As consumer demands for transparency grows, the need for end-to-end supply chain visibility grows along with them—so what does such a supply chain look like?
Many of the changes in the way supply chains operate in recent years have come due to the pressure placed upon them to be more transparent. Customers (and others) want to know everything going on in a supply chain. They want to know what goes into creating their products, where they come from, how they are maintained, and much more.
Harvard Business Review underscored the importance of supply chain transparency in a post earlier this year,
Companies are under pressure from governments, consumers, NGOs, and other stakeholders to divulge more information about their supply chains, and the reputational cost of failing to meet these demands can be high.
As a result of this pressure, organizations are having to ensure that know about every aspect of their supply chains. That means them knowing their supply chain operations from start to finish. From where their raw materials are coming from to their product’s journey right into the customer’s hands. Moreover, they have to be able to easily share this information with their customers throughout the process. This is where end-to-end supply chains become a necessity.
This article by Morai Logistics explains what an end-to-end supply chain is and the prominent components such a supply chain needs for transparency.
What is End-to-End?
Investopedia defines end-to-end as,
End-to-end describes a process that takes a system or service from beginning to end and delivers a complete functional solution, usually without needing to obtain anything from a third party.
In the context of supply chains that means taking care of all the disparate operations that make them up. By having control of the totality of a supply chain, companies are able to guarantee that they know everything that’s going into them. In turn, reassuring their customers that their products are above board, ethical, and of good quality. But for their customers to be entirely satisfied, companies need to provide the necessary transparency throughout their operations. As such, their supply chains require certain characteristics to make that possible.
The foundation upon which end-to-end supply chain management is built upon is digital transformation. The reason for this is that it enables the many technological tools that are needed for it. This includes automation, AI, machine learning, IoT, cloud computing, and more. Furthermore, it’s through such technologies that increased transparency becomes a reality.
For example, automation can increase the accuracy of data collection, making it easier to follow daily operations. Another is smart sensors, that can be put on the packages being shipped, providing information about where they are and what conditions they’re experiencing. Thus, it is through digitization that supply chains become intelligent and data driven. Consequently, they have more information for companies to provide their customers.
End-to-end supply chain should mean end-to-end visibility. A recent Supply Chain Digital article emphasizes this
A truly connected end-to-end supply chain has the aim to reach 100% visibility in real time which creates an integrated view across the enterprise, including, suppliers, retailers, manufacturers, outsource partners, and customers. This then allows companies to easily see any inbound problems and fire up tailored solutions where needed.
However, in order in ensure that there are no gaps in this visibility, supply chains require greater integration. Particularly, they need to have all their processes integrated. While some of that is achieved by social collaboration and dynamic strategy, that in of itself isn’t enough. Digital connectivity is equally important, as a well as having a central platform for all data to be aggregated. Hence the need for digital transformation.
One final component of transparency that may gain traction going forward is traceability. With the growth of blockchain, many are starting to place importance on being able to follow each transaction in a supply chain.
An ASQ article from earlier this year points out,
Traceability is also gaining prominence as a key issue, and permissioned blockchains provide one way to make this happen with sensor data and transaction data.