The Supply Chain Mapping Process – a step-by-step guide

  • Written by Laura Houghton
  • Published on 1 December 2023
  • Blogs

Retailers in the textiles industry have complex, multi-tier, global supply chains. This can present a variety of challenges when aiming to map the supply chain with a view to reaching supply chain transparency and gaining legislation compliance.

What is supply chain mapping?

MappingSupply chain mapping is the process of capturing the stages and flow of goods, services, and data throughout the multiple tiers of your supply chain. A product supply chain map should typically capture data from: suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and vendors, also including the connections between them.

For businesses looking to mitigate risk, improve ESG, make operations more sustainable and potentially save money in the current turbulent economic climate, accurate supply chain mapping and transparency are essential.

What is the purpose of supply chain mapping?

Supply chain mapping and transparency will create a centralised database for all of your supply chain data, allowing you to report on and segment your data with ease. It provides businesses with greater visibility and enables them to identify any potential risks or vulnerabilities. Supply Chain transparency is also a key requirement for most global legislation affecting retailers and brands, so it is essential for businesses to gain compliance.

Engaging with your suppliers to achieve transparency and map your supply chain will capture a wide range of data, including, but not limited to:

  • An inventory of all known/active suppliers, their offices and their factory sites
  • Details of any subcontractors or agents and their relationships with your suppliers
  • Details of the products or services that each supplier provides
  • Confirmation of component sourcing as you move through the tiers
  • All data that passes between your company and suppliers (and its importance/value)
  • Evidence of any required certifications and audits (Including CAPs), as well as deadlines and renewal dates
  • Any agreements, T&Cs or contracts held with suppliers including renewal dates

Segura is a supply chain transparency and mapping tool, ensuring that a business supply chain data is always accurate and up-to-date by:

  • Monitoring and reconciling supply chain information
  • Allowing suppliers to directly update their data
  • Identifying potential risks with suppliers, contractors and their subcontractors
  • Creating a visual representation of your supply chain map that is easy to interact with and report on

The benefits of mapping a supply chain and gaining transparency

The first tier of suppliers are the businesses that sell directly to the retailer and in that case, there are likely strong relationships and regular interactions. The second tier of suppliers are the businesses that sell to the first tier. And so on. These upstream tiers of the supply chain can be the least visible to the retailer. This may manifest in serious problems and could result in reputational risk and business losses. For example:
  • missing nominated supplier audits,
  • failing to ensure safe working conditions,
  • failing to expose and prevent forced or child labour, or
  • causing irreversible environmental damage

If consumers perceive a retailer has been neglectful, resulting in a negative event, the consumer will hold the retailer ultimately responsible, as the video below illustrates.

In the process of mapping the supply chain, the retailer is aiming, not only to identify who all their suppliers are and what they do, but also to cover all their legislative obligations, and risk assessments to meet their own ESG commitments.

Another benefit of mapping the supply chain is learning how suppliers interact and overlap with each other. This can result in supply chain efficiencies and waste reduction. It is extremely time-consuming and difficult to achieve all that using an Excel spreadsheet, which is why Segura, a supply chain mapping solution, is a brilliant tool to handle the job.

6 Key steps to the supply chain mapping process

It’s clear to see that supply chain mapping can aid businesses in several ways, but what should the supply chain mapping process look like?

Step 1 - IDENTITY and onboard known suppliers

The suppliers that you or your agents deal with directly are your tier-1 suppliers. They are (usually) used to being asked for information, are supportive and can assist you in filling in the gaps.

Through Segura, you can send them an invitation to register on the platform, they will be prompted to fill in information confirming who they are, where they are and what they do. Where you have already manually captured this information, Segura imports this data and asks the supplier to confirm the data that you have, completing anything that you don’t. This radically speeds up the process of capturing the right data.

If a supplier is involved in the production, storage, or distribution of your products, then they should be on your supply chain map, even if you don’t work with them directly.

Step 2 - Onboard and start to map your lower-tier suppliers

Once your tier-1 suppliers have completed their registration and all the information required is captured, you will have a wealth of additional data and they can start to accept your purchase orders through Segura.

But, this is just the start. Your tier-1 suppliers will also be asked to declare who their suppliers and subcontractors are for the components and services used to make up your products.

We reviewed a few other systems similar to Segura but none really met our criteria. Segura's platform had the missing link we needed, which was the fact it linked to the purchase order. Segura provided us with a real-time chain of custody by order, down to tier 4 and beyond. It was simple for both River and our suppliers to use, and it quickly gave us the reporting we needed to meet our pledge of transparency. Unlike other companies, Segura understood our needs and were very easy to work with. We quickly realised that Segura and their platform was the one for us.

Ethical Trade Manager, River Island

When your top-tier suppliers start to declare their suppliers, you will start to uncover and capture your products' bill of material. You are then able to invite those lower-tiered suppliers to register on Segura and confirm that they have provided the components or services to the tier-1 suppliers. Providing you with traceability of supply, which can prove very beneficial when looking to comply with legislation.

You are then able to cascade this process down through your entire supply chain.

Step 3 – Strengthen supplier relationships

Supply chain mapping can help to strengthen the relationships with your suppliers. It improves communication and reduces duplication of data-sharing and manual data-capture via email.

Suppliers can go to Segura and complete all data required for your business. It also provides all suppliers with a clear understanding of, not only your business needs, but also one another’s needs, expectations and goals at every tier.

As we gain more transparency in our supply chain, we are also growing stronger partnerships with our suppliers

Product Director, Phase Eight

Step 4 - Identify risks and benefits

Gaining a deeper understanding of your multi-tier supply chain network, the suppliers, contractors and relationships, makes it much easier to identify potential risks and mitigate their impact on your business.

Supply chain mapping allows businesses to identify where value can also be added (e.g. more sustainably sourced components and/or raw materials). Simultaneously, mapping the supply chain enables businesses to identify where value could also be lost (e.g. quality control issues or natural disasters that can cause production or delivery delays).

Having a platform like Segura will help with uncovering the materials and components for our products, coupled with where they come from, in much greater detail. Supply chains have become more dispersed and global, and in turn, so have data capture and reporting. Segura will provide us with access to real-time, accurate information. Segura’s ability to capture and enable us to monitor our emissions and ESG standards is vitally important to our business and goals

Assistant QC Manager at Schuh

Supply chain mapping empowers businesses to identify opportunities to make their supply chain greener, more ethical and more sustainable. Indeed it helps with anything from monitoring and reducing emissions within the supply chain by capturing relevant data, to moving away from suppliers with a poor ethical or ecological track record. All this can have a positive impact on improving your ethical and sustainability credentials.

Step 5 – Import additional data

Through Segura, you have the option to import data from external sources easily. This provides an opportunity to combine information and report at a wider scale. This can prove invaluable when identifying additional areas of improvement for cost and efficiency savings or identifying potential vulnerabilities.

Step 6 - Maintaining and monitoring the data

Once all desired data is captured, reported on and reviewed, maintenance can be automated. Through Segura, when certificates, audits, or agreements need to be updated, all suppliers can be alerted and can update this directly. This reduces the manual admin burden on your staff, allowing them to focus on driving improvements and removing risks.

Our supply chain is complex and, with consumers demanding increased transparency from all businesses, we’re proud to be reaching this milestone with Segura. Investing in the right sustainability tools is essential to driving towards our 100-1-0 goals. The Segura platform not only meets our needs today but also has the flexibility to help us build transparency and traceability into our business for the long term.

Positive Business Director at Pentland Brands

Advice and common questions

Avoid departmental silos

Involve all key teams. Buying, CSR/Ethical and sustainability teams can better align and work together. When mapping the supply chain through Segura, one of the benefits is to increase supplier visibility within your internal teams, ensuring that each team member is reviewing the same centralised data.

This can increase cross-departmental collaboration and can also help to reduce business risk and increase efficiencies.

Not only does each brand have full sight of their supply chain and the information relating to each supplier, helping us to achieve our strategic goals, but with all UK Brands utilising the same platform it will allow us to view all supply information in one place, which will be very powerful.

 Head of CSR and Sustainability at TFG Brands (London)

Plan your priorities

The first step to mapping your multi-tier supply chain is to identify your key suppliers. These are the suppliers that have the biggest impact on your business, either in terms of volume, cost, or risk.

Retailers can gather this information from a variety of sources, including supplier lists from different departments, bills of materials, and supplier contracts.

If the retailer already has an ERP or PLM this can help but is not necessary.

Manage supplier resistance

Retailers will need to support their suppliers initially and allow us to engage with them to explain the benefits of the solution and how it can help strengthen their business relationship with you. For example, the solution can help suppliers to identify potential risks, improve their efficiency, and reduce their costs.

The most common causes for reduced engagement and supplier resistance are:
  • “We have no time for this” – We can quite quickly change this mindset by showing how quick and easy it is to use the software and how it will save time overall.
  • “We are experiencing delays” – Suppliers do have to gather information and make their own checks of their suppliers, which can take time. We recommend working with your suppliers on this to understand their needs; we can assist in this support.
  • “We need time to learn the new system”- There is a learning curve with any new system, which is why we offer training sessions, have included in-depth help files within each area of the solution and ensure the system language can be selected by the user. We also have a dedicated support team that suppliers can contact for further assistance.

What will help remove resistance:

  • Data format – Suppliers can upload information in any file format into Segura
  • No language barriers – the Segura system is fully translated into native languages
  • Regular supplier training and Q&A – Retailers who continue with an engagement programme as part of BAU have the greatest success with supply chain mapping and all the benefits that ensue.


We usually see around 30 - 40% cross-over, however, this percentage is increasing with each new client that joins our community.


This can vary based on the number of suppliers you wish to onboard and the information that you’re looking to initially capture.

We usually recommend that you start this process with a batch of around 50 suppliers. We ask that you include a mix of suppliers that you deem good and some you deem challenging, from an engagement perspective, to give us a good data set to review. From the point of the first registration invite, it usually takes a few weeks to onboard and engage this set of suppliers. We would then work with you to evaluate the uptake, feedback and success, to decide on the best approach to onboard the rest. 

Make mapping your supply chain scalable, efficient and collaborative

In summary, supply chain mapping is best done using software like Segura, which is more scalable, efficient and collaborative than spreadsheets and allows your teams to focus on what matters most. It makes mapping your supply chain, managing your supplier network, mitigating risk and driving improvements a seamless process.

Don’t make the job of mapping your supply chain more cumbersome and less rewarding than it ought to be. Plan properly, set realistic timelines, engage the right teams and use Segura for your supply chain mapping. 

About Segura

Segura is the leading fashion supply chain traceability solution, empowering fashion retailers and brands to deliver ethical, sustainable and efficient multi-tier supply chains.  

Segura provides n-tier mapping, transparency, traceability, visualisation, compliance and reporting. Segura sits in the centre of your supply chain management structure creating a central repository for all your supply chain, ESG-related data and evidence, including from third-party data sources.  

With all supply chain traceability data stored on a single platform, our customers get the right evidence in the right place to back up claims and meet regulatory compliance. 

To keep up to date with our latest news; subscribe to our newsletter

To learn more about how Segura can help you manage your supply chain; contact us today


Schuh Partners with Segura

As part of their ongoing sustainability strategy, Schuh has partnered with Segura

Read it