In an Aberdeen study, “Supply Chain Visibility Roadmap Report,” executives interviewed from 524 companies identified improving user visibility to order, inventory and shipment status as a top priority. Yet 79% of large enterprises (over $1 billion) point to poor supply chain visibility as their top concern for managing global operations. One reason is the plethora of data in several unconnected locations yielding at best fragmented supply chain information.

According to Beth Enslow, Aberdeen senior VP of enterprise research, “Most companies depend on a hodgepodge of spreadsheets, carrier tracking websites and homegrown department-centric applications that drain staff productivity and prevent proactive management.” In fact, an Accenture information management study of more than 1,000 middle managers of large US and UK companies says that some difficulty lies in the way managers gather and store information. Most managers keep valuable information on their own PC or in email accounts. Only 16% use a collaborative workplace such as a company’s intranet portal.

Manufacturers who integrate this disparate information and make it available to those who need it will succeed. According to a recent GMA Logistics Survey of food processors and manufacturers, companies are beginning to collaborate with their partners and to coordinate and integrate supply chain activities to reduce costs and performance. But in addition to transportation, distribution and inventory functions, end-to-end supply chain technology must also include customer service and planning functions.

Enslow says that managers who deploy visibility software with cross-functional access achieve better results across key metrics. For example, supply chain visibility technology users are 2.4 times as likely to have reduced their inventory levels since 2004, three times as likely to have faster order-to-delivery times and twice as likely to have on on-time delivery rates of 95% or higher. Manufacturers now find that they can exploit visibility functionality offered by their logistics service providers, cargo portals, transportation management system vendors, global trade solution providers and others.