Achieving supply chain transparency is often easier said than done. Gaining visibility into your supply chains is a significant task that requires multiple stakeholders to work together towards a common goal. In a global and fast-moving environment, this becomes even more challenging. Today, we look at the top 3 challenges of supply chain mapping and how to overcome them.
1. Figuring out where to start
Supply chain mapping is a broad task that can take many forms. Some businesses choose to focus on their immediate suppliers, while others choose to focus on certain commodities or regions. To determine where to get started, we like to evaluate four factors:
- Onboarding maturity: Focus on a commodity whose suppliers are in a position to embark on a mapping project. Often this translates to a willingness to use new technology and new methods.
- Key compliance issues: Consider what issues pose the highest supply chain risk for your business. This can be based on previous incidents that have impacted your company specifically, or issues that affect your industry as a whole.
- Key sourcing markets for risk: Depending on what issues you choose to address, it may make sense to focus on certain countries or regions.
- Consumer interest: Follow the consumer’s lead. If consumers are concerned about specific commodities, such as palm oil, or specific issues, such as working conditions in Bangladeshi factories, consider these issues as a starting point.
Supply chain transparency is achieved step by step and begins with a single supply chain. It is important to choose the right starting point to ensure success.
2. Gaining corporate approval
Another main challenge of beginning a supply chain transparency project is getting the approval to start one in the first place. To convince your business to allocate time and resources (both human and financial) to a supply chain transparency project, the benefits and objectives must be clear from the start.
In an earlier blog post we discussed in detail the benefits of supply chain transparency, but the main takeaway is this: identify ROI. While transparency is an admirable goal, transparency for the sake of transparency is vague and, ultimately, unconvincing. Instead, define how transparency will impact your department and your business as a whole—whether this means ensuring compliance with modern slavery regulations, identifying inefficiencies in the supply chain, sharing supply chain data with consumers to increase engagement, or something else altogether.
3. Convincing your partners to participate
Once you have convinced your company to support a supply chain transparency project, the next challenge is convincing your supply chain partners to participate.
The first way to address this is through clear, upfront, and collaborative communication. When approaching your suppliers, clearly communicate the context for the project, such as the need to meet a corporate sustainability objective, as well as the consequences of non-participation, such as the loss of business relationship. Communicate this information at the very start of the project to avoid any misunderstandings. And importantly, approach your partners with a willingness to collaborate; give them a chance to respond, ask follow-up questions, and coordinate internally to respond to your request.
At times, suppliers may be hesitant to share data that they consider proprietary. Provide them with details on how their data will be used and safeguarded, and only ask for information that is necessary to achieve your goal.
Of course, the specific challenges you may encounter in a supply chain transparency project will vary depending on your business, your goals, and your supply chains. But by following these guidelines, businesses can address some of the most common challenges and begin their journeys towards more transparent and risk-free supply chains.