End-to-end supply chain visibility is one of the fastest-growing software categories in the modern business world. It offers real-time insights into orders and shipments, wherever they may be around the world or in the product life cycle. This insight allows businesses to realize tremendous value within transportation, warehousing, customer service and beyond.
Like any complex software tool, however, the potential return-on-investment (ROI) of a supply chain visibility solution is dependent on a learning curve, and getting maximum value from the system won’t happen overnight.
That said, there are many ways to fast-track your time-to-value with real-time visibility. In this post, I’m going to walk you through six of the top ways leading companies are supercharging their real-time visibility implementations and getting real value, fast.
A good plan creates alignment across people, process and technology — the three essential pillars of any successful technology platform or tool. If you’re going to maximize the ROI you gain from your supply chain visibility implementation, you’ll first need to optimize each of these three areas.
People are the core of any business, so it’s fitting that we begin with preparing your workforce to gain value from your new real-time supply chain visibility platform. To start, put the right team in place by mapping out who will be involved with the project and to what extent they’ll have responsibility for ensuring this new technology’s success.
Externally, include your carriers and suppliers in your planning, too. One of the beauties of a modern visibility solution is that it allows you to connect and share data with carriers, suppliers and other stakeholders, just like you would do with your customers.
For most businesses, the impact of their chosen supply chain visibility solution will go far beyond the transportation department, even though that will likely be the core user group.
Remember: The broader the group you bring to the visibility table, the greater your return on investment will be. However, as FourKites super-user Jeff Covington of Smithfield Foods noted in a recent webinar, it pays to start with a core group of users who have clearly-defined ownership and responsibilities. Then, once you’ve found a working formula, rapidly expand that process to the greater organization.
The second pillar of quick time-to-value with supply chain visibility is strong processes. Without putting the processes in place that empower your team members to make the most out of this new technology, the returns on your real-time visibility investment will be limited.
The first thing you have to do is define your ultimate goals. Set your business objectives, map out how you’re going to get there and what value you’ll see once you get there. Then repeat this process for the next phase of supply chain visibility implementation.
At FourKites, we like to refer to this as our Crawl-Walk-Run Approach. When you’re just getting started with supply chain visibility, you’re going to spend more time putting the processes in place, training personnel, and communicating the value of the technology to the many varied stakeholders throughout your organization.
We started a couple of years ago, developing a technology roadmap, and visibility was part of that. With each of those milestones on that roadmap, we were able to demonstrate what we would gain in that piece of it. So it took putting that together, but then also getting a team of people that was cross-functional, that started to tell a story about our journey and about what visibility might mean to our organization.
– Crystal Feasby | Director, Global Logistics
Eventually, you’ll reach the Walk phase, where you’ll start to see your hard work begin to pay off and bring real, tangible ROI. Of course, this will only whet your appetite for the limitless possibilities that supply chain visibility can deliver once you have the structure and experience necessary to reach the Run phase.
“Keep this in mind: The goal is not to run before you can crawl or walk. The goal is to go from crawling to walking to running in as little time as possible.”
Why is this such a critical distinction? Because, in the words of one long-time enterprise FourKites customer, real-time visibility is not like a toaster. You can’t just plug it in and let it go.
Really, a more accurate comparison would be the difference between a modern, fully-equipped kitchen and a campfire. It’s going to take some time and effort to learn how everything in the kitchen works, but once you do you’re never going to want to go back.
Much like the Crawl-Walk-Run process described above, proper implementation of any new technology allows you to achieve smaller goals early on, building momentum while setting the foundation for future growth. In a recent webinar on how to fast-track ROI with real-time visibility, Kim Segel, Director of Global Transportation at Zebra Technologies shared this exact piece of advice:
“Really celebrate the small wins,” she said. “Big wins can be hard to get with all the challenges that everyone is facing across the supply chain today. So those small wins or celebrations are super important with regards to FourKites, to our success in change management and getting ownership within our organization.”
The key is to never stop laying the foundation for future success. This means that achievements like onboarding your first carrier, saving your first shipment, and achieving the 90% of carrier connectivity ensured by the FourKites Carrier Connect Guarantee are all worthy of celebration, recognition and praise.
Learn what data points, formats and delivery methods work best for your situation, and allow you to achieve maximum time-to-value in both the near- and the long-term. Every business is different, and one of the biggest advantages of end-to-end visibility is the vast number of ways you can customize the technology to suit your business needs.
Many of the most successful customers within the FourKites network started by copying what other successful businesses have already done to achieve quick ROI, then gradually built their own custom workflows and capabilities.
The FourKites Community is a great resource for accessing the expertise of companies at all stages of the visibility journey. Since its inception, it has given rise to hundreds of customer-led innovations and product developments, including one of the biggest FourKites platform redesigns in company history.
Take the time to strategically make sure you’re providing the most helpful information possible to your customer, which in our case is our stores. Ace has worked very closely with FourKites to customize the landing page with information that makes the most sense…There’s some information that might be sensitive that we don’t want complete visibility to, so we really had to make sure that we’re making the right decisions on what we’re able to share.
– Karen Helton, Last Mile Logistics Manager, Ace Hardware Corporation
One last piece of advice – it’s impossible to understate the importance of selecting the right supply chain visibility provider for your business. Not just for the features and product capabilities you need, but for culture and vision as well.
When Ryder selected FourKites to help implement a visibility portal to manage and share transportation data with its vast network of customers, they weren’t looking for only the technology that could get the job done, they wanted the team who would best support and assist them in their supply chain goals, both long- and short-term.
“We believed in the capabilities but more importantly we wanted to select the right provider that had the long-term vision with us and that’s why we selected FourKites.”
Gary Allen, VP Innovation & Supply Chain Excellence, Ryder System, Inc.
Here are a few of the things to look for when evaluating a new supply chain visibility provider — or to evaluate whether your current provider is the best fit for your needs:
If you’d like to learn more about how FourKites can help address your business needs and enable lightning-fast time-to-value with real-time supply chain visibility, check out our recent webinar with Jason Frerich and Katie Mineck, or give us a shout directly. We’re always happy to help.