Upstream visibility a huge challenge for European supply chains says survey

97% lack full visibility of tier three suppliers

While 99% of European supply chain professionals said that they had partial or full visibility for their own inventory and warehousing in a Reuters Events, Supply Chain and Maersk survey, just 3% report full visibility over tier three suppliers and 17% had only partial visibility.

The research, which canvassed over 200 European supply chain professionals and is free to download now here, highlights the difficulties in achieving strong visibility in upper tiers of supply chains.

In the survey 48% said they had no visibility at all for their tier three suppliers and 31% had only very limited visibility.

Further highlighting this issue is visibility over tier two suppliers, where a little under a third (32%) had some degree of visibility at this level, while 68% had limited or no visibility.

Meanwhile, looking at aspects of the supply much closer to the end customer, there was much higher visibility, with partial or full visibility for goods being shipped or stored by partners reported by 84% of respondents

The report noted that the type of logistics or manufacturing partner and their data sharing capabilities have a strong effect on visibility. For example, aircraft and container ships have strong tracking mechanisms via constantly emitting transponder information, leading goods in transit via air or ship to be some of the most visible elements in the supply chain. Thirty-seven percent have full visibility over airfreight and 40% have partial visibility, compared to 25% and 54% for seaborne freight, respectively.

However, when these goods land and are put into the often highly manual, physical-document-oriented area of ports and customs, there is a substantial decline in visibility, with just 18% reporting full visibility at this stage.

Similarly, the report noted gaps in real-time visibility across supply chains, which is increasingly important for responsiveness in dynamic situations. Although 55% of respondents said they have real time visibility on at least half of their supply chain operations, just 1% said they had real time visibility across the complete supply chain, and instead 24% said they could only track 25-49% and 12% said that under a quarter of their supply chain could be viewed in real time.

The research also identified more resilient companies and found that these companies have deeper visibility into their supply chains, highlighting it as a competitive advantage. These high performing firms were more likely to have partial or full visibility over goods being shipped or stored by partners compared to the rest of the sample (88% versus 71%), as well as for in maritime transit (84% versus 70%) and in ports and customs (84% versus 52%).

“The name of the game is visibility, traceability and predictivity,” comments Geanina-Lavinia Sincu, Regional Head of Lead Logistics Products & Cold Chain Management – Europe, Maersk. “When unexpected events occurs and plans need to deviate, these capabilities will allow companies to use technological solutions to slow down, speed up, or shift direction.”

“Many companies are siloed in approach and focus!” warns Mikkel Rasmussen, Senior Vice President – Global Head of Sales, Maersk. “Starting with the outset of the consumer need and then aligning between functions … will drive significant financial benefits across the value chain.”

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