The Need for Multimodal Visibility in Retail Supply Chains
Retail supply chains infused with multimodal visibility have a competitive advantage. Ninety percent of retail executives believe mastering logistics is key to thriving in today’s on-demand economy. They’re right.
Supply chain visibility can no longer be considered just a bonus — it's essential to effectively serve today’s connected consumer. Yet, supply chain visibility is still largely misunderstood. Let’s clear a few things up.
What is Supply Chain Visibility?
As defined by Gartner, true end-to-end supply chain visibility is "a capability that provides controlled access and transparency to accurate, timely and complete plans, events and data within and across organizations and services."
In essence, supply chain visibility is about capturing and harnessing usable supply chain data as information is exchanged between different systems. The most critical element to achieving true visibility is the architectural setup — how a retailer’s company and systems are connected to their business partners and networks.
Why Have Retailers Historically Struggled to Achieve Supply Chain Visibility?
Retailers have sought ways to improve their supply chain visibility for decades without much success.
Much of the blame falls on a lack of integrated systems. Seventy-five percent of shippers report that their visibility tool is not integrated with their operating system, limiting their ability to prevent stockouts, meet ever-evolving consumer demands, and keep suppliers and carriers compliant. Additionally, only 39 percent of shippers use visibility systems to collect data that can lead to educated, dynamic and real-time decision making.
Many systems that share data across supply chain and transportation networks are still managed through manual or legacy processes, including manual spreadsheets, email/phone calls, FTP, website scraping or point-to-point electronic data interchange (EDI). As a result, the information exchanged, along with rules that facilitate the data transfer, are simply not sophisticated enough to create end-to-end visibility. Instead of a true network-centric view, those systems deliver fragmented and delayed visibility, at best. Over $5 billion was estimated to be invested across supply chain companies last year alone to solve the uncertainties. Those investments will be wasted unless companies create a digital backbone that can overcome the current connectivity gaps caused by legacy technology.
How Retailers Can Create Supply Chain Visibility
Without end-to-end visibility, retailers are limited in their ability to prevent stockouts and meet ever-evolving consumer demands. In fact, 33 percent of U.S. consumers blame retailers for stockouts, which have damaging effects on brand loyalty and long-term sales.
Having a networked approach where all transportation partners (including suppliers and carriers) are on the same informational page arms retailers with the ability to make informed decisions and compete with giants like Amazon.com and Alibaba.
Retailers should seek solutions that address the connections and building blocks that enable access and visibility to accurate, timely and comprehensive data. Unlike EDI or legacy systems, application programming interfaces (APIs) serve as a modern middleware solution that deliver those very results.
Never assume that a single solution can provide true visibility across supply chain transactions or transportation modes. End-to-end visibility expands beyond traditional truckload tracking and requires the entire freight transaction set. To remain competitive, retailers need on-demand insights across the entire spectrum of supply networks and freight transactions.
By adopting a single API-based network solution that also offers a suite of freight services, companies can accelerate visibility and deliver superior service. Ultimately with a modern, multimodal (think truckload, rail, intermodal) connectivity system, retailers can build customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, while also increasing internal efficiencies and boosting profits.
Jett McCandless is CEO of project44, an enterprise SaaS platform connecting every aspect of the global supply chain through on-demand visibility.
Jett McCandless is CEO of project44, a revolutionary enterprise SaaS platform connecting every aspect of the global supply chain through on-demand visibility. McCandless has nearly two decades of experience in transportation and logistics, and has actively invested in, and advised, a number of industry start-ups from idea stages to expansion.
To learn more, visit www.p-44.com.