What’s the Difference Between Transparency, Traceability, and Visibility?

As people, things, and services become ever more digitally-enabled and connected, technology will be embedded in daily activity. In the age of Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, businesses are empowered to create a fully-connected network of data about the tools around them and the people using them. 

Today, most supply chains involve a network of resources scattered across facilities, office spaces, and entities. It’s a journey to ensure successful, efficient supply chain and control operations across the industry. Having transparent work processes, traceability of material properties, and visibility into material flows is key.

What is transparency?

One of the ways supply chains can be successful is for them to be transparent.  Transparency refers to the capture and transference of high-level information (I.e., a product’s components, names of suppliers, location of facilities, associated certificates, etc.) along the supply chain. Transparency allows a business to map its entire supply chain, gaining clear visibility into all of the operators along that supply chain. Heightened visibility also empowers a business to ensure that each operator is compliant with safety, sustainability, and social responsibility requirements.

Supply chain transparency improves accountability because each actor can upload and access data and information. When shared information is streamlined, teams can see updates in each stage of a process, resulting in shorter lead times, fewer delays, and reduced redundancy.

What is traceability?

On the other hand, traceability refers to the capture of granular data and information (I.e., batch-lot data, purchase order data, and other operational information). Rather than focusing on mapping the entire end-to-end supply chain like you would do with transparency, the focus here is on following certain batches of components or purchase orders as they move along the supply chain. The specificity of the information used in traceability helps with targeting product recalls and reducing the overall scale and cost of the incident.

What is visibility?

According to a recent article in Talking Logistics by Dale Brownbridge, the product owner for Command Alkon’s concrete telematics solution, COMMANDassurance, supply chain visibility is a combination of transparency and traceability in that it allows teams to see orders and material movements from source to destination. 

“Having clear visibility into material flows and traceability of material properties ensures that quality is made a priority,” Brownbridge wrote. “With accurate and real-time visibility, businesses can proactively manage their projects and gain confidence in the schedule, costs, and assurance of outcomes. Since each transaction is recorded in sequence, trading partners have a permanent audit trail that can verify a product’s quality and trace it through its chain of custody.”

What does this mean for the Heavy Building Materials industry?

Streamlined transparency, traceability, and visibility are key for handling operations quickly and efficiently — especially when problems arise. 

For example, materials made, hauled, or bought in the construction sector are typical of critical importance for the customer. In other words, they need it now, and it needs to be right. As Brownbridge explains in his article, it’s crucial that members of the Heavy Building Materials industry can react quickly to bottlenecks that might throw a job off schedule. This is why we see so many companies within the industry investing in software like COMMANDassurance that empowers teams to track materials from when they’re ordered to when the goods reach the jobsite. This form of data sharing is vital and highly valuable where multiple entities are involved in one supply chain, and it’s why we see so many businesses transitioning from a traditional linear value chain to the more open supply chain platform where each constituent has access to the exact same information at each stage of the process.

End-to-end supply chain transparency, traceability, and visibility cannot be achieved overnight, but when used properly, they can drive operations to new levels of efficiency. Read Brownbridge’s full article to learn more about how these three factors contribute to a successful supply chain.

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