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How to improve supply chain visibility

Explore supply chain visibility challenges and discover three strategies for improving multi-party data sharing and management in the name of visibility.

Vikrant Kahlir
Principal Tech Lead, Data and Web3

Last updated: January 03, 2023

How to improve supply chain visibility

Supply chain visibility is not simply about managing costs and protecting goods moving through your supply chain. Inaccurate forecasts, poor planning, delayed shipments, poor decision-making, inadequate customer service, higher risk exposure, and revenue loss are symptoms of poor supply chain visibility. To fix issues in your supply chain visibility, you need to identify visibility gaps and explore new data management and collaboration strategies. 

Supply chain visibility challenges

Supply chain visibility can provide your business with a competitive advantage. Still, unless you’ve solved data sharing like Amazon, your organization is probably facing legacy challenges — or creating new ones with “solutions” that haven’t paid off. Which of these scenarios sounds most familiar to you? 

Businesses hack the ERP to make it work

Most organizations try to solve supply chain visibility and transformation problems by investing and reinvesting in their ERP systems. They will start with one ERP system, move on to other ERP systems, then consider customizing the system in ways that create a maintenance nightmare — especially during upgrades. ERP systems cannot store new types of data generated by new devices and systems that include both structured and unstructured data.

You can’t make data silos go away

Data silos are everywhere: Large legacy systems, trails of paperwork, data processed through stateless EDI interfaces, barcode scanners… There is a diversity of systems used by a single business; then, you must deal with heterogeneity in systems used for similar functions across businesses. This makes the end-to-end supply chain an exponential heap of data complexity.

It becomes hard to put together all the pieces of information because data is, semantically and structurally, a pile of broken shards fragmented from activities across the supply chain. The shards will not go away. Every day, more and more new solutions and systems are used to solve specific problems in narrow scope. The array of new SaaS services and devices used in the supply chain end up creating new silos, often because they are built on different clouds. Now, you must move the data between clouds and bring it to one place for analysis. 

Teams or partners work and build in a narrow scope

In the world of supply chains, most business is divided into functions: Manufacturing, distribution, procurement sourcing, and customer management. Each function is a specialization. The supply chain improvement projects are narrowly focused on improving the KPIs of a specific business function. Businesses are not looking into improving the end-to-end supply chain. 

Companies don't trust each other with data

Businesses are extremely conservative when it comes to sharing information. It’s not that all the data created in an organization is confidential or has the fingerprints of intellectual property. But, when businesses deal with a mountain of data, it is hard to separate the needle from the haystack. In such situations, it becomes safe to tag all data as confidential and intellectual property. To eliminate risk, businesses adopt policies such that they don't share data until there is a dying need to share data. This mindset and these types of tagging tactics are limiting supply chain visibility across businesses.

Strategies for improving supply chain visibility

When it comes to improving supply chain visibility, businesses have three options for solving this problem. 

Option 1 – Continue to invest in ERP customization

In some industries like automotive manufacturing, large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have the authority and influence to force suppliers to share data about processes and inventories. This eliminates the trust issues in data sharing, but the other challenges in data collection remain.

One option OEMs have is to customize their ERP systems to absorb data in different formats. This approach may work well with suppliers with a higher volume of orders or with Tier 1 suppliers. Most organizations already have interfaces with such suppliers and use ERP systems to collect and report on data. However, this approach is very cost-prohibitive when scaling beyond Tier 1's or suppliers with low volume. ERP investment has really worked well for businesses, but like every other system, ERPs have limits. High costs to scale and the inability to ingest unstructured data are limiting factors. 

Option 2 – Build a centralized data lake

ERP systems are critical for supply chain operations. However, as discussed in the previous strategy, ERP systems have limitations. Even if trust issues don't exist, businesses cannot scale ERP systems integration to all suppliers in their network. 

One alternative is centralized systems such as data lakes that can ingest both structured and unstructured data. Data lakes are also very cost-efficient in terms of storing all kinds of data, so businesses can complement their ERP investment with data lakes. While data lakes provide a great solution for cost-effective storage, they don't solve for data movement across different clouds, regions, and partners. Data lakes also don't solve for improving the quality of data sourced across the supply chain. The poor quality results in a high cost of data transformation required to generate insights. 

Option 3 – Leverage decentralized systems

The last alternative is shifting to decentralized systems that leverage distributed ledger technology which powers both public and private blockchain. This option is newer to the market, so businesses may not even realize it can solve most problems that businesses face in building holistic end to end supply chain visibility.

Private blockchain powered by distributed ledgers optimized for data sharing in the supply chain can solve all three issues: Trust, cost-effectiveness to scale, and data quality. 

How Vendia can help improve supply chain visibility

Vendia Share is a blockchain optimized for supply chain visibility. Vendia Share solves for security, sovereignty, and trust in multi-party data sharing. Every party in the supply chain gets its own Node to transact data with the network.

  • Nodes keep track of data shared by other Nodes and data shared with other Nodes from  a specific Node.
  • The Node is also an identity of a business in the supply chain. 
  • The data transacted through Vendia Share node also annotates permission policy records. 

Secure, trusted, and finely controlled data access and exchange

Specific parties can choose to show and hide specific fields and authorize others to see data without permission to update it. This makes data permission-aware even after data has been shared with others. Vendia Share protocol ensures that the data policy set by the owner is applied on claims in data accessed through Nodes belonging to other network parties. Node owners get the control they desire for trust and transparency when sharing data with partners.

A single seamless source of truth

You can build a virtualized decentralized data lake using Vendia Share. Vendia enforces schema on write, so data that lives in Vendia Share is high quality. Vendia also maintains data consistency on every new write or update to a record.

Partner integration made easy

Besides addressing trust and quality issues with the data, it is easy to extend the network and add a partner. It is as simple as adding an external party to the company Slack or inviting someone to join an email service like Gmail. The cost of including other partners is minimal because Vendia Share leverages serverless infrastructure that is 35% more cost-effective than server-based solutions.

What’s on your horizon?

If you are a manufacturer looking to improve supply chain visibility, your business can have the same advantage that Amazon created for its business. And once you have streamlined your supply chain, you can also pass along that same visibility to your customers. After all, by helping your partners upstream and downstream, you are helping the end consumers to get timely delivery of products and services they ordered. 

A world powered by supply chain visibility is a horizon full of endless opportunities. 

  • When manufacturers issue product recalls, distributors can trace specific batches contaminated with speed and precision, saving the company, their risk profile, and the environment from the costs of over-disposing.
  • The routine and timely sharing of data between manufacturers about the equipment used in manufacturing operations will allow sellers to forecast maintenance schedules.
  • Businesses can build and earn customer loyalty with well-managed inventory and on-time or fast delivery in the market or at home.
  • Leaders can access an audit trail and provenance to carbon emissions calculations, starting with reported performance, then tracking emissions down to the part and the component level from a specific supplier.

Learn how to improve your supply chain visibility with Vendia Share

Learn how Vendia Share provides you with a next-gen blockchain platform that is optimized to solve supply chain visibility challenges and unlock new, significant market value without putting an additional IT burden on your existing IT workforce to manage and operate it.

Contact us, and we’ll field your questions to help you find the best solution, or request your five-day proof of concept.

Vikrant Kahlir
Principal Tech Lead, Data and Web3

Vikrant is a Solutions Architect helping customers automate and accelerate their data workflows across business networks using Vendia Share. Prior to Vendia, Vikrant worked as a Principal Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services (AWS). At AWS, he worked on several large scale Digital Transformation programs and authored new solutions for HCLS, Auto, and Manufacturing.

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