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Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is from Geoff Whiting who writes for ERP Focus and Explore WMS. In this blog Geoff shows us 3 major benefits of supply chain visibility for your business.

Your phone can link to your bank account, social media, photo library, diet tracker that you turned off a year ago, and share information between most of those apps. Why isn’t your supply chain linked and sharing in the same way?

The industry has been harping on supply chain silos for more than a decade, but they’re still common. Most supply chains today still have some areas that aren’t connected, and data is walled off, which harms the ability of all companies involved to understand their operations fully. The benefits of supply chain visibility are all about creating the big-picture knowledge to ensure your business is running smoothly, your partners are the right ones, and that you are as productive as possible.

The first step isn’t discovering the hidden truth that will change your world; it’s about setting yourself up for that discovery. Linking systems to generate supply chain visibility is the way leadership at every level can start reviewing the true state of affairs.

Here are three other things it can accomplish for you too.

1. No More Risky Business

Reduce risk and give yourself a chance to grow through smart, supply chain intelligence. A little understanding can go a long way.

What we like most about the first of the benefits of supply chain visibility is that it can protect you and keep upper management from getting on your case, by helping reduce the likelihood that things will go wrong. One of the easiest fixes that visibility can help with is identifying supply chain areas with a single point of failure — typically products that have only one vendor.

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Visibility can also give you the data to better forecast demand, so you won’t run out of something in busy or lean times, notice areas where your goods may be at risk in transit, and track shipments or transactions as they move through every point and company.

Supply chain visibility is the foundation that will allow your warehouse managers to make better orders based on inventory counts, understand the lead time that is needed for each product or part, and the final sale value of those products after they’ve sat on your shelf for a bit.

2. Run a More Efficient Operation at Every Step

Supply chain visibility often comes with real-time data and robust dashboard tools that can create snapshots of various parts of your business. This data gives you a chance to look at across your business to see where you might be running into trouble, and where you could potentially shift a workflow to remove bottlenecks.

You can use business intelligence to see if you’re receiving too much in a short amount of time or if your orders are being rushed because no one checks for additional orders until 4 p.m. It might even show if you’ve got one especially slow vendor or have shifts that need more people to run smoothly — having the wrong labor force can save you or cost you big.

Supply chain visibility allows you to check all those gut feelings and reactions you have. You just might find that your “worst” vendor is performing well, but it’s a warehouse issue causing the problem, or that you best vendors have consistent orders that make it easy to plan and deliver.

3. Treat Your Customers Better

In articles like this, we often like to focus on the subject — supply chain visibility in this case — like a magic wand we can wave to cure all business problems. That’d be great, but it isn’t realistic. Things are still going to go wrong.

However, that’s also an area where supply chain visibility shines. Comprehensive knowledge about the state of things doesn’t prevent problems, but it does serve to highlight them very quickly. Monitoring and alerts that may come with supply chain visibility make it much easier for you to run an operation that can adapt quickly — this means integration is a must-have when you choose your next WMS or another platform.

Seeing issues as they occur allows a business to adjust. Or, if you can’t fix things on the fly, it gives you a chance to immediately update customers on a shipment status, product availability, recall, or anything else that may occur.

Your customers won’t be as happy as they would if nothing had gone wrong, but they’ll appreciate getting enough notice to change their own plans. You’ll even find that sharing this track-and-trace data can yield an overall positive experience that keeps your customers around longer and increases their lifetime value for your business.

You can master the last mile with quality these benefits of supply chain visibility.