Moving Beyond Visibility: Transparency Is Essential for Resilient Supply Chains

By Mary Lou Jay

“I think of visibility as akin to being able to simply see something. But transparency literally means to see through something and how it connects to other things. Transparency is like the extra medical information you would get if you had access to an X-ray,” said Darren Prokop, professor of logistics at the College of Business and Public Policy, University of Alaska, Anchorage.

“Visibility is having awareness of process and product, wherever it may be performed or wherever it may be transported in the supply chain,” added Tom Goldsby, professor of supply chain management, chair of logistics and professor of supply chain management at the Haslam College of Business, University of Tennessee Knoxville. Visibility provides an end-to-end perspective, ideally from the point of origin of raw materials, so that a company can understand the provenance of everything in its original state through processing, distribution, retail, and even into the hands of the ultimate end user consumer.

Transparency adds another dimension. “Transparency is the sharing of that visibility, and being forthcoming about provenance and product and process and integrity,” Goldsby said.

When companies and their suppliers share data, analyze it and act upon it to avoid disruptions, they become partners in building a more resilient supply chain. They embrace a more collaborative approach to anticipating and finding solutions for disruption.

In this scenario, it’s not only manufacturers that will need to be prepared with a Plan B if their Plan A for obtaining a part or moving goods falls through. “From a supply chain perspective, resiliency means that upstream vendors need to have their own Plan Bs in place. Otherwise, their problems will reverberate downstream to customers along the supply chain all the way to the final customer shopping along the aisles, surfing the web, etc.,” said Prokop.

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