Using a control tower to achieve your supply chain goals

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March 3, 2021

To keep up with lofty yet mandatory customer expectations, your supply chain can’t afford to stop investing in technology that improves processes, connects business partners and IoT data, and uses machine learning algorithms to improve business outcomes. If the people tasked with running your supply chain are relying on poorly built or outdated systems filled with data quality issues, then they need new technology solutions and strategies to overcome these shortcomings to create true value.

As you strive to balance cost while simultaneously improve your customer service, you are no doubt confronting issues that require better collaboration amongst your group as well as the numerous companies you interact with daily. The days of each department or company working on an island while hoping groups further downstream can correct any mistakes are long gone.

Nowadays, those of us in the supply chain space realize the need for ongoing collaboration with everyone who touches our supply chain. This can take the form of sharing data around forecasts, inventory positions, capacity plans, order status (both at rest and in-transit), as well as visibility into shipments.

For many supply chain professionals, the idea of continuous planning is growing in popularity. The goal is to leverage data, machine learning, and partners to create the most accurate, intelligent plan possible, knowing that it will be imperfect after it is finalized.

By sharing this data, everyone working together gains greater insights and each party can execute the plan to the best of their ability. Leveraging shared data and digital processes across the entire of the supply chain ensures that everyone is on the same page from start to finish, meaning faster results at a lower cost. But as with planning, the execution will not be perfect. There will ultimately be shortages, unplanned outages, weather-related delays, and unforeseen disasters at various points along the way.

So, to combat these potential setbacks, the final component of continuous planning comes from your ability to continuously sense and respond to these situations. Sensing and responding are the keys to your supply chain gaining the agility it needs to overcome challenges before they become detrimental to your goals.

You need early sensing for events such as demand shifts, late shipments, supply and demand imbalances across each node of your supply chain network that can lead to potential stockouts, transportation issues, and other risks such as strikes, weather, and political strife. Following early sensing is a swift and intelligent response that should be included into future planning decisions.

Depending upon how early an event is detected and the best response identified, the outcome can either be a re-planning effort or an action taken inside of the execution window. Either way, you’ll have valuable information cycled back into planning as a signal from the execution window on the accuracy of planning models, execution environment changes, or general business atmosphere changes. This loop of planning, executing, and sensing and responding continues creating a smarter and more responsive supply chain.

For your company to achieve these capabilities, investments in Digital Core platforms and systems and Digital Supply Chain Twins are crucial. If you are looking to improve your sensing and responding capabilities, adopting Supply Chain Control Towers help use Digital Supply Chain technologies. More and more companies are turning to Supply Chain Control Towers to reconcile views across operations, manage disruptions, help coordinate supply chain activities, and improve responsiveness.

In fact, IDC notes that "85% of respondents to IDC's 2020 Supply Chain Survey said that the supply chain control tower is either important or very important to the future of the supply chain.”

Supply Chain Control Towers hold the promise to sit over all operations, with clear, perfect visibility to all plans, products, partners, and events affecting costs and customer satisfaction. From this vantage point, your company can detect risks early and trigger swift resolution between all impacted parties. This will keep costs low and customers happy.

While the market for supply chain control towers is still maturing, the fundamental goals, capabilities, and components are starting to formalize and materialize. The Supply Chain Control Tower is evolving into the key combination of people, technology, and process that can shepherd a company on their journey to the continuous supply chain. Will your company seek the improvement capabilities a control tower provides?

To learn more about effective implementation strategies of a supply chain control tower, check out the complete best practice guide.

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