Choosing a solution for supply chain visibility really starts by defining the business problem and the kind of visibility that’s required.
Many vendors tout supply chain visibility among the benefits of their solutions. But each comes at the visibility problem from a different angle, depending on what audience or specific industry it serves and depending on where the need for visibility is most acute. Some key in on providing visibility on the demand side, helping manufacturers that have a heavy retail and distribution presence in optimizing inventory and order fulfillment, for example, while another set of providers tackle visibility from a supply side view for companies looking to better manage and garner efficiencies with their outsource partners or large networks of suppliers. Some providers interpret supply chain visibility from a logistics perspective, delivering applications that track a product as it moves throughout its distribution cycle, while others have targeted track as the major visibility challenge, providing solutions that help manufacturers keep tabs on products throughout the various stages of the lifecycle, greatly aiding in compliance efforts.
Traditional value-added network (VAN) providers, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) tool vendors and B2B e-commerce platforms are highlighting supply chain visibility as one of the areas where they can deliver a competitive edge. Companies such as Sterling Commerce and GXS now tout capabilities that let manufacturers track everything from active orders and payments to in-transit shipments. In addition, there are a growing number of new Web-based, software-as-a-service offerings in this space, including companies such as One Network Enterprises. These services connect a supply chain network, providing capabilities for supply-side and demand-side collaborative order management, inventory planning and logistics planning, in addition to serving up integrated business intelligence, business process management and real-time exception management. The SaaS offerings tout ease-of-integration for syncing up multiple enterprises.
Read more: Supply Chain Control Towers