Building and maintaining supply chain transparency can deliver many benefits for retailers. It can optimise performance and efficiencies, support governance, reduce risks, and create the ability to better manage customer expectations to strengthen satisfaction.

So, how do retailers enhance supply chain visibility to reap these rewards? It starts with three key steps:

1) Take a goals-led approach

It can sound straight-forward to start with objectives, with retail teams asking themselves where they need supply chain transparency and what they want to achieve with the resulting data. This isn’t always the case. Many ambitions for visibility will be confined by the limitations of supply chain technology and software.

Retail supply chains evolve so quickly – and even more so during periods of market volatility and disruption – that supply chain software is repeatedly added to. Plug-ins and upgrades will take place, which can deliver some short-term fixes, but don’t keep pace with the demands placed on the supply chain or the wider business objectives that a retailer is aiming to hit. The end result is a legacy system that’s not fit for purpose, creating a ‘tail wagging dog’ situation. The possibilities of building supply chain transparency will be limited to what the legacy system can do, when the reality should be that goals are dictating the required levels of supply chain visibility.

Retailers should interrogate what data their supply chain software is providing, how readily available this information is, and how current it is. From here, consider exactly what the data isn’t showing about stock inventory management, from a business, supplier, and customer point of view.

2) Don’t settle for ‘not possible’ when closing the information gaps

One of the most important (and repeated) questions that retailers should ask themselves about their supply chain; is there full and clear understanding of that is happening at every stage of the supply chain, from sourcing right through to sale, and back again? This can sound like quite a lofty goal, especially when thinking about how large and extensive most supply chains are. However, end-to-end transparency is absolutely possible and an absolute necessity.

Retailers should have one central, control tower type view of their supply chain. This nucleus should be collating information from the various points throughout the supply chain and communicating back to them. It creates a rich, near real-time view of stock inventory and provides quick and easy access to data about what is happening when, where, and why in the supply chain.

Our award-winning Vector software does exactly this, delivering data via a dashboard and providing knowledge and understanding that optimises supply chain transparency. There should be no information gaps in a supply chain, and retailers shouldn’t settle for any attempted explanations or ambiguous answers about why supply chain blind spots exist.

3) Think about agility and transparency as a pair

Supply chain transparency is often quickly compromised by expansion, diversification, and changes in strategy. New inventory might be added to the chain, more sales channels could be integrated, additional suppliers introduced, and warehousing and fulfilment strategies adapted.

There are many variables, and one thing is certain, the most effective supply chains are constantly evolving. Retailers must approach supply chain transparency like a game of chess. It’s important to think a good few moves ahead, considering what might change and when in terms of the stock inventory management strategies. Granted, this is no easy feat – and even more difficult during turbulent periods of consumer confidence and economic instability – but can be achieved with bespoke solutions.

It’s possible to create supply chain software specific to a retailer’s goals and plans, factoring-in the capacity and contingencies to cope with change. This helps rapid developments from overwhelming a system’s capabilities and avoids a breakdown in the flow of data and communications that are so critical to supply chain transparency.

For further information about building and maintaining supply chain transparency, please click here.