GOOD Question | What’s the difference between supply chain visibility and transparency?

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 suppliers; 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 node 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 difference 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 each 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 Chain 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/ox 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 applies. Visibility shows where the product comes 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


Source: Inbound Logistics