Measuring visibility to improve
supply chain performance:
a quantitative approach
Maria Caridi, Luca Crippa, Alessandro Perego,
Andrea Sianesi and Angela Tumino
Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering,
Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe a quantitative approach to assess the degree of
visibility that a focal company has of its supply chain, addressing speciﬁcally complex networks and
Design/methodology/approach – The study is based on an in-depth literature review concerning
the measurement of supply chain visibility and the assessment of its value. An extensive, six-month
discussion and reﬁnement process with the supply chain managers of nine leading companies was
conducted to validate the proposed approach and to conduct real case studies.
Findings – The main outcome of this paper is a model to measure the visibility level in complex
supply networks. Such a measure can be used for benchmarking and as a diagnostic tool for
practitioners to ﬁnd more easily the areas where a visibility improvement is more urgent.
Research limitations/implications – The model provides a measure of the visibility across the
inbound supply chain. Further research will extend the approach to the internal and outbound supply
chains. Moreover, limited empirical evidence is presented in this paper, which mainly aims to validate
the proposed approach. A wider application of the model could offer interesting opportunities in terms of
managerial practice and provide a more extensive basis for benchmarking.
Originality/value – Various authors have attempted to quantify visibility across a supply chain, but
they either calculate it only for simplistic, two-tier or linear supply chains, or they fail to provide a
comprehensive visibility metric.
Keywords Supply chain management, Generation and dissemination of information,
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction and theoretical background
Globalisation, market volatility, product life-cycle contraction and competitive pressure
are the main compelling factors which prompt companies to focus on their core
competences by externalizing an increasing amount of their activities (Prahalad and
Hamel, 1990; Prahalad and Krishnan, 2008). Complex, virtualised supply chains are the
result, in which the proﬁtability of the focal company, i.e. the supply chain leader, relies
more and more on its ability to manage multiple relationships with its business partners.
Indeed, in this new scenario, competition has shifted from “company vs company” to
“supply chain vs supply chain” (Christopher, 1992, 1998; Bowersox, 1997; Bradley et al.,
1999; Cox, 1999; Lambert and Cooper, 2000).
This evolution of the competitive scenario has been studied from different theoretical
points of view. A signiﬁcant contribution on the matter is provided by Dyer and Singh
(1998), who suggest the use of the relational view (RV) by considering the supply
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Benchmarking: An International
Vol. 17 No. 4, 2010
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