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What is an End-to-End Supply Chain?

Nicole Radziwill

The motivation for investing in end-to-end supply chain solutions include lower operating costs, higher profit margins and improved customer experience.

The availability of cost-effective Industry 4.0 technologies means that the vision for a fully integrated end-to-end supply chain is becoming more feasible. In an end-to-end supply chain, information about every element in the chain is available, from sourcing and ordering raw materials to the point of delivery to the customer. In practice, this process is a gradual evolution, with visibility and transparency increasing as partners in the supply chain ecosystem add new sensors and provide access to new data sources.

The motivation for investing in end-to-end supply chain solutions include lower operating costs, higher profit margins and improved customer experience. (Business Wire, 2019) After implementing an end-to-end solution, organizations reported several common benefits:

  • Improved decision making (76 percent)
  • Order tracking across all customer touchpoints (55 percent)
  • More opportunities for product personalization (53 percent)


Soosay & Kannusamy (2018) took a look at how end-to-end supply chains are developing in the Australian food production industry. They examined practices at 360 different firms over the course of a year, and found that supply chain maturity could be described as follows:

  • Stage 1 - Computerization and connectivity. Sharing data requires that it be stored on computers that can be accessed by partners in the supply chain ecosystem.
  • Stage 2 - Visibility and transparency. Adding new sensors and making that data accessible provides new visibility into the supply chain. Key enabling technologies include GPS, time-temperature integrators and data loggers.
  • Stage 3 - Predictive capability. Access to real-time data from supply chain partners will increase the reliability and resilience of the entire network. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), and radio frequency (RFID) tagging were enablers at this stage.
  • Stage 4 - Adaptability and self-learning. At this stage, partners plan and execute the supply chain collaboratively. Through Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI), the responsibility for replenishment can even be directly assumed by the supplier.


Although progress is being made, these researchers note that a true autonomous end-to-end supply chain is still a vision that will take years to realize. Fragmented adoption, the need to develop stronger trust-based relationships to support open supply chains, and the size of many supply chains will keep the pace of progress slow and steady. But progress will continue, particularly since end-to-end visibility and transparency will help organizations achieve greater sustainability in their supply chains.

Additional Reading

Business Wire. (2019, Feb 13). 85 Percent Of U.S. Retailers Haven’t Completed Supply Chain Digitization. Available from

McLean, D. (2018, Sep 20). NAEM Report Highlights Challenges and Opportunities of Sustainability Practices of Supply Chain. Intelex Blog. Available from

Soosay, C., & Kannusamy, R. (2018, September). Scope for Industry 4.0 in Agri-food Supply Chain. In Hamburg International Conference of Logistics (HICL) 2018 (pp. 37-56).


About the Author: Nicole Radziwill, Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Quality & Supply Chain

Nicole Radziwill is the Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Quality & Supply Chain at Intelex Technologies. Before Intelex, she was an Associate Professor of Data Science and Production Systems, Assistant Director (VP) End-to-End Operations at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and manager and consultant for several other organizations since the late 1990's bringing quality management to technologically-oriented operations. She is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) with a Ph.D. in Quality Systems from Indiana State University. Nicole serves as Editor of Software Quality Professional (SQP) journal and is a former Chair of the ASQ Software Division. She is an ASQ Certified Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence (CMQ/OE) and Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB). 



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March 14, 2019 @ 09:50 AM EDT Food and Beverage, Manufacturing Quality, Supply Chain

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