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July 8, 2019

Why Supply Chain Visibility is Critically Important

By Mark Petersen, Vice President of Transportation, C.H. Robinson Worldwide

While not always predictable, external factors can have a significant impact on supply chains. It is more important than ever for businesses to know exactly where items are in the supply chain at all times. The ability to watch and monitor a supply chain, often referred to as supply chain visibility, is the best way to adapt to external events and optimize your supply chain for whatever the market brings next.

What is supply chain visibility?

Your ability to track different goods and/or products from pickup to delivery determines your level of supply chain visibility. Ideally, you have a clear view of inventory and activity at all times.

Having a clear view enables you to identify and avoid disruptions and seamlessly integrate with fully automated interactions. As a result, your supply chain becomes stronger and more agile—an even more critical step when shipping sensitive products, like fresh produce.

Total supply chain visibility goes beyond locating your goods. Applying your own shipping data with events happening around the world can deliver advanced insights on how your supply chain works, recommendations to add efficiency, and strategies to reduce risks.

Benefits to clear supply chain visibility

•  Ability to better anticipate and mitigate disruptions

•  Greater agility and flexibility

•  Faster speed to market through clear planning

•  Data-driven analytics to improve long-term results


Supply chain visibility needs the right technology

Technology plays a huge role in optimal supply chain visibility and acts as a true “X-ray machine.” The right technology can provide the visibility needed to accurately assess supply chain infrastructure and performance.

The good news is that when you choose to bring in an external provider, you can expect them to dedicate their time to analyzing the opportunities and gaps in your ordering, shipping, transportation, and receiving processes.

Automation offered by the best supply chain providers helps ensure freight flows easily through the supply chain. By creating a “universal language” that is spoken digitally by all parties, technology considerably improves both speed and clarity.

With Western Growers’ exclusive third party logistics provider, C.H. Robinson, you can use proprietary technology to optimize your supply chain and improve visibility—without adding headcount.

Our experience and scale deliver a unique information advantage, creating better outcomes for our customers. At C.H. Robinson, the heart of our technology advantage is our proprietary Navisphere® platform. It connects a network of over 200,000 companies in a single global transportation management system, providing real-time insights and visibility to shippers. The level of automation and connectivity to Navisphere is increasing every day. Currently, over 75% of customer shipments are tendered electronically, and 50% of shipments across all modes are fully automated from order tender to carrier selection.

Not only does the information captured through Navisphere provide you with better visibility, it helps us create an advantage with carriers. Our information advantage helps align carriers to the freight and lanes they want. It is just one more reason carriers choose to work with C.H. Robinson over digital freight brokers.

Our data science team’s deep understanding of predicting where capacity will be in the future, allows us to effectively match our customers’ freight with the right equipment. Our intent is to create a better plan for your freight. By doing so, your supply chain becomes more adaptable and efficient.

How to improve your supply chain visibility

You can’t achieve better supply chain visibility through one single change. Implementing technology must be an organization-wide focus to improve awareness. Here are two steps on the path to greater supply chain visibility:


Choose automation and advanced technology

Visibility isn’t about having eyes on everything, all the time. It’s about making sure everyone involved in the supply chain has the information they need, including updates, exception alerts, and knowledge of what to do when things go wrong. This is greatly assisted with automation tools that give back precious time usually spent on menial tasks. With assistance from advanced technology you can optimize route options to provide carriers the freight they want in the lanes they want while maximizing efficiencies.


Encourage employees to be versatile in their supply chain knowledge

From the top of the chain, down to the bottom, employees should be versatile. Employees shouldn’t be expected to specialize in one aspect of the supply chain. There is room for improvement across each level of your supply chain—this should be the focus. Strict specialization has the potential to put theoretical blinders on your employees, which will lead to limited visibility across the tiers of the supply chain. These employees are your eyes and ears, and training them to be versatile in their roles will pair well with technological advances. Multi-talented employees can connect the dots and independently solve issues.


What’s next

Traditionally, companies built supply chains with a focus on logistics. Analyzing the shipments of goods and optimizing their movement has always been the key to improvement. However, as supply chains grow, visibility through technology is the key to success. With C.H. Robinson’s unique information advantage, you can create smart solutions and better outcomes. Learn more about the Western Growers Transportation Program’s exclusive provider, C.H. Robinson, and how technology can benefit you by visiting