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How End-to-End Visibility Improves Supply Chain Agility

A Q&A with TradeBeyond’s Eric Linxwiler

Supply chain disruptions have increased in frequency in recent years, presenting a global-sized challenge for many businesses. What can companies do about them, other than reacting and trying to formulate responses when they occur?

Multi-enterprise collaboration, according to Eric Linxwiler, Senior VP at TradeBeyond, enables businesses to coordinate business practices across their entire enterprise:

Q: How can end-to-end visibility help organizations cope with global disruptions?

A: End-to-end visibility is critical for supply chain agility, and it helps organizations stay ahead of global disruptions by providing insights into their extended supplier base and allowing them to identify potential vulnerabilities and alternate sourcing opportunities early. The potential for global disruptions is vast – they could include anything from weather-related disruptions, port backups and material shortages and they could stem from anything including political tensions, labor strife, or even war. The pandemic underscored just how vulnerable supply chains are and just how much risk supply chain managers must navigate. Visibility is also critical to meeting ESG goals and staying ahead of rapidly evolving supply chain due diligence laws.

Q: Is there resistance to multi-enterprise collaboration? If so, why?

A: Historically, there was some resistance to multi-enterprise collaboration, mostly because of a lack of trust among different organizations, who understandably were reluctant to share confidential information. That resistance has receded greatly in recent years, however, as businesses have come to understand the value of data accuracy and timeliness, and the advantages of exchanging insights with a partner network.  The resistance has lowered in phases. First global clients began requesting supply chain improvements that went beyond simple price reduction. Multi-enterprise collaboration is key to understanding all the inefficiencies along the complete value chain. Secondly, recent legislation on ESG as well as customer demand for sustainably sourced products has made it critical for information to be transparent. Collaboration is more than ever necessary to achieve these two objectives.

Now, more often, the challenge we see is that businesses want to implement this kind of collaboration but don‘t have the systems in place to do so, since most supply chain management platforms are limited by their enterprise-specific nature and don‘t facilitate the data sharing necessary for true supply chain agility. Thankfully, multiple advanced multi-enterprise platform solutions have made this collaboration seamless and efficient.

Q: What are the benefits of multi-enterprise collaboration?

A: The benefits are boundless: cost reductions, increased efficiency, improved product quality, improved customer satisfaction, increased market share, increased competitive advantage, increased innovation, and closer supplier relationships as well as a much more agile supply chain able to respond rapidly to sudden changes from raw material shortages to political pressure and weather disruptions. The benefits are particularly pronounced in the area of ESG, since integrations with sustainability databases like amfori, WRAP, and the Higg Index can help companies much more efficiently and reliably monitor their suppliers and control the social and environmental impact of the products they source.

Q: Is it for all sizes of companies, or just very large ones?

A: The benefits are compounded for companies with especially large or complicated supply chains, but even the smallest companies can benefit greatly from access to timely data and insights from their partner networks.

Q: How can identifying gaps in data lead to improved processes?

A: Identifying data gaps can help organizations identify potential delays or bottlenecks as well as potential risks in the supply chain, allowing them to take corrective measures. It’s also key to improving data accuracy, so companies know that they’re always working from the most current (and shared) source of data. This drives down product costs by speeding workflows and reducing errors and mistakes. More data points allow companies to optimize processes from product design and development to sourcing and shipping. And with the implementation of AI, more data points also improve predictive models, which is key for process improvement.

Q: What does TradeBeyond do?

A: TradeBeyond is a multi-enterprise supply chain platform that optimizes supply chain processes from end to end, including product development, sourcing, supplier management, order management, quality and logistics. I sometimes liken it to “a control tower of control towers,” since our platform oversees everything – the visibility it introduces is truly unparalleled. Tightening regulations have made this visibility more crucial than ever. Our platform allows companies to map their supply chain to the Nth tier and document, track, and manage the chain of custody for the raw materials they source, which is now necessary under the requirements of global supply chain laws. TradeBeyond ensures that companies are sourcing to the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility.

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