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“We want researchers to understand how they can incorporate supply chain transparency into their current research streams. We are making a case for the relevance of transparency in several different areas of business practice.”
— Tyler Morgan, Assistant Professor in Supply Chain Management
The Harbert College is dedicated to producing research that advances the academy, extends business thought, and shapes best practice.
Supply chain transparency is becoming an increasingly important consideration for business. Transparency influences the decisions made in boardrooms and consumer purchasing choices made in the marketplace. Recently, the U.S. discovered the potential problems caused by poor international supply chain transparency when concerns grew about disruptions in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals in China.
The increasing desire to track flows of products and key materials now includes a yearning to shine light on the business partners’ strategic decision making. Where does the product come from? What are the key ingredients or materials? Who was involved in product sourcing and manufacturing?
These factors impact stakeholders, stockholders, market values, profits, and ultimately … consumers.
Demand for transparency is growing across product categories. However, companies may pursue transparency in their supply chains for different reasons. For some, transparency might be needed as they adhere to increasing regulation. In other instances, transparency within the supply chain assists companies as they make environmental claims about their products or want to show they are treating workers fairly.
“We're seeing more instances where consumers are calling for transparency into their purchases,” said Tyler Morgan, Assistant Professor in Supply Chain Management at the Harbert College of Business. “Clothing and technology manufacturers are two examples where companies have felt pressure and are saying, ‘Okay, we need to address transparency, and so how can we do that?’
“It’s a people, planet, and profit consideration as firms pursue a triple bottom line approach to doing business. Companies are thinking about not just economic outcomes, but also social issues with workers and how their business impacts the environment.”
Morgan’s co-authored research, “Supply Chain Transparency: A Theoretical Toolbox for Paradigm Development,” lays the groundwork to motivate future academic research in supply chain transparency.
“We wanted to figure out a way to put together a road map of sorts to say, 'This is how you could involve transparency in your research.' Our motivation is to encourage researchers across business disciplines to consider supply chain transparency.”
“We wanted to figure out a way to put together a road map of sorts to say, 'This is how you could involve transparency in your research,'" he said. "Our motivation is to encourage researchers across business disciplines to consider supply chain transparency.”
Theoretical insights for investigating how transparency is being adapted in business practice were suggested for future exploration and discussion. These include stakeholder considerations, technology adoption, transaction costs, competing values, resource capabilities, and institutional pressures.
Big data is a topic that receives lots of attention. Dr. Morgan’s 2016 study -- "A Global Exploration of Big Data in the Supply Chain" -- with Dr. Glenn Richey, Eminent Scholar in Supply Chain Management, was recently ranked by the Production Journal as the seventh-most influential research publication globally in the study of big data and supply chain management over the last 10 years.
“We talk about the massive amounts of data that companies generate and store, but how can that information be used to provide transparency?” Morgan added. "Could supply chain transparency be the key to eliminating the massive disruptions we experienced in the first half of 2020?"
Dr. Morgan’s research team thinks so.