Visible Supply Chain Means Traceability and Accountability

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A Visible Supply Chain can be a competitive advantage.

Traceability in the supply chain is one of the most important aspects of the customer experience. But, it’s not just Traceability – whatever product is flowing through the process needs to also be Visible. Some people refer to these two aspect of the eCommerce fulfillment as Click-to-Ship.

With eCommerce and online shopping representing a larger and larger share of overall retail commerce (and growing), it’s important that the customer experience is just as good or even better than if the purchase was made in a brick-and-mortar environment.


The customer will want to know where their order is. Name the process – I guarantee there’s an order fulfillment pipeline. From the customer’s perspective, the customer wants to know:

  1. That they are getting the exact product that they ordered
  2. Where the product they ordered is in the order fulfillment pipeline
  3. And, when they can expect to receive the product they ordered

This may seem really basic, but we know that making things simple is actually really hard to do. And, furthermore, while what I’ve explained may seem common sense, it’s also not very common practice.


A close cousin of Traceability is Visibility. Not only must the sequence in the order fulfillment pipeline be documented, it must also be visible – visible to both internal stakeholders and, more importantly, visible to the customer.

A Supply Chain Example

Below is a hypothetical map of what an order system might look like. This system involves a front-end store, credit card verification, and warehousing activities:


The example above shows both the steps, the sequence, and also the relative volume through each step in the flow. The example is primarily made for internal stakeholders that need to manage flow and volume of product. But, the elements in the example can be modified so as to be shown to the end customer. At the level of the customer, they are concerned with their specific order, not in aggregate like the example above shows.

Christmas Morning Experience

Customers receiving their order is a critical step in the customer experience. If you think in terms of touchpoints, the last and most memorable touchpoint is receiving the package, opening it, and then enjoying whatever it is the customer bought. If that step is not done well, all the previous steps before it will have been done in vain. And, customer recovery is neither cheap nor easy to do.

So, get it right the first time: make it visible; make it traceable.


  1. David Garcia says

    The diagram view of the system process seems really informative about what is going on. This is definitely something that is kind of a blind spot on my web sites. Is there some particular software you are using to get this kind of data and reports? Or is this something you made yourself?

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