Visibility & Invisibility (original post: April 9 2012)

I was invisible to the general public. No one in the public knows where I am now (ok, ok, I did turn off my ‘Latitude’ apps on the Android phone – even Google, I believe, is not tracking me by my WiFi spot and/or my GPS position). My social invisibility remains even I step into the land of the Great Britain with those CCTV cameras ‘looking’ at you! Right, ‘looking’ at you as in the generic you as Person X. You are only visible until perfect facial recognition software picks X up with identity. With that, my tracks are available, tracing me is another matter. Privacy issues come up when my tracks are looked at for no apparent (legal) reasons and without my consent.

Anyhow, my invisibility is eroding for sure if I carry my Android phone everywhere with some tracking apps on. In supply chains, tracks by default are created at all operational points, such as receiving, put away, pick-n-pack and shipping. With supply chain business transactional data and third-party information agents, tracing of the goods (raw materials, WIPs, products, etc.) could be constructed, and thus, visibility of the supply chain is available to some extent. Yet, we are still talking about how to gain SCV. Why?

In the field of visibility, supply chain invisibility is created by, at least, two main culprits. First, the ‘boundaries’ drawn up inherently in a supply chain!! We speak of supply chain management from the perspective of a number of echelons working together by adding values to goods in transit from upstream to downstream. The boundaries are walls that create discontinuities resulting in discussion such as supply chain integration, and daringly the classic bullwhip effects. The discontinuity renders invisibility. The second culprit is ‘thresholds.’ At this time, I would collectively label that as ‘entitlement threshold.’ What threshold would one (supply chain partner) tolerate without sacrificing data and information that adversely affect its competitiveness and sovereignty, among other sustainability characteristics. How much of one’s operations is your partner entitled to be seen? Yes, in the field of (SC) visibility, we must consider both seeing and to be seen – purely seeing has minimal value (like the CCTV). Whom to be seen and what to be seen are the entitlement consideration.

The man-made supply chain invisibility calls for supply chain visibility. We might have a solution with RFID.

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