Managing supply chains that operate in network environments can be complicated. Supply chain organisations are expected to provide the right products and services to customers at the right time and place within required specifications. While supply chain management is key to success, these efforts can be assisted by visualisation approaches such as process mapping (supply chain mapping).
What is supply chain mapping?
Supply chain mapping is a process of engaging across companies and suppliers to document the exact source of every material, process, and shipment involved in bringing goods to the markets. The mapping process might provide tools that link corporate strategy to supply chain strategy. When doing supply chain mapping, the right information should be collected, displayed and understood in order to promote integration between the two levels. In addition, the mapping also emphasises high-level measures such as volume, cost, or lead time, taking an overall perspective of how processes work together between organisations.
What are the key advantages of supply chain mapping?
From the definition alone, we can see that process mapping has a number of key advantages. Some of which are, as follows:
- Social networking. Since the supply chain is a complex entity that it is almost impossible for one person to trace a product all the way from raw material to finished goods, online mapping will make collaboration possible at a vast scale. Teams can work together to account for every material, process, and shipment. It is even possible to use crowdsourcing and open a process up to the general public.
- Verification. Traditional mapping – using a paper map – makes it difficult for a team to verify an address without visiting in person. But with technology now changing at a rapid pace, it is possible to know who mapped each piece of the supply chain, and where or when they did it. The use of GPS and satellite makes it easier to form an image to map every mine, farm, factory, and even distribution centre. Current mapping also makes it possible for two companies to communicate directly with auditors and factory managers without hassle, as well as using meta-data to verify the information from afar.
- Real-time data. Supply chain mapping with an Application Program Interfaces (API) means that data can be synchronised from enterprise databases and combined with tested third-party data.
See also: Managing Software Supply Chain Risk
Top free supply chain mapping to use
If you are ready to integrate and step to the next level of process mapping, here are top free supply chain mapping software to try:
Whether you are planning your next vacation or mapping out your business locations, Google My Maps can be your greatest tool investment. The tool is easy to learn as it allows you to upload and update information from Google Sheets as well as share maps with additional users. It is also equipped with the ability to colour-code and add additional information when you click on the pushpin.
You can use MultiPlottr as a single tool or integrate it with Google My Maps. All you need to do is copy and paste addresses into the plot like, click ‘plot’, and it is ready to use. You can always save maps, edit pins, create legends, and more with MultiPlottr.
Do you have 10 more addresses to visit and need to find the optimal way to do so? OptiMap allows you to do just that. What you need to do is simply add or type in addresses and press ‘Find’. The tool will cap out at 10 addresses, from other mapping engines like Bing, Google Maps, and Mapquest. OptiMap is a great small-scale optimisation tool that you can use for free.
If you need to convert addresses to latitude and longitude coordinates, Batch Geocoding is a great tool for that. If you need to batch upload and download lat/long coordinates and do not have an in-house tool to do so, this tool will come to the rescue. Batch Geocoding is simple and straightforward to use, plotting each point on the map in addition to producing the data you need.
When you need to measure the exact distance from one city to another, this free tool can quickly help as it operates on the premise of clicking on the origin, then on the destination. It is much faster than a Google Map trial and error session. But this tool uses the Great Circle Formula, meaning that it might vary from actual driving distances produced by Google Maps. Overall, Distance Calculator is an excellent high-level tool to get a feel for mileages from certain origin locations.
Read also: A Guide to Building Warehouse Management System for Retail Businesses