What is a Supply Chain

What is Supply Chain Visibility?

Supply chain visibility allows you to have an in-depth look at the life cycle of a product along the supply chain. This level of visibility allows you to monitor every process and touchpoint. Everything from the time a product is planned, materials are procured and manufactured, and then arrive at the customer. 

Full visibility helps you make changes at any step in the supply chain. This flexibility allows you to meet the demands of your customers when problems arise. 

Using data and technology helps you obtain real-time information on the production, location, and status of your products. Supply chain visibility applies to almost every industry: from the commercial goods we use every day, to life-saving medical drugs and devices. 

Supply chain visibility helps us lead healthier lives, and better visibility into our food supply helps reduce contaminated food and outbreaks. Full visibility in your supply chain allows for better and more informed decisions, helping you navigate potential delays. This results in better outcomes for your customers.  

Improving visibility helps you reduce cost and pinpoint bottle necks in the lifecycle and production of your items. With clear insight into your supply chain, you can forecast, better plan for potential delays, and prepare for increased demands.

Increase Efficiency

A clear benefit of supply chain visibility is that it helps boost efficiency and transparency. When you can clearly see what is happening along your supply chain, you will be able to communicate more seamlessly with your trading partners and grow your business. 

Another benefit is that you will be able to better manage inventory levels, streamline logistics, and catch potential bottlenecks before they slow you down. This will help you save money, better allocate resources, and confidently pivot based on demand.

Read how IPC/Subway saved millions and streamlined processes by implementing traceability.



Managing Cost

Understanding your supply chain is all about having the knowledge to lower and adjust the cost of operating your business. When you have full visibility into your supply chain, you can help reduce your operating costs. Here are a few examples of cost reductions:

  • Optimize transportation and shipping costs by finding the best routes, methods of transport, and the best carriers for your needs. You can also manage your truckload and storage capacity based on accurate product and package dimensions. <.li>
  • Minimize excess or unsellable inventory by knowing how much product you need based on demand.

Reduce Interruptions

We have already seen that supply chain interruptions are not predictable. COVID-19, weather, and natural disasters have already shown us this. You can, however, automate processes better, preparing us all for unexpected interruptions along the supply chain.

Having a clear view of your supply chain can help you spot potential issues before they happen during transportation. This allows you to work with your logistics and trading partners to solve problems before they become larger delays. 


By quickly anticipating and resolving these delays, you will be able to increase the likelihood of your products reaching their destination without significant disruptions. These products can be important medical devices or pharmaceuticals; items that must avoid delays in transit. Fast shipments without delays help instill confidence in your customers and partners.

Getting real-time transparency into your supply chain, at the end of the day, can help you minimize both lost sales because customers went elsewhere and lost trust between your supply chain partners. Plus, if you are operating in a proactive way, you will have more time to innovate and grow your business.

3-Part Webinar Series

Join supply chain experts from GS1 US and several industry associations to discover why complete visibility into a supply chain is the foundation to any successful business.

Understanding the Full Supply Chain Picture

Supply chain visibility includes three distinct pillars. These pillars work together to help ensure the tracking, availability, and safety of your products. Each pillar has a role in transporting food, medical supplies, life-saving drugs, as well as protecting your products from piracy and counterfeiting. 

Here, we will explore each pillar to understand the full picture of supply chain visibility, and how each piece plays a role in creating greater supply chain resilience. 

Understanding the Full Supply Chain Picture


Like visibility, traceability means you are able to trace the entire journey of your product as it gets to your customer. Having this type of insight is extremely important when it comes to safety in the medical and pharmaceutical industry. Traceability becomes vital with items like foods and vaccines, where these products are subject to spoilage and expiration. Traceability helps to consider the time-sensitive items that need to be in cold storage, along with expiration times.

Inventory Management 

A crucial part of both running your business and supply chain visibility is inventory management. Inventory management is all about having a clear view of what products you have at a given time. When handled correctly, you will know what products you have available to fulfill orders, which helps to avoid delays. Inventory management considers what products are being returned and which are in shipment or production. 


The world is in search of greener options and ensuring the health of future generations. Building a more sustainable supply chain has become a bigger topic for most companies. Sustainability is all about reducing a company’s carbon footprint. 

A sustainable supply chain considers global impact, while increasing efficiency. While being more sustainable is great for the planet, it can also have a positive impact on a company's bottom line. 

A sustainable supply chain is one that uses environmentally friendly practices to create long-term solutions. A common example of sustainability is optimizing packaging size for shipping or converting your carrier fleet to electric power. 

McDonald's and Golden State Foods Build Supply Chain Resiliency for the Future

Discover how GS1 Standards help McDonald's and Golden State Foods seamlessly manage their inventory, in both retail and warehouse environments to create a more efficient, digitized supply chain and prepare for the future.

Build Your Supply Chain Around GS1 Standards 

GS1 Standards provide the framework to help you improve supply chain efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance consumer and patient safety. These standards help you identify and track a product through the supply chain and enable automated processes to manage inventory. GS1 Standards enhance sustainability efforts and make it easier for companies to do business with each other all over the world. By using the same standards, it becomes much easier to exchange information about products and transactions, helping to reduce errors and delays.

So, whether you are a supplier, manufacturer, retailer, distributor, foodservice operator, healthcare company, or logistics provider, GS1 Standards are an essential tool for powering effective supply chains. And because GS1 Standards work with supply chain technologies and innovation, you can stay ahead of the curve and create meaningful customer experiences that accelerate growth and confidence. 

Next Level Supply Chain

Hear global experts, thought leaders, and top brands explore mind-bending supply chain topics.

Featured Education and Training 

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"We have a two-hour time limit to find every case that shipped. We’re confident we can locate every case that we have shipped from a particular lot."
—Chris Drew, Vice President of Operations, Ocean Mist Farms
Ocean Mist Case Study