Success in the supply chain industry depends heavily on any company's ability to stay in constant communications with the partners it receives items from, and those it ships to. It is, after all, called the supply chain, and more may need to be done to put the emphasis on the latter word: If there's even one weak link, the whole system can grind to a halt without warning.

The good news is that the majority of the most successful companies in the industry recognize this necessity and continue to actively work toward it, according to Retail Systems Research. In fact, about 2 in every 3 of the most successful companies it examined in a recent study said working with partners to boost visibility into the entire supply chain was among their top priorities, while only slightly more than half of both average- and under-performing firms felt the same way.

Supply chain technology can help everyone get ahead.Supply chain technology can help everyone get ahead.

"We have years of data that points to the fact that supply chains aren't keeping up with the changing world of retail," said Brian Kilcourse, managing partner at RSR. "It's very hard to separate the customer experience from supply chain excellence, and retailers know this. The variability of consumer demand is the most widely reported business challenge in this year's research, but the best performers, what we call 'Retail Winners,' have a very different view of the world. The importance Retail Winners place on varying aspects of inventory - levels, agility and location - as well as social and environmental issues, reveals a vastly different positioning strategy."

Using tech to meet the goal
Companies now have myriad options for increasing visibility into the total supply chain, including data sharing and implementing technology that leverages the internet of things to accomplish this task, according to The Manufacturer. To that end, many increasingly turn to the blockchain, which can assign unique identifiers to individual shipped items or packages. This allows companies to track everything from source to final destination.

Using that information represents not only an improvement for individual tracking, but also big-picture improvements in smoothing out supply chain inefficiencies, the report said. While you can certainly look at the "micro" data to see where a shipment has been, is, or is going at any given time, you can also use it for the "macro" view. That allows you to see where inefficiencies consistently originate, and then work with your partners to deal with those problems - all on an ongoing basis.

Investment opportunities abound
More good news in this sphere: Such technology is widely available and experts say it tends to deliver immediate results, according to Supply Chain Digital. One development giant recently found that when companies implement this kind of management tech, their satisfaction with the visibility they get into their overall supply increases an average of 35%. They are also able to increase order cycle times by 40% and boost on-time deliveries by more than 80%.

The evidence is clear that when companies are able to implement technology that improves visibility, it provides a lot of positives for their business operations. This, in turn, increases the incentive to work with partners to get on the same page in this regard, so that everyone succeeds together.

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