Data sharing – the key to unlocking supply chain potential

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International supply chains and involved processes have become extremely diverse and highly complex, from the manufacturing and processing of relevant materials to the packaging and distribution of products.

Add to that the frequently changing regulatory framework that governs global trade and today’s competitive and often fragmented landscape of cross-border supply chains, and it’s a very challenging environment to navigate. 

Modern supply chains don’t just need to run like clockwork, they also need to operate cheaper, faster, safer, and more transparent while demonstrating resilience and agility at the same time. Delays at any point in the supply chain cannot be afforded. Delivering high performance in such complex ecosystems today depends on the effective collaboration of all the partners within a supply chain. This includes passing materials, products, and associated data and documentation smoothly back and forth the entire value chain.

Automated real-time exchange of data has become essential for achieving this type of smooth collaboration between supply chain partners. When goods move or services are provided, the relevant data must flow with it. Such automation relies on the integration of processes and IT systems beyond organisational boundaries – both in the physical and in the digital world – as a basic prerequisite if supply chains are to deliver on-time performance and add to competitiveness and profitability.

To date, the digital status quo of such integrated collaboration in supply chains is lagging behind. But pushing forward the digitisation of cross-border supply chains on this level has become inevitable now. To successfully manage the challenges arising from the increasing complexity of supply chains, the rising number of participating parties, and the constantly changing environment, comprehensive visibility is required and will lay the groundwork for effective collaboration as driver for competitiveness. 

With changing consumer demands and new business models shaking up global markets, calls for more flexibility and transparency of product and delivery options can no longer be ignored. New players in each market segment now offer more innovative services within ever-faster delivery timeframes.

The key for business leaders now lies in overcoming current obstacles and tackling supply chain collaboration, integration, and transparency comprehensively. Onboarding all relevant partners in the integration process is vital, as are clear processes for the collaboration and defined standards for all relevant data exchanges.

Using one single set of data for each movement of materials in the value chain is a key objective in this process. It forms the basis for efficient real-time sharing of secure data. Powerful visibility platforms based on cloud technology facilitate this, making single data sets readily available for all authorised supply chain partners.

But the benefits of cloud technology for visibility and collaboration go far beyond establishing much needed real-time transparency. Such solutions also accommodate an automated flow of data that in turn triggers further automated follow-up workflows along the supply chain in all relevant systems within and outside of organisational boundaries.

Empowering all involved parties to enrich relevant, shared data with more information and (paperless) documentation in line with respective compliance requirements in such an automated way significantly reduces processing times and operating costs all around.

Consolidating the supply chain “under one roof” and driving automation delivers a wide range of additional benefits including, but not limited to, reduced risks and overheads, greater innovation, assurance of supply and compliance, tighter quality control, and better local availability of goods.

It’s not an overstatement to say that data – or rather, a shared, automated and consistent flow of relevant data – holds the key to creating efficient, compliant and demand-driven supply chains that increase profitability and empower companies to navigate changing marketplaces successfully.


Geoff Taylor

Geoff Taylor is Managing Director of AEB in the UK and has been with the company since 2017. Together with his team, Geoff works closely with manufacturers and traders across industry sectors to understand the impact of market developments on global trade processes and what it takes to build efficient and flexible supply chains in the digital age to ensure future success.

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