Visibility as a characteristic or condition of the supply chain has been sought after for almost two decades. First, we just sought to gain visibility across our own operations—from plant to plant and warehouse to warehouse. Suppliers were tied to the performance of the terms and conditions in the contract, so we did not peer too closely.
But outsourcing changed all that, and we now see trading partners as an extension of operations. Together, outsourcing and globalization have heightened our awareness of supply chain risks. Knowing our fragility in this new world order, we have a new sense of urgency to create visibility across multi-tiered operations and with suppliers through much finer-grain information.
The Internet has provided the first real hope of achieving visibility: there has been an explosion of cloud-based visibility solutions for the supply chain. The weak link is that most of the data come from a series of partners. This source data can be unavailable or of dubious quality, to begin with and then be propagated to others in the chain.
More recently the term “control tower” has emerged as a new product offering from many supply chain providers. However, control, which variously may mean to have command, have power, or be in charge, would be an elusive phantom, in ChainLink’s opinion, and may not even be a desired goal. Visible, real-time insights and the ability to influence outcomes, where appropriate, may be a more realistic and achievable goal. Supply chain networks are becoming more complex, and attaining visibility, i.e., having a current picture, is a challenging enough goal.