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Identifying the categories of control towers for supply chain management improvement

September 14, 2021

As a result, many control towers struggle to provide the true, real-time, end-to-end visibility, decision support capabilities, and collaborative execution processes that are necessary for creating an agile, responsive supply chain.

  • Many planning solution providers have built control towers on top of their integrated planning solutions and attempt to provide end to end visibility by designing and maintaining extensive models that simulate real-world supply chains. Demand and supply signals are applied against these models to provide insights from upstream and downstream processes. However, these real-world models are based upon static physical supply chain data sets that neither update in real-time nor provide the multi-party visibility and collaboration to handle near-term events. This leaves actionable responses to planning control tower insights limited to re-planning.
  • As for logistics companies, many have built control towers that provide a view of transportation flows and are integrated into key transportation execution systems. But these control towers also tend to lack multi-party visibility and collaboration to upstream and downstream processes that impact products and materials. As a result, companies can only make decisions that are relevant within the logistics domain, and the optimization of transportation decisions may not optimize enterprise results given different states of inventory throughout the network.

Analytics and business intelligence vendors are building control towers to visually demonstrate supply chain flows and performance, bringing disparate data sources into a data lake, and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to produce insights in a single, consumable view.

  • Unfortunately, these control towers lack real-time visibility, which is crucial for facilitating response. The insights captured internal data rather than sourced from the supply chain network directly. This results in latency and data quality issues that make it difficult to act upon the insights provided. Users of analytic control towers often require “war room” environments to analyze next steps and collaborate off-line with key partners.

Supply chain control towers offer end-to-end visibility from planning through execution, process orchestration, and aligned decision making between internal and external supply chain parties.

  • While these control towers possess key components for supply chain control, many companies lack true, consistent data models across business functions and applications, lack the consistent application of real-time data, and focus mostly on tier-1 supplier visibility.
  • Furthermore, some solutions consist of a layer that attempts to orchestrate between business functions, but the processes remain separate, not shared. This creates a need for reconciliation of data and processes before decision making can be aligned.

Having the right control tower in place is just the first step. For companies to truly create supply chain agility and resiliency, they need to continually invest in new technologies, people, and processes in both good times and bad. The best companies invest heavily in times of turmoil and emerge from big shocks stronger than before and stronger than competitors.

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

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