I don't want to claim 'Supply chain visibility' to be today's trending topic, but can't deny it pops up in more and more dicussions. According to Capgemini's 2013 Supply Chain Agenda, it even ranks on top of the list of most mentioned Supply Chain Optimization projects.

Great news and recognition at last for all those involved in visibility projects since the nineties! But is the current trend only for the better? I have my doubts and believe that threats exist that will blur the domain and eventually lead to the decline of ‘visibility’ as the area of attention (and/or buzzword) it seems to be today.

What’s in a name and what’s it all about?

Don’t you agree that nowadays, it has become a must to double-check definitions when talking Supply Chain? As Supply Chain Management (SCM) deals with aligning all silos in the organization, you can imagine differences in background to play a role when addressing SCM issues on corporate level.

But that’s not the end of it! Beware that also consultants and solution providers have extended their knowledge and offerings into other areas leading multiple definitions of the same ‘Labels’. Each of them may use different starting points and have different capabilities to offer that will define your SCM footprint on the longer run. No need to say, it is rather wise to look before you leap!

Disconnect between SCM and Execution

In our (Dutch) home market, a clear distinction can be seen between the more academic SCM community and those involved in execution. The first is sort of homogeneous and seems to be focusing on issues around Bullwhip effect, S&OP, forecasting, etc whilst the execution community is scattered over the silos and not focusing on the bigger picture at all.

The result is what I would refer to as: ‘Think Global and have no clue what happens local’ causing Supply Chain Visibility to be associated mostly with Data warehousing / Dash boarding / rear view mirror type of projects. By following the traditional Top down approach, your project team may well overlook those touch points / existing projects that already lay the groundwork for a future Supply Chain Execution Visibility platform.

This could go down to the granularity of a barcode scan at goods receipt, an electronic supplier message or automated system responses. Having a second SCM look at these fragmented projects may have impacted some of the decisions made in the past, don’t you think?

ERP: the center of your universe?

Looking at the classical SCM success stories, Automotive and Retail were considered as the leading examples for many years. Knowing that Supply Chain dominance is not a sustainable model for many industries, OEMs sometimes still operate from a strong self-centric philosophy.

Fact is that many large players in Chemical and Pharma installed on-site terminals of their ERP systems, allowing the LSPs to directly work in the OEMs backbone system. I admit it’s a possible way to have a ‘Single version of the Truth’, but it’s definitely not a win/win situation for all parties involved.

indiana-jones-holy-grail-magnetic-paperclip-holderWith Technology advancing over time, data-sharing has become more or less a commodity and usage of platforms and communities has been picked up by the major vendors. To open up your IT environment and find a way to have data accessible / sharable / usable for all Supply Chain partners (and their systems of record), you definitely still need to choose wisely.

In this blog, I basically just wrote down some of the experiences we had over the last decade. I’m quite sure some of you have different stories to tell (or just disagree) and invite you to share your feedback. I also like to hear from those of you finding the hidden movie reference.