December 2017 | Commentary | Good Question

GOOD QUESTION | What's the difference between supply chain visibility and transparency?

Tags: Logistics, Supply Chain, Visibility

Supply chain visibility is what you actually know; transparency is what you are willing to share with your partners. Don't assume a supplier or customer is deliberately obscuring information when, in fact, they don't have that information in the first place.

Amy David
Clinical Assistant Professor of Management
Purdue University
Krannert School of Management


It's often challenging for companies to see into their supply chains beyond the first-tier supplier; they lack transparency into their suppliers' suppliers, and so on into the third tier and below. Visibility entails line-of-sight awareness of performance through the supply chain.

Tom Derry
CEO
Institute for Supply Management


Supply chain visibility happens in a vacuum one person viewing data on a screen. It's impersonal. Transparency, on the other hand, is interactive, connoting using information to move the supply chain forward.

Jim Lahey
Director, Technical Operations and Corporate Systems
Kane Is Able


Visibility provides a company with knowledge of activities across its supply chain; transparency is what and how it communicates that knowledge to customers, partners, and stakeholders.

Shay Scott, PhD
Managing Director, Global Supply Chain Institute
Haslam College of Business
The University of Tennessee


The difference is from the perspective of who is using it. Visibility is important from the supplier perspective and is the same thing as transparency from the customer perspective.

Joe Walden
Lecturer, Supply Chain Management
University of Kansas


Supply chain visibility lets you see a particular activity with access to information at selected nodes. Transparency means you can see through all the nodes and evaluate the entire supply chain. Visibility assists market efficiency. Transparency assists strategy fulfillment and social responsibility.

Dr. Darren Prokop
Professor of Logistics
College of Business & Public Policy
University of Alaska Anchorage


Visibility provides insight into data, making it available to stakeholders, while transparency implies communication and accountability, making it easy to see the actions performed. The difference is insight into the present and future (visibility) vs. openly communicating data and information, and acting on desired outcomes (transparency). The reality is you need both.

Jim Barnes
CEO, enVista


Supply chain visibility refers to being able to see and track your inventories, stock levels, your transportation assets and their moves, throughout your complete supply chain from your suppliers to customers. Supply chain transparency is related to supply chain operations, especially in terms of quality, safety, ethics, and environmental impact associated with different operations of supply chain partners.

Burcu B. Keskin
Associate Professor, Reese Phifer Fellow in Operations/Manufacturing
Information Systems, Statistics, and Management Science, The University of Alabama


Supply chain visibility, in my mind, refers to the access of all your business movements including transactional shipments, inventory control, and movement of goods from point-of-sale to the ultimate customer. Transparency refers to the precise details of all costs and movement of goods. A transparent supply chain provides insights into itemized charges of costs associated with a shipment and every single detail that could impact an order or the ability for your business to provide service to customers.

Raymond A. Cinelli
Vice President of Business Development
Ascent Global Logistics


Visibility is easy access to data that are current, accurate, complete, and usefully formatted. This data can give visibility into demand (sales), inventory (traceability), assets, disruptions, and other factors. Transparency is an openness to share information such as costs, sustainability, or visibility data, with stakeholders.

Morgan Swink
The Eunice and James L. West Chair of Supply Chain Management
Executive Director of the Supply and Value Chain Center
TCU Neeley School of Business


Supply chain visibility is the ability of firms to see end user demand at various levels, i.e. tier 1, tier 2, customers etc. Supply chain transparency refers to stakeholder’s ability, i.e. customers, suppliers at all levels, to access the position of goods, information, and money from order inception to delivery.

Douglas N. Hales, CTL, CLTD, PhD
Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management
Area Coordinator - Supply Chain Management
The University of Rhode Island College of Business Administration


Transparency tends to be a structural characteristic bestowed at the time a supply chain forms. Constrained by the extent of transparency permitted in the chain, visibility grants the supply chain entities a capability of gaining real-time information within and beyond their first-tier trading partners.

Jimmy Chen, PhD, CAP, CSCP, CPIM
Assistant Professor of Business Analytics and Operations
College of Management, Bucknell University


Visibility refers to business partners’ ability to access cross-company product information including production schedules and product location during movement and storage. Transparency makes supply chain information, especially data concerning working conditions, labor compensation, and environmental impacts, available to all stakeholders including consumers and third parties.

Dr. Gurram Gopal
Industry Professor, Industrial Technology and Management (INTM)
School of Applied Technology (SAT), Illinois Institute of Technology


SCM visibility today answers the question “where is my order/box now and what is the risk of a delay?” Transparency applies to rates, terms & conditions from various providers being published openly for easy comparison.

Inna Kuznetsova
President and COO, INTTRA


Supply chain visibility in basic form provides data about product location and tracking. Transparency dives deeper and reveals product specific data. As an example, consider a shipment of apples. Visibility shows where the product came from, current location, and final destination. Transparency might provide data including whether the apples are organic, the orchard’s name, and certifications they hold.

Brian C. Pigott
Managing Director, One Way Solutions, LLC


Transparency enables supply chain visibility. Without transparency, there is incomplete visibility to what happens within the supply chain. The goal should be to provide controlled transparency and access to accurate, timely, and complete data to affect better decision-making.

Rob Hooper CEO, Atlantic Logistics


Have a great answer to a good question?

Be sure to participate next month:

If you were given authority to purchase one product or service for your supply chain operations, with no budget restrictions, what
would you buy?

We'll publish some answers.

Tell us at editorial@inboundlogistics.com or tweet us @ILMagazine #ILgoodquestion






Visit Our Sponsors