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Start With What You Already Have: 3 Steps to Achieving Real Operational Supply Chain Visibility in 2018

Posted by Gareth Bennett on 17 January 2018
 
 

Improving On-Time In-Full (OTIF) and Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) performance, customer experience and reducing operational supply chain costs all rely on one crucial element; visibility of vital demand and supply processes. These include order processing, order placement, fulfilment, accounts receivable and accounts payable processes. Yet, in practice, many companies struggle to achieve true operational visibility. We find that there are three main reasons; organisational structure, inside-out thinking and availability of data.

Typically operational supply chain teams work in silos. Silos lead to a departmental approach to problem solving thus they do not, or cannot take a holistic approach. Consequently, as a second point the vital players in the operational supply chain are inadvertently ignored. Either all or some of the customers, suppliers and logistics providers are excluded from scope because of inside out thinking. Thirdly companies have to contend with data, or the perceived lack of it. Visibility initiatives can be seen as costly, cumbersome and often ineffective as objectives are only partially met, because focus falls on solving challenges around access to and standardisation of data and system integrations.  

Step 1: Identify The Information Flows Within The Company

The artificial barriers need to be broken down between the departmental ‘silos’. Some of the information within the company that is required lives in your ERP but is perhaps only accessed by specific teams. The rest is held within a variety of formats and locations, including but not limited to, emails and spreadsheets. All of it is critical to the process and keeps the operational supply chain moving but is inaccessible to all those who could benefit from it. It lacks important context because it lives, and is used, in isolation. Accessing ERP and non ERP information and linking it together is the key to achieving operational visibility. Together it keeps the operational supply chain moving. Think about how your processes interact and how and what information departments receive, create and share.

Step 2: Identify The Information Flows To and From The Company

Go outside your organisation and think about the players involved, namely your customers, suppliers, 3PL and 4PL logistics partners. How do you communicate with them? What do you communicate with them? How do they communicate with you? What do they communicate with you? Typically it will be a mixture of defined EDI and non-EDI business documents and supporting emails such as requests for information or communications about operational events such as production or fulfilment issues, missing deliveries and changes to orders.

Step 3: Capture and Contextualise

Once a picture has been built up of the information flow, either end-to-end or for parts of the process, then we need to move on to actively capturing it and contextualising it. We need to make sense of it far beyond how it is interpreted and used today. As mentioned, one of the biggest barriers to achieving the visibility you want and need is access to data. By understanding how information is shared today, inside and outside of your main systems of record, and inside and outside of your organisation we can utilise technology to access it, join it together and make sense of it without the need for extensive integration and standardisation initiatives. In effect pulling all the structured (ERP data for example) and unstructured data (emails, PDFs etc.) together.

Visibility Makes All The Difference

Steps 1 and 2 will help you begin getting a true picture of the end-to-end operational supply chain, start where there is the most pain and least visibility. This does not require a transformational change in the way each part of the supply chain operates today but with step 3 it could lead to a transformation in how it operates in the future. With OmPrompt’s data capture and visibility solutions you can get visibility of your operational supply chain right now.

 

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