Supply chain mapping – read more on the challenge background

Technology: Supply chain mapping


The first step in building visibility is to understand who is in the supply network. Typically companies at lower tiers in the supply chain often don’t know who is in the higher tiers of their supply network and vice versa.

The problem can be typically split into two parts; who are the supply chain participants, for example, the nodes in the network, and what connections are there between these nodes. For the visibility and connectivity to be fully appreciated these connections need to be understood and mapped.

Supply  chain mapping is not new but the ability to map a supply chain through the tiers is often extremely time consuming and a manual process. Once done it needs to be maintained or becomes immediately out of date.

For simple products it is possible to manually map or work through suppliers to find the higher suppliers. For more complex products however and bill of materials (BoM’s) this is difficult and time consuming, (it took an aerospace company five years to map the supply chain for one of their aircraft).

Mapping supply chains is both a data challenge, for example discovery of the nodes and the connections between nodes in the network, and a technology challenge where automation and intelligence should be able to reduce time and cost significantly.

New digital technology solutions are emerging that have the capability to address this challenge but often are not at the granularity needed to significantly reduce the time required to deliver a solution.