Written by guest contributor Megan Ray Nichols, a freelance stem writer and the editor of Schooled By Science. For more from Megan, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog here.
Transparency in your supply chain is not just an option any longer. Consumers demand clarity about where their products come from. This means every business at all steps of the supply chain needs to be open about their processes. It’s part of what consumers expect of good business practices. Companies that are more transparent about their supply chains will benefit by having more trusting customers and being responsible members of the business world.
Making every part of your supply chain transparent comes with risks. In some businesses, the risks are security-based. However, if you personally don’t know about every part of your supply chain, you could be taking on unknown chances. Look at risks and gaps in your knowledge about your supply chain. Make a thorough list of these. These questions will guide you to the answers you need in the next step of opening your supply chain’s transparency.
Identifying risks in your supply chain and discussing them with those involved will help you close these gaps. You’ll protect your business even more from risk by making your supply chain as transparent as possible to your company and to your customers.
You’ll need to collect information to fill in your knowledge gaps. To do this, make connections with everyone in your supply chain. Get to know the people at every step. This will help you become more open about your business practices and supplies. Working with your suppliers also helps all parties involved mitigate supply chain risks and disruptions.
Your acquaintance with your suppliers can provide you with the information needed to determine if you qualify for a designated mark. The Fairtrade mark on a product would make 75 percent of customers view the product more favorably. You can only bear this mark or other designations for organic, kosher or halal if your products adhere to the required standards throughout the supply chain.
Embrace Emerging Technologies
Consumers have technology available to help with finding out about supply chains. You can also use technology to make your chain more transparent. While internet searches can take you so far, consider using radio frequency identification (RFID), cloud computing and other tracking methods to determine your products’ origins and destinations.
RFID once meant using a large chip on a product. Today, trackers are the size of sand grains. They can be unobtrusively installed on jewels or embedded in the paper of books. These RFID trackers can link to online information about that product. For instance, it can help a jeweller track the journey of an individual diamond, not just the shipment.
Cloud computing with tracking apps allows you and others in your supply chain to track the location of a product remotely as it moves from its point of origin to the final customer sale. By integrating technology into your supply chain, you could save money. Do as Walmart did and pass the savings to your customers, or use the extra to increase your profit.
Use Third Parties
Several companies make it their business to track supply chains. Use information about best practices for information about your supply chain and making it more transparent. This is an especially useful tactic if completely making every step of your supply chain would divulge proprietary information.
SC Johnson used this strategy to indicate the sustainability of its fragrances with the aid of the International Fragrance Association. Without describing the provenance of all its ingredients, SC Johnson was able to reassure its customers its products were safe and sustainable. Because these auditing companies specialize in tracking supplies and their environmental and societal impacts, they have deeper databases with more information than corporations might have.
Benefits of Becoming Transparent
When you become transparent, your business gains many benefits both internally and externally.
First, when you are transparent with your customers, they will be more trusting of your company. It saves them a step from having to do the digging themselves. When you’re more open about your supply chain, you can begin to market your trustworthiness to your customers.
Additionally, you’ll be able to close gaps that could open your business to risk. At the warehouse level, creating a transparent system of documentation can keep employees informed of new procedures. Implementing this into your warehouse will improve employee safety.
With greater transparency, you’ll have the chance to work out solutions to problems with those on both sides of your supply chain more easily. Clear communication between suppliers will prevent delays from getting out of hand. Lastly, working with those in your supply chain makes it easier to cut out wasteful practices.
Transparency and the Future of Supply Chains
The future of supply chains is not shrouded in mystery. Consumers are demanding more information about all the products they buy. Become a part of this by disclosing all you can about your supply chain to those both upstream and downstream of your company. When you embrace transparency, you’ll gain trust and improve your business practices.