Supply Chain Visibility: Every “Cloud” Has Its Silver Lining

Supply chain visibility hinges upon knowing the location, quantity and availability of raw materials and inventory at any moment in time. This information needs to be acted upon and applied across all touch points in the supply chain — from supplier, to end customer — in order to maximize supply chain performance.

The Challenges of Diverse Partners and Disparate Systems

Achieving this clarity within the four walls of an enterprise is difficult enough, but it becomes even more daunting when seeking visibility from multiple, external, and potentially global, supply chain partners. The current data silos stemming from point-to-point connectivity within ERP environments do not allow for easy sharing of information across a wide range of partners, who may have different levels of IT capabilities.

When information is stored in numerous places and systems, it limits visibility and productivity. As a result, planners, schedulers, operations managers and business leaders may end up viewing out-dated or unsynchronized versions of information. In today’s world, integrated systems and business processes are necessary to ensure everyone has the same view, but this is only possible once a shared information model is in place.

Facilitating Collaboration via Access and Connectivity

Achieving visibility and traceability with actionable insights from your supply chain requires a tightly connected network, fusing your in-house IT environment with the ‘outside’ world.  One of the easiest ways to do so is through a cloud-based platform that provides a one-to-many connectivity structure. Such platforms allow easy, safe and secure access for internal and external parties to collaborate and perform business processes and to distribute information in real-time between your ERP and your partners’ supply chain systems. Cloud-based platforms facilitate easy on-boarding of your partners to a supply chain network and create visibility across all your partners, transport modes, regions and multiple tiers.

Once connectivity is established, the next steps are to introduce integration and automation, to facilitate the flow of data, across supply chain partners and processes. This allows you to link shipment visibility and traceability into the broader order fulfillment process and safeguard the quality and speed of information.

Once this shared platform is in place, it opens the way to continuous improvement processes and customer focused innovations, which in turn, will improve your competitive position.

Reaping the Rewards

The value drivers for leading enterprises are to minimize costs and provide clients with maximum delivery performance, volume flexibility and responsiveness. They do this by focusing on continuous improvement in production efficiency and inventory management — coupled with process simplification — to drive down costs and apply a strong focus on end-to-end supply chain planning and visibility.

The benefits of supply chain visibility can be constant and continuous, with results that are commensurate with your scope and commitment to process and system improvements.

Beyond the obvious gains of connectivity and automation there are clear additional benefits leading to tangible operational, financial and competitive gains.

  • Operational Excellence
    • Increase the speed, frequency and quality of information to be shared across complex networks and multiple stakeholders
    • Foster proactivity throughout your supply and demand chains
  • Competitive Edge and Customer Service
    • Reduce lead times and improve on-time, in-full, performance
    • Track raw material and finished product throughout your entire supply chain
  • Financial Performance
    • Improve safety, security and compliance
    • Reduce inventory stock levels, free-up working capital and control variable costs

Real-time insight and visibility into the execution of all critical supply chain processes can significantly improve the operational efficiency of your network. Resulting transactional data and historical trend analysis from your supply chain platform can help to drive decision-making and process improvement based on hard data rather than intuition.

Implementing these changes will establish a clear path to continuous improvement and innovation that will greatly enhance supply chain performance, delight suppliers and customers, and increase the competitive position of the business.

Fabrice Maquignon is the Managing Director at Wolters Kluwer Transport Services. Fabrice has been executing leadership functions in both the IT and logistics industries for more than 20 years. His realm of experience spans from General Management, Sales & Marketing to Business Development. Before joining Wolters Kluwer in 2003 as Chief Marketing Officer for Teleroute, Fabrice worked as Associate Vice President at Startec Global Communications. Fabrice holds a degree in Marketing and Business Development from Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Commerciales d’Angers (ESCA), completed by executive education from the Harvard Business School.


  1. Great article. A big plus of cloud technology in logisitcs is the lower barries to purchase. By that I mean, what may have been too expensive or not possible 5 years ago in terms of warehouse technology, may now be in reach for your company. The scalable nature of the cloud technology has brought down the cost signifigantly.

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