Supply Chain and Logistics Management

Enhancing Supply Chain Visibility Through Real-Time Tracking

March 01, 2024

Supply chain visibility through real-time tracking on a mobile device app.

Shipping and logistics experts list a lack of adequate supply chain visibility as one of the main reasons for the massive supply chain failures that occurred in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While enhanced clarity tends to optimize all types of business operations, many people misunderstand the specific definition and benefits of visibility in the supply chain. 

Visibility is just one of many principles and topics covered as part of a comprehensive supply chain and logistics management program. A quality program, like the one offered at North American Trade Schools (NATS), will clearly demonstrate how the various areas of supply chain and logistics work together. 

What Is Supply Chain Visibility (SCV)?

Supply chain visibility (SCV) is the degree of transparency inherent in any set of supply chain systems, processes, and operations. A key defining characteristic of SCV is supply chain tracking (or supply chain traceability), which involves the ability to track individual items over the entire course of its supply chain journey. In some cases, this might mean tracing the journey of raw materials into a manufacturing plant as well as the journey of the finished products that exit it.

Importance of SCV and Traceability in Modern Businesses

As massive e-commerce retailers like Amazon now dominate the global consumer marketplace, shipping has become more prevalent for businesses at both domestic and international levels. As the sheer volume and practical complexity of shipments have increased over the years, companies have outsourced many components of their supply chains and sacrificed a great deal of their control over shipping and logistics operations.

This is why SCV and traceability have become particularly important supply chain and logistics issues in the 2020s. As supply chains become increasingly complex, the value inherent in SCV and traceability is only likely to grow for businesses of all types and sizes.

SCV is driven by modern technology that offers capabilities that would have been unimaginable for the supply chain and logistics professionals of yesterday. This technology employs artificial intelligence (AI) and other state-of-the-art tools to trace inventory in real time and provide a broad spectrum of operational insights.

Why Supply Chain Visibility Is Important in Customer Service

If you want satisfied customers, you must deliver products quickly and meet all other shipment expectations. To do this, you will need to order incoming supplies to meet demand and avoid shortages that might otherwise hinder production. You will also need to oversee the smooth and efficient movement of your products to the final consumer. In all these operations, you should take care to avoid impending shipment bottlenecks and meet all relevant compliance directives.

SCV can help supply chain and logistics professionals do all the above and more. Companies can use SCV tech to make supply chain changes to meet changing consumer demands. By tracing each movement of a particular shipping item, they can better respond to unforeseen supply chain challenges. Even better, they can offer customers access to real-time shipment tracking, which can make receiving shipments far more convenient.

How Can Real-Time Tracking Revolutionize Supply Chain Management?

From boosting logistics efficiency to improving customer service, real-time tracking is changing the face of supply chain operations in a variety of ways. The transparency real-time tracking offers can even aid in the development and maintenance of strong and productive supplier relationships. It has also proven to enhance the bottom business line by stabilizing business operations and producing bigger profit margins.

Here are just a few more ways that real-time supply chain tracking is revolutionizing the field of supply chain management:

Compliance with Regulations

One of the most fundamental hurdles you must clear to run a successful business is ensuring full compliance with all regulatory standards and guidelines that are relevant to your supply chain and logistics activities. Real-time tracking and other SCV measures boost transparency to support a broad spectrum of reporting functions.

Enhanced Risk Management

From its ability to foresee random supply bottlenecks to its ability to identify even momentary delays, real-time tracking enhances supply chain and logistics risk management on numerous different fronts. Additionally, AI systems can address many problems instantly and automatically after detecting them.


Real-time tracking brings accountability to shipping that offers tremendous value to consumers. Up-to-date shipment traceability has led to more accurate arrival estimates and advancements in areas that range from inventory planning to resource optimization.

Improved Quality

All three of the real-time tracking benefits above lead to improved supply chain and logistics quality, which can boost customer satisfaction and lead to any number of competitive advantages. Other key SCV quality improvements include the ability to compare different transport routes with a focus on measuring discrepancies and altering planned routes to maximize efficiency.

Challenges in Implementing Real-Time Supply Chain Tracking

Although the advantages of real-time supply chain tracking are quite obvious, its implementation doesn’t come without its share of challenges. To better wrap our minds around these challenges, it may be helpful to break them down into three categories: technical, operational, and financial.

Technical Challenges

One of the best ways to sidestep the many technical challenges that go hand in hand with real-time tracking technology implementation is picking the right technology and the right vendor to install it. Keep your supply chain wants and needs in mind while searching for the right vendor—paying close attention to matters such as system customization, data security, and technical support capabilities.

Operational Challenges

Real-time tracking and other SCV measures have proven exceedingly effective solutions to common shipping and inventory problems in areas that include loading, unloading, transport, shelving, picking, and packing. Tailoring your system to address your chosen areas of focus can present significant obstacles during the implementation process.

Financial Challenges

There is no getting around the fact that implementing real-time tracking and other SCV measures comes with a substantial up-front price tag. Over a relatively brief period, however, these measures typically pay for themselves through the increased efficiencies that they engender. Given its proven ability to help anticipate and respond to supply chain disruptions, it can protect you against a supply chain catastrophe that might be just around the corner.

Overcoming Challenges in Real-Time Tracking Implementation

While the challenges to effective real-time supply chain tracking are quite real, you can address them immediately or stop them before they start by adhering to the following general guidelines:

Utilize Efficient Software Solutions

SCV software optimizes supply chain logistics by combining real-time tracking of shipments with automated operational and analytical processing to reduce delivery times, increase on-time deliveries, cut operating costs, and improve customer service. As stressed above, the best software solutions for you will depend on what you expect from SCV and the unique supply chain/logistics challenges you face.

Adopt Best Practices for Supply Chain Management

Modern technology can accomplish amazing things when it comes to managing effective supply chain and logistics operations. However, even the most advanced AI will fail to produce optimal results without the strategic guidance and oversight of skilled and knowledgeable human beings. 

One of the most crucial best practices of productive supply chain management is establishing a unified operational structure. Today’s supply chain manager must ensure smooth functionality among various business entities that often include outsourced, third-party service providers. With a productive network in place, the supply chain manager can establish standard operating procedures (SOP) to meet specific goals. Because the supply chain and logistics world is highly dynamic, wise managers will encourage ongoing feedback from all team members to better align SOP with goals over the long term.

Future Trends in SCV and Real-Time Tracking

As supply chain and logistics leaders look to the future of the industry, they see an increased focus on SCV. By combining the data from real-time tracking with data such as traffic patterns and weather conditions, SCV systems can effectively circumvent logistics issues and plan to avoid them altogether. Around the world, shippers are leveraging the power of real-time tracking to make more timely supply orders and enhance customer service.

Here are just a few other trends to consider regarding SCV and real-time tracking:

Integration With Other Technologies

Industry experts agree that real-time tracking works best when paired with AI, cloud storage, and other interrelated technologies. In fact, effective modern supply chain tracking demands integration with devices and equipment empowered by the Internet of Things (IoT). Using a system of sensors and codes, supply chain IoT allows physical equipment and inventory items to interact intelligently with one another to track movement in real time with full transparency.

Potential Industry Innovations

From cloud storage to IoT, tech leaders are constantly pioneering new hardware and software in different fields that relate to supply chain and logistics. Digital twinning is just one of many innovations in the field of AI. A virtual modeling of targeted physical assets using digital technology, twinning uses machine learning algorithms to better understand supply chain operations, conduct supply chain testing, monitor supply chain contingencies, and resolve supply chain problems.

Is Investing in Real-Time Tracking Worth It?

Assessing the ultimate value of real-time supply chain tracking is something that each organization will have to determine individually. But it is critical to note that you can make the integration of real-time tracking far more cost-effective by clearly defining your unique goals and making the services you choose to secure highly specific Many organizations discover that real-time tracking analytics greatly enhance supply chain operations by identifying areas for improvement, optimizing performance, and boosting financial and business growth.

Integration and Compatibility With Existing Systems

Supply chain and logistics professionals can significantly offset the upfront costs associated with an investment in real-time tracking by ensuring that their existing operational platforms and digital systems are ready for integration. This means evaluating technology to confirm or achieve compatibility with real-time tracking according to all essential performance benchmarks. You must also educate and prepare your team for the real-time tracking transformation by honestly communicating both its advantages and the challenges that its integration is likely to present.

Cost Considerations and ROI Analysis Factors

Though the hassles and headaches of real-time tracking integration may be difficult to quantify, you can effectively assess financial cost considerations using return on investment (ROI) calculations. A common investment appraisal calculation, ROI can help supply chain managers determine which, if any, real-time tracking measures to take.

Benefits of Pursuing a Supply Chain Management Program

Beyond matters related to SCV and real-time tracking, a good global supply chain and logistics management program, like the one at NATS, is an excellent way to prepare for a career in supply chain management or perfect your existing logistics operations.

Check out the Global Supply Chain and Logistics Management program from North American Trade Schools, then fill out the form today to request more information and see if this program is right for you!

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