What is Supply Chain Visibility? Top Software Tools in 2020

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Wouldn’t managing your supply chain be easier if you could just use a magnifying glass to view everything you needed? As we’re sure you’re aware, however, that’s not exactly the case. Without the proper systems in place, achieving full supply chain visibility into each process is difficult, if not impossible. Luckily, supply chain management software can free you from tedious manual data entry and reporting while giving you actionable insights to give you the visibility to guide your business better.

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Best Supply Chain Visibility Software Tools

What is Supply Chain Visibility?

First off, let’s define what exactly supply chain visibility is. As the name suggests, supply chain visibility lets you thoroughly track your various supply chain processes through robust analytics and reporting features. Specifically, this includes the ability to track production, product orders and shipments. True supply chain visibility gives you incredibly detailed information about each process, down to daily lead times, the inventory levels of a particular warehouse and the time a specific shipment arrives.

The whole point of supply chain visibility is to gain insight into your processes and find areas for improvement. You may find issues without full visibility into your end-to-end supply chain, but you probably won’t know what’s causing them. This is especially true for large companies with global supply chains. Without the proper tools in place, finding what needs to be fixed becomes an aggravating guessing game. Luckily, with the right system, you can identify and resolve issues as soon as they are found.

How Does Supply Chain Visibility Affect Customer Service?

Believe it or not, supply chain visibility does more than help you optimize your supply chain performance; it can also help you improve your customer service. For example, if a customer received an order late and asked why, it’s always better to give them the actual reason (along with an apology) than saying, “I don’t know.”

Additionally, today’s consumers value transparent companies. They want the logistics of how products got to the shelf, or how your service is made possible. Any business, from a software vendor to a local grocery store, has a sizable competitive advantage when they’re transparent about their business practices.

Harvard Business Review explains: “For many products, origin is an essential feature of what the customer buys, even if it is an intangible or a difficult-to-verify quality. Broadly, halal, kosher and organic foods are indistinguishable from the alternatives – the distinctions are important to certain consumers, but in a blind test most would have no way of identifying them… The fact that consumers nevertheless care about ethics and authenticity is indisputable: provenance is already a big deal – and getting bigger.”

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Improving Supply Chain Visibility

So how exactly are you supposed to achieve supply chain visibility? It’s certainly not a quick fix, but by implementing the following five-step process, you can improve your overall supply chain visibility.

1. Define Goals

Most processes start by defining what you want to improve, and supply chain visibility is no different. Although true visibility provides insights into the entire supply chain, you need to focus on a few points of emphasis. For example, do you struggle with on-time delivery? Or do you find that your excess inventory levels are consistently high?

Focusing on a few areas of improvement helps keep the process on track. This specificity ensures that changes are actually made. East West Manufacturing says that “Clarity is everything. Clearly defined objectives, strategies and tactics (all with deadlines attached)… leave no room for miscommunication.”

After all, the idea of “fixing our supply chain” is very ambiguous. However, reducing your excess inventory in 6 months is a specific goal you can work toward. This not only provides a more actionable solution – for example, producing fewer products while still meeting demand — but it also allows you to realize when you’ve met your targets.

2. Connect Systems

Now we get to the software aspect of the process. Chances are, there are multiple systems used throughout your supply chain. And if you’ve added sites and businesses through mergers and acquisitions, it’s even more likely. Supply chain visibility relies upon the fact that you have access to all of your data together, so if you have separate systems, you have some work to do. You need to connect those various pieces of software so that you can bring all of your supply chain data into a single location. However, this might be difficult to do manually and usually requires supply chain visibility software.

In addition, integrating your supply chain software with other systems can boost visibility. Two of the most powerful integrations are CRM and BI. CRM provides extra insight into your customers, while BI gives you additional data analysis capabilities.

3. Gather the Data

The most important aspect of supply chain visibility is the actual gathering of the data. This process includes all relevant data related to your supply chain, from shipment times to inventory levels to warehouse worker hours. As we mentioned earlier, you technically could record all of this manually, but it’s impossible to collect it all in real time. This is where software takes over.

Your supply chain visibility software should be able to collect real-time data, so you always have the most up-to-date information. These real-time supply chain insights can help you make changes on the fly, if necessary.

4. Analyze the Data

Even though software solutions can collect all kinds of data, the data you want to pay the most attention to is related to your goals. Many systems also allow you to set up dashboards so that you can keep an eye on particular data sets.

Additionally, the best supply chain visibility solutions have reporting functionality. With this feature, you can create visual reports that help you find insights that lead to improved business processes. And if you need more detailed analysis, you can run the data through a business intelligence system (remember what we said about connecting systems?)

5. Make Changes

Pretty self explanatory. Once you know what the underlying issues are to your supply chain, you can make the appropriate adjustments.
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Best Supply Chain Visibility Software

As you’re working on improving your supply chain, it’s important to do so with the right software. The following are five of the best supply chain visibility solutions out there, so you can improve supply chain planning and optimize all of your processes.

Oracle SCM Cloud

Oracle SCM Cloud provides software that supports distribution, manufacturing, inventory management and fleet management. It is a comprehensive suite of applications that provides various featured products. These products can be categorized into procurement, supply chain planning, product life cycle management, logistics and order management.

It includes technologies such as adaptive intelligent applications, intelligence-driven applications, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain business applications and digital assistance.

This suite is ideal for small to medium-size businesses. The industries that it serves include automotive, communications, healthcare, high technology, industrial manufacturing and the retail/consumer goods industry.

Oracle SCM Cloud

Oracle SCM Cloud gives users valuable visibility into their supply chains

Top Benefits

  • Connectivity: Oracle SCM Cloud supports integration with IT solutions like financial systems, mobile devices, IoT connections and more, which enables real-time collaboration.
  • APIs and Open Interface: Users can view and manage the data stored in Oracle Supply Chain Management Cloud using Oracle REST APIs. Its products provide open interfaces that allow users to link with suppliers and customers, non-Oracle, user-built and external applications.
  • Predictive Maintenance: The Oracle IoT Cloud offers predictive maintenance algorithms. Data mining and machine learning can be applied to data streams from connected assets, historical assets and maintenance data from the Oracle Maintenance Cloud. This data is used by the IoT Cloud, through which users can detect anomalies, predict failures, optimize maintenance intervals, equipment reliability, uptime, safety and manage overall costs. It provides decisions in real-time using big data analytics and blockchain.
  • Supply Chain Planning Cloud: This solution provides comprehensive tools for tactical firefighting and strategic optimization. It helps manage real-time global supply and supports facilities like production and distribution, contract manufacturers, drop-ship suppliers and outside service providers.
  • Product Master Data Management: Users can govern, commercialize and publish product master data. This data can be used for omnichannel commerce and globalized manufacturing using the Product Data Hub Cloud. Data can be syndicated to internal/external applications and marketplaces with a single multi-domain solution.
  • Oracle Procurement Cloud: Users can control costs by selecting suppliers, enforcing policy and managing supplier risk using Oracle Procurement Cloud. It provides built-in spend control that can streamline employee request management.
  • Product Lifecycle Management: Oracle SCM Cloud provides users with a digital thread across the entire product lifecycle and value chain. It offers features like innovation management, product development, quality management, configurator modeling and product master data management.
  • Sales and Operations Planning: It boosts user collaboration and helps reach a consensus among marketing, product development, sale, operations and finance teams. It provides configurable process templates for five stages of Integrated Business Planning that include Product, Demand, Supply, Financial and Executive Reviews. S&OP Cloud, along with analytics, can give users the necessary information to monitor performance, understand shortfalls and analyze plans. It also provides simulation capabilities to evaluate alternative what-if plans.

Limitations

  • Users have to configure PAAS to make customizations.
  • It does not provide API in all areas to connect to third-party systems.
  • It does not provide all the customizations as other products of Oracle.
Price: $$$$$
Deployment:
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

SAP Integrated Business Planning

SAP Integrated Business Planning is a real-time solution powered by SAP HANA, which serves all types of industries. It offers features like supply chain monitoring, sales and operation planning, forecast and demand management, inventory optimization, response and supply planning and demand-driven replenishment.

Users are provided with the S/4HANA to SAP Integrated Business Planning (IBP) integration model, which helps deliver standard integration logic by SAP. It helps determine which SAP S/4HANA transactional, master and configuration data is collected and prepared for transfer to IBP.

SAP IBP can also integrate with SAP Supply Chain Control Tower to gain visibility of the supply chain, offer decision support and corrective action.

SAP S/4 HANA

SAP’s dashboards present business critical information in easily digestible visuals

Top Benefits

  • Deployment: SAP IBP offers pre-configured process templates that provide users with accelerated implementation.
  • Resource Planning: It allows users to optimize and manage resources efficiently. Supply plans can be created based on prioritized demands, allocations and supply chain constraints.
  • Easy Integration: Its comprehensive solution helps integrate data from external systems like SAP ERP or SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization.
  • Mobile Application: This software lets users log in to SAP IBP Web UI using mobile devices and access available Fiori apps. SAP Help provides information regarding the availability of mobile support for particular applications.
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Key Features

  • Forecasting and Demand Management: This feature lets users develop mid-term statistical forecasts and react to short-term demand changes with pattern recognition based algorithms. It streamlines product deployment based on short-term demand and collaboration to offer forecasts. Users can generate forecasts for various scenarios or specified parts of a business using demand planning tools. It also allows forecasts for short-term planning with demand sensing algorithms.
  • Inventory Optimization: It helps reduce inventory and improve customer service by increasing the efficiency of inventory and working capital, improving planning productivity by automating and standardizing planning processes. It provides shorter and more complete inventory target-setting cycles and helps optimize product and distribution costs. Users can make and run reports to recognize the impact of inputs like lead time, forecast accuracy and inventory outputs or inventory supply.
  • Sales and Operations Planning: It delivers a cross-departmental plan that manages product mixing, inventory and service levels. It offers capabilities like process management, version and scenario creation, what-if analysis, multi-level supply planning, collaboration, ABC segmentation calculation, business network collaboration integration and product life cycle support.
  • Response and Supply Planning: This software provides users with two algorithms, optimizer and S&OP heuristic. The IBP for the supply model can be transformed into a complex mathematical representation with the help of an optimizer, to find a cost-optimal solution. The heuristic algorithm begins by exploring relevant constraints and is typically utilized when users require a solution that fits some constraint.
  • Demand-Driven Replenishment: This feature allows users to control material flow and supply chain variability. It helps calculate buffer-zone levels and decoupling points. It can reduce inventory, compress lead times and improve customer service. It supports inventory optimization in three mediums that include Make (Manufactured), Buy (Purchased) and Transfer (Stock Transfer).

Limitations

  • It does not allow planning view transfer unless the planning areas have identical key figures and attributes.
  • This software does not provide an API to integrate third-party collaboration tools.
  • Custom Alerts are not available in the Excel UI.
Price: $$$$$
Deployment:
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

Infor Nexus

Infor Nexus is a cloud-based solution that provides end-to-end supply chain orchestration. It is designed for enterprise-level organizations across several industries. It provides predictive intelligence and real-time visibility using IoT, AI and advanced visualization through an end-to-end collaborative network.

This software supports mobile supply chain management from any wireless device. It offers features like end-to-end visibility and insights, a multi-enterprise business network, multi-enterprise business applications and onboarding and integration.

Infor Nexus

Users can filter and view cash flow information to make educated business decisions with Infor Nexus

Top Benefits

  • Procurement-to-Pay Automation: Infor Nexus’s solution can help boost financial agility. It offers integrated chargeback management, automated document matching and invoice approval, global partner onboarding and support, end-to-end automation including payment and a community of logistics and financial service providers.
  • Analytics and Decision Support: Infor Nexus helps users focus on opportunities and risks, collaborate with parties and drill into transactions.
  • Infor Coleman AI: It lets users predict delivery time to final destinations earlier in order cycles before Live Tracking can begin. It also helps improve inventory and replenishment planning.
  • Order Collaboration: Infor Nexus provides a single view of order data between companies and their suppliers. Users can negotiate or confirm order terms across multiple items and orders simultaneously.
  • Integration with Appxpress API: The AppXpress API is a RESTful web service that can deliver Infor Nexus data to mobile devices, enterprise platforms, web sites and also allow mashups.
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Key Features

  • Warehouse Management: This system leverages automation, boosts efficiency and improves customer responsiveness. Users can holistically manage activities, combining core and advanced warehousing with embedded labor management, 3D visual analysis and ABC cost analytics in a unified application. It allows companies to manage assets, inventory, space, labor, capital, equipment and time using warehouse, transport and distributed order management capabilities.
  • Invoice Management: Users can automatically create packing lists, electronic invoices and other fulfillment documents from order and shipping data. A single format and data source makes it simple to produce custom and commercial invoices and send documentation to brokers.
  • Payment Management: It alerts users of discrepancies and payment approvals, with information on cash flows and expected payment dates to suppliers. It can automatically compare invoices, orders, packing lists, inspection certificates, goods receipts and proof of delivery.
  • Deductions Management: Users can manage deductions with support for electronic image and document attachments. It can help users configure company deduction rules and automatically deduct from future invoice payments, accelerating recovery.
  • Supply Chain Finance: Infor Nexus offers a network of finance providers to its users, which can ensure that suppliers have the capital they need to execute orders.

Limitations

  • Infor Nexus does not offer on-premise deployment.
  • It does not provide custom actions for functions that include purchase order amendment, order collaboration, booking in transport, forwarder’s cargo receipt, Bill of Lading, load plan, warehouse receipt, shipment plan, shipment order, transport manifest, transport shipment, freight invoice and payment authorization.
Price: $$$$$
Deployment:
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

Kinaxis RapidResponse

Kinaxis RapidResponse is a cloud-based platform that is designed for large enterprises. It provides users with solutions that include sales and operation planning, capacity planning, demand planning, inventory planning, machine learning and supply planning.

This solution offers real-time supply chain visibility and on-line internal and external collaboration. It caters to industries such as aerospace and defense, automotive, high-tech and electronics, industrial, life science and consumer products.

Kinaxis RapidResponse

RapidResponse lets users compare revenue streams to revenue histories and more

Top Benefits

  • Concurrent Planning: RapidResponse offers concurrent planning to balance the end-to-end supply chain. It aligns the synchronization of demand, supply, capacity and inventory. Integrated business planning (IBP) or sales and operations planning (S&OP) can also remain in sync.
  • Pre-built Templates: Provides pre-built templates for SAP Cloud Platform and SAP ERP that co-exist with SAP APO and connect business systems easily.
  • Security: The service infrastructure provides backup, replication and disaster recovery planning. Its network services include advanced threat protection and encryption in transit. The application can implement authentication, identity and user permissions.
  • Predictive Algorithms: Offers predictive algorithms with the help of machine learning. It allows users to manage multiple scenarios, create supply chain replicas and capture historical context.
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Key Features

  • Capacity Planning (Constraints): This feature lets users create realistic supply plans with capacity planners, which can consider several types of limitations. It provides standard measures that include margin, revenue, on-time delivery, inventory value, constraint utilization and metrics associated with capacity planning. Its dashboard includes focused analysis of various measures like summaries of constraint utilization, overloads, underloads and supply plan volume.
  • Capacity Planning (CRP): RapidResponse consolidates supply chain data into a single source, which helps users identify over or underutilized work centers. It lets users know the resources required to meet customer commitments by providing a real-time view of impacts on resources and the ability to simulate long and short-term capacity adjustments.
  • Inventory Management: This feature ensures the correct level of inventory to avoid both shortages and excesses and keep margins strong. Its dashboard includes measurements of periods of supply by part category, excess and obsolete value, demonstrated service level, on-hand vs. target inventory and on-hand inventory by ABC classification.
  • Distribution Requirements Planning: Users can get required supply into distribution networks or drive dependent demand by generating near-term plans, in daily or weekly increments. DRP can be managed simultaneously with order fulfillment, master production scheduling and supply action management for accuracy and effectiveness. Its dashboard includes measurements on in-transit orders, storage/site types, under/over capacity, total distribution cost, transit time deviation, transfer order exceptions and more.
  • Demand Planning: This feature allows for the creation of consensus-based plans in a collaborative process by the demand-planning team, which is orchestrated using a single platform. Users can combine demand planning with supply management and strategic capacity to monitor, plan performance and adjust demand plans when variances arise. Its dashboard provides focused analysis of measures, including consensus demand plans, forecast accuracy exceptions, data errors/outliers and forecast value additions and accuracy.

Limitations

  • RapidResponse does not offer a free trial.
  • Its mobile application can only be used for scorecards and dashboards.
  • It does not offer planned vs. actual tracking.
Price: $$$$$
Deployment:
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

Blue Yonder

Blue Yonder is a cloud-based supply chain management platform that powers digital transformation through machine learning, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and software-as-a-service. Users can plan to operate their business with a reduced total cost of ownership, speed, agility and innovation using Blue Yonder and Microsoft Azure.

This supply chain visibility tool provides organizations with solutions to analyze planning, retail and logistics. Blue Yonder is designed for industries that include retail hardlines, retail soft lines, process manufacturing, discrete manufacturing, grocery and pharmacy, restaurants and food service, third-party logistics and wholesale and distribution.

Blue Yonder

Blue Yonder’s Luminate Platform gives users quick access to global supply chain information

Top Benefits

  • Developer Ecosystem: It offers a developer ecosystem that brings together numerous expert partners having knowledge in each domain and helps in providing industry-leading expertise.
  • Mobility: Blue Yonder offers convenient mobile capabilities to enhance supply chain management. Its mobile offers include apps, mobile browsing, extensibility and available APIs.
  • Order Fulfillment: Order fulfillment allows users to leverage demand signals to create time-phased plans for inventory and distribution.
  • Sales and Operations Execution: It helps users keep sales and operations plans on track with the help of AI and ML tools that can predict and resolve issues. It can boost productivity and effectively integrate planning with execution.
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Key Features

  • Integrations, APIs and Services: It can integrate with AI, machine learning and API-led architecture powered by MuleSoft. Its digital platform runs on Microsoft Azure, which allows Blue Yonder to combine internal and external data from digital supply chain assets. Users can enhance, consume, mine, supplement and analyze datasets to identify previously unseen insights across the network for better AI and machine learning based decisions.
  • Forecasting: Its software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution can ensure forecast accuracy by gathering information from both active and passive data points, organizing and delivering proactive and prescriptive insights for forecast accuracy. It helps users develop a collaborative forecast that predicts consumer-driven demand across segments and throughout complete product life cycles.
  • Inventory Optimization: Blue Yonder provides end-to-end and innovative capabilities spanning inventory strategy, inventory planning and management of inventory execution. Make-to-order or make-to-stock inventory optimization can be deployed across industry sectors that include high-tech manufacturing, semiconductors, consumer durables, consumer electronics, food and beverage, apparel, fashion, life sciences, aerospace and defense.
  • Space and Floor Planning: This feature allows users to make decisions using 3D store representations. It helps manage, construct, analyze, optimize and distribute detailed in-store planograms. Users can create store layouts according to local customer demographics and preferences. It can rationalize selling space and create a layout using 3D models and an intuitive user interface.
  • Transportation Modeling: The modeling engine uses algorithms with functional depth and breadth for optimizing transportation environments. Its capabilities include cost representation, shipment consolidation, analysis of modal trade-offs, selection of cross-docking opportunities and integrated containerization and pallet positioning alongside item-aware constraint definitions and load building. It can also import relevant shipment information from Microsoft Access or other open database connectivity (ODBC) data sources. Its geo-coding feature allows the solution to show origin and destination sites.

Limitations

  • Does not provide an on-premise platform.
  • Does not offer RFID functionality in warehouse management.
Price: $$$$$
Deployment:
Platform:

Company Size Suitability: S M L

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Conclusion

There you have our list of supply chain visibility software solutions, along with their benefits and features. You can improve transparency in complex networks by integrating the right tools, which will translate into an increase in product quality and services delivered.

Although these are our top picks, it is critical to ensure that your chosen vendor fulfills your desired requirements. Make sure you analyze your unique business needs before making a final choice. For a side-by-side analysis of these software solutions, check out our comparison report that can shorten research times and provide you with an appropriate solution.

How has more improved supply chain visibility helped your organizations? And what tools have you considered and why? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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Pooja VermaWhat is Supply Chain Visibility? Top Software Tools in 2020

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