If we have to explain the difference between the two terms, then the easiest way is to use the “All beetles are insects but not all insects are beetles” theorem. Visibility is a component of transparency, but they are not completely overlapping terms. If we only mean “track and trace” package following, we are depriving ourselves of many opportunities that can only be achieved by relying on transparency.
What makes transparency more than visibility?
Transparency offers the ability and possibility of intervention. A “standard” shipment tracking is usually an operational process that can be accomplished by purchasing, installing, and applying an IT system. By using the appropriate sensors and data transmitters it can even be accurate, however, it provides only a one-sided information flow. It informs me but does not allow me to intervene: I know the shipment will be delayed, I know where the shipment is, but I can do nothing about it.
The key is the human factor.
In pure IT systems, data analysis is almost impossible without human intervention because of the incomplete incoming data. If, for example, we keep track of the towing vehicle and not the cargo, some defects might remain undetected. Over time we might have so many sensors and data at our disposal that even a plain IT system will be able to make fairly accurate predictions, but full-scale transparency still will not be possible without human participation.
Human involvement is essential to recognize problems, to take action when needed, and to anticipate events that may occur.
Is it possible to operate a transparent system from within?
It is possible, but not economical. Inasmuch as full transparency requires incessant availability, it necessitates round-the-clock monitoring. Our Surveillance Centre at e-track offers 24/7 supervision, so we can take action and intervene into the supply chain at any time if need be.
Language barriers can also become a major problem for some actors in the supply chain. It is often the case that the driver of a shipment does not speak the language of the country he is in, consequently cannot inform the customer of the delays, nor does he understand the instructions that these delays generate.
Staff members of our Supervisory Centre speak 12 languages, so there is no need to worry about communication when passing on requests, instructions, or simply information.
Given the current data flow supplied by sensors no transparent supply chain can function at 100% efficiency without human contribution. And to make sure that you can freely concentrate on maximizing your tasks as a buyer, hauler, or manufacturer, you need experts who operate the supply chain in a transparent way, and take the burden of non-stop monitoring off your shoulders.