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Supply chain visibility: lost in translation?

Vernon Francis (Graduate School of Management, University of Dallas, Irving, Texas, USA)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 2 May 2008




The purpose of this paper is to describe miscommunication about the ubiquitous term “supply chain visibility” (SCV), to propose a precise definition for it and identify its salient characteristics.


A literature search was conducted to describe the widespread use of the term SCV and the miscommunication that occurs surrounding its use. The proposed definition and the salient characteristics of SCV are original conceptual contributions.


The study finds that the term SCV is widely used in the supply chain management and logistics communities Many vendors, third party logistics providers, transportation and other companies profess to have or provide it, yet SCV remains one of the top issues consistently mentioned in surveys of supply chain management professionals. This occurs in part because of the confusion surrounding its meaning.

Research limitations/implications

Usage of the term SCV is ubiquitous and a complete review of all sources is not possible, revealing over 348,000 sources from internet and academic database searches. Only selected, key results are from these sources are reported. The proposed definition for and characterization of SCV are the author's conceptual contributions, open to discussion and debate.

Practical implications

A precise definition of SCV along with its important attributes helps to promote consistent understanding, interpretation and to clarify communications, especially between vendors and logistics service providers.


The proposed definition is new, as well as the discussion of its important attributes and implications.



Francis, V. (2008), "Supply chain visibility: lost in translation?", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 180-184.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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