Supply Chain Transparency or Supply Chain Trust?

How will transparency impact supply chain optimization?

See Through
Transparency. Getty Images

Much has been made recently about supply chain transparency.  Supply chain managers around the globe demand it.  Governments mandate it.  And suppliers race to become compliant.  Transparency is suddenly indispensable and de rigueur.  How can there be peace of mind without supply chain transparency?  And how in the heck did we survive before it?

How many of us would substitute transparency for trust?

  I mean, who in their CSCMP-certified minds would order a product from a supplier without knowing the exact manufacturing process?  Or where the supplier sourced its raw materials and components? Or what kind of quality control checks the supplier has in place? 

Well, actually you would.  And I would.  We all would.  And we do.  Some of us substitute supply chain transparency for supply chain trust multiple times every week. 

Giving up transparency is what we do practically every time we order a meal at a restaurant.  We don’t know the restaurant’s exact manufacturing process (every spice, every flip of a spatula).  And did that summer squash come from a farm one county over – or from another hemisphere and another summer?  And how did the kitchen check the quality of your meal – did they taste it?  Touch it?  X-ray it? 

So what we put in our mouths and swallow into our bodies – we trust that supply chain.

  But when it comes time for us to present our supply chain metrics and plan our project budgets – trust goes out with the bathwater, and transparency is our new baby. 

So, yes, supply chains need to be transparent – because of legal requirements, safety needs, quality assurance, specification control or any number of reasons.

  Transparency is our new compliance directive – our new Sarbanes-Oxley, CTPAT, Y2K, Conflict Minerals and RoHS.  As our global supply chains are mandated to become more and more transparent, how will you and your suppliers comply?  Software companies out there, like Trace One, provide digital solutions.  They’re helping companies around the globe with transparency and make your supply chain transparent, too, with the click of your mouse (okay, it’s not that easy), which you’ll need if your company is in the food industry. 

The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law in 2011, requires robust and thorough supply chain transparency.  The FSMA might be a step toward the suspension of the supply chain trust in my restaurant example.  Under the FSMA, restaurants will buy from registered, transparent and approved food manufacturers who can provide the kind of transparency that their patrons (us) will now be able to ask Denny’s for.  (If we want to.)  There are apps out there now that are proving this out – eliminating the trust by giving diners real-time access to where and when their summer squash was grown and how, exactly, the kitchen sautéed it. 

Supply chain optimization is getting your customers what they want, when they want it – and spending the least amount of money possible accomplishing that.

  How does transparency impact optimization?  Well, transparency might cost more – but it can help guarantee that your customer is getting what it wants. 

Solutions – like the ones provided by Trace One – provide supply chain managers robust tools that will allow you, your company and your supply chain to comply with transparency requirements that are descending upon us.  We can put away our ad hoc lists and Excel spreadsheets.  Did supply chain transparency replace supply chain trust?  Perhaps.  But if you’ve ever been in the kitchen of your local diner, that might not be such a bad thing.