shift from reactive problem solving to proactive optimization—driving efficiency, sustainability, and resilience. In this future, supply chain visibility is not simply a capability; it is a competitive advantage that moves businesses forward in an increasingly uncertain and chaotic world.

Tive Demonstrates the Power of Supply Chain Visibility  

A world in which every supply chain cog moves in perfect harmony—where real-time data and updates bring everyone onto the same page to proactively tackle potential disruptions before they can take root—is not far away. In fact, it's the very essence of supply chain visibility, and solutions such as Tive exist to turn this vision from a dream to reality. With world-class trackers, tags, and innovative solutions crafted to bring this vision to life, you remain in the driver’s seat on the path toward efficiency, excellence, and end-to-end transparency.

So, why wait? Discover how Tive can elevate your supply chain performance, turning challenges into opportunities and aspirations into realities. Schedule a demo today, and take the first step towards transforming your supply chain.

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