The terms “visibility” and “transparency” are often used interchangeably in the logistics world. Logistics providers market benefits of visibility and transparency, but it has many customers wondering what exactly the difference is between the two terms. While both phrases are used to reference many of the same things, there are differences in their connotations in both the eyes of customers and logistics partners.
Visibility: Insight at Nodes of a Supply Chain
Visibility is a real-time glimpse into activities at various points of the supply chain.
Dr. Darren Prokop of the University of Anchorage Alaska explains supply chain visibility as “see[ing] a particular activity with access to information at selected nodes.”1 Visibility tends to refer to insight based on activities or certain locations that the product is at throughout a supply chain. Origin activities can be unclear due to cultural and technological differences between countries.2 Having visibility into elements such as origin operations and factory conditions can be make-or-break for shippers in the eyes of customers. The more visibility shippers have regarding their products at each stage, the more control they have over their overall business, what they communicate to their customers, and how they are perceived as a brand.
From a logistics provider’s perspective, visibility tends to be more technologically driven. Having clear data at each node allows providers to understand how exactly the product cycle operates and unveil new operational efficiencies. Visibility technologies work to reduce roadblocks by shining a light on activities that have historically been veiled through lack of real time data.
Transparency: Visibility to Entire Organizations and Supply Chains
Transparency is the ability to see organizations and entire supply chains in an accurate and revealing manner.
Dr. Darren Prokop contrasted his ideals on visibility by describing transparency as “see[ing] through all the nodes and evaluate[ing] the entire supply chain.”1 Visibility can be achieved at certain nodes, but achieving transparency can refer to having deep insights at all points in a supply chain. In retail, buyers want to understand where the products they are purchasing are coming from and how they were created. Companies such as Everlane are capitalizing on the transparency initiative by giving customers information into their factories, pricing, and social responsibility. 3 The more details provided to customers, the more customers feel educated in their purchase choices.
Transparency from a logistics provider’s perspective can be viewed as a balancing act. From a financial viewpoint, customers appreciate cost breakdowns and transparency in rate allocations when selecting a provider. In addition to financial transparency, logistics providers can also offer customers transparency in communication efforts through constant updates and real time data. The more information a provider gives to a customer, the more transparency and real-time information that is available to be used for business decisions.
Applying Visibility and Transparency to the Future
Global supply chains are becoming more and more streamlined as companies work to uncover opportunities for visibility and transparency between both customers and providers. These initiatives are at the forefront of business decisions as the market adapts and becomes more efficient. Now more than ever, it is important for customers to choose a logistics partner that completely understands their supply chain goals for the future.