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May 09, 2018

How to Improve Supply Chain Visibility With SKU Level Tracking Of Containers

SKU numbers will vastly help you increase supply chain visibility. Learn what SKU numbers are, and how to use them.

Having a clear view of the supply chain is an essential element for any business. When it comes to understanding how different parts of a business work together and where resources are flowing, supply chain visibility is key. In this article, we'll discuss how having a supply chain visibility solution that provides SKU-level data can lead to importing success. 

Supply chain visibility is the ability to identify the flow of goods, materials, services, and information throughout an organization's entire value chain—from suppliers to customers. It gives a better understanding of how each component in the supply chain works together and how these components interact with each other to create value. By having better visibility into the process, companies can be more agile and responsive in changing market conditions.

Improving end-to-end supply chain visibility is rated as the third objective assigned to supply chains, after ensuring On-Time, In-Full (OTIF) deliveries and improving product availability.

Fortunately, improving visibility impacts the two objectives above it.

Get granular insights into your supply chain’s every move, and you’ll achieve the pre-planning capabilities you need for OTIF deliveries — and the inventory turn you need to improve product deliveries.

How? It starts with the SKU number.

SKU Numbers: An Overview

What is an SKU Number?

SKU is an alphanumeric code that stands for Stock Keeping Unit. Each SKU number, or SKU code, refers to one product being shipped. SKU numbers typically include six to eight characters and should be machine-readable. There’s no standardized SKU number — your business can create its own or use a generator.

How do SKU Numbers Improve Supply Chain Visibility?

SKU numbers give you granular insight into your shipments. They help you improve visibility across your supply chain — so you can achieve the inventory turn and pre-planning capabilities your supply chain needs to thrive.

Related: 5 more easy tips for improving supply chain visibility.

Add SKU information to your Purchase Order off the bat. From there, you’ll be able to:

  • Track shipments from end to end
  • Review SKU unit cost
  • Forecast for the future

Track Shipments From End-to-End

Better inventory control is much easier, when you can access shipment details at the SKU level. You can, of course, use SKU numbers to know exactly where your products are. Use them to track shipment locations or even track U.S. Customs statuses and delivery.

You can also use SKU numbers to uncover product information like cost, duties and freight, and number of units in transit.

Review SKU Unit Cost

SKU numbers give you visibility into SKU-level cost of goods sold with duties and freight. As a result, you can accurately calculate landed cost and plan around your product prices.

Forecast For the Future

SKU-level visibility can also inform future shipments. Use SKU performance to uncover trends on shipment deliveries, inventory progress, and freight spend. That data will help you more accurately:

  • Determine inventory levels
  • Determine product prices
  • Predict future performance
  • Make informed changes

Turning to a supply chain visibility solution or software helps you plan based on SKU performance. With Shippabo, for instance, you have reporting and forecasting tools that help you act on findings quickly and easily.

Here are additional ways companies can improve their supply chain visibility:

  1. Improve Data Accuracy – Having accurate data is key when it comes to improving supply chain visibility. Companies should ensure that their data is up-to-date and accurate at all times by utilizing data management tools like supply chain management software or warehouse management systems. These systems are designed to track inventory levels, order fulfillment processes, and other important information related to the production process. Investing in technology that can store and analyze data accurately will help businesses make better decisions about their operations and stay on top of their supply chains.
  2. Implement Automation – Automating certain tasks within the supply chain can help reduce manual labor costs while increasing accuracy and efficiency. Automation can be used to manage orders, track shipments, monitor inventory levels, and more. This also reduces errors associated with the manual entry of data as well as provides real-time insights into operations that may not have been available previously due to a lack of manpower or resources necessary for manual processes. Additionally, automating certain tasks within the supply chain allows companies to focus on higher-level tasks such as strategic planning or customer service initiatives which could help increase overall productivity in other areas of the organization as well.
  3. Increase Transparency – When it comes to improving transparency throughout a company’s entire value chain it’s important for all stakeholders involved (suppliers, transportation companies, etc.) to share relevant information with each other regarding operations such as shipment schedules or inventory levels so that everyone has access to same data set when making decisions about production or logistics activities within their own organizations or those outside of it. This helps reduce confusion around operations which may otherwise cost organizations time and money if decisions were made based on out-of-date information or incorrect assumptions about internal processes which could lead to misalignment between organizations along the value chain leading to potentially costly outcomes downstream further down the line if not addressed quickly enough through timely interventions from appropriate parties across the entire network.
  4. Increase Collaboration – Collaborating with partners across your extended global enterprise network is also key when it comes to improving your overall visibility into operations across different regions where you have a presence in order to ensure that everyone involved has access same set of information at any given time so they can make informed decisions quickly without relying too much on third-party intermediaries who might not necessarily have a full view into inner workings your enterprise system. This also helps promote innovation since all stakeholders now have access to the same set of data allowing them to innovate faster than ever before possible due to a shared understanding of operations along the entire value stream which will ultimately lead to more efficient usage of resources leading to greater return on investment over a long term period.

By taking steps like these towards improving your company's supply chain visibility, you will be able to see exactly where items are located within your system at any given time which will help optimize business processes from the beginning until the end.

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