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Supply chain mapping

Supply chain mapping is the process of visually documenting all the steps, entities, and flows involved in producing and delivering a product or service, from suppliers to end customers.  

What is supply chain mapping? 

In today's interconnected and globalised economy, supply chains have become increasingly complex. To manage this complexity and improve efficiency, many businesses are turning to supply chain mapping to help them identify inefficiencies, risks, and opportunities for improvement. 
 
A supply chain map includes all the key entities involved in a product’s lifecycle, such as suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and logistics providers. It also encompasses various processes and activities, including procurement, production, transportation, warehousing, and distribution. 

What are the benefits of supply chain mapping?

Improved visibility and transparency 
Supply chain mapping makes a company’s supply chain more transparent. By giving businesses a clear picture of every step in the supply chain, it helps them spot issues and understand the flow of goods and information. This not only improves collaboration among stakeholders, but it also helps identify ways to be more sustainable, enabling them to attract investors by showing a commitment to environmental and social responsibility. 
 
Risk management 
Supply chain mapping is key for risk management. It helps companies spot potential problems and weak points in their supply chain. By knowing exactly where their suppliers are and understanding the specific risks in those areas, businesses can create backup plans and handle issues before they become major disruptions.  
 
Improved efficiency  
Supply chain mapping helps businesses spot inefficiencies and reduce costs. By analysing how different parts of the supply chain connect, companies can pinpoint delays and optimise their operations processes. For instance, if constant delivery delays with a logistics partner were identified, a business can then find ways to speed up their deliveries or switch partners.  
 

Five supply chain mapping innovations you should know

1. Blockchain technology  
Blockchain technology is a decentralised online record of transactions spread across a number of computers (nodes), making it secure and hard to hack. Blockchain supports cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, with each block of data linked to the previous one, forming a chain that needs agreement from multiple nodes to change. 
 
Blockchain technology is being used in supply chain mapping to improve transparency, traceability, and efficiency. For example, the Australian Meat Processer Corporation (AMPC) has funded an investigation examining how blockchain technology could be used in the red meat industry to streamline operations and improve supply chain transparency and efficiency. Blockchain is also being examined for its potential to create an end-to-end supply chain traceability solution for the Australian tea tree oil industry. 
 
2. Supply chain mapping software  
Supply chain mapping software is designed to manage, analyse, and optimise the flow of information and processes within a supply chain. This includes software platforms like Agtuary that collect, organise, and visualise data related to various aspects of the supply chain, such as land and property analysis, emissions and environmental analysis, workflow calculations and production schedules, all within a single platform.   
 
3. Advanced waste management  
Advanced waste management in supply chain mapping involves actively measuring waste along the supply chain and implementing strategies to reduce it. For example, a Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) project measured waste in the Australian beef supply chain. Using supply chain mapping tools like case study analyses, waste mapping, supply chain workshops and the Dynamic Industry Resource Efficiency Calculator Tool (DIRECT), MLA was able to inform industry waste transformation initiatives. 

4. Shelf life systems  
Shelf life systems involve tracking and managing the expiration dates of products as they move through the supply chain. A MLA funded research project aims to assess the value of implementing shelf life mechanisms like sensors, automated alerts and predictive analytics so businesses can better manage their inventory, reduce waste, and ensure that their customers receive products before they expire.  
 
5. Implantable Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) devices  
RFID devices are small electronic chips that are implanted into animals. They emit signals read by RFID readers, enabling tracking and tracing throughout the supply chain. In agriculture, RFID tags implanted in cattle help with traceability and regulatory compliance, as this successful research project found.

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