Global supply chains remain rattled by the fast rise of more complex, demanding e-commerce fulfillment in an environment of ongoing supply-demand dislocation and increasing rates of disruption. Building in agility and resilience to manage disruption and volatility in demand has become a top priority.
Control towers collect and standardize a range of cross-functional internal and external data — real-time inventory and shipment location and status across the network, point-of-sale and market data to capture demand signals, supplier production and carrier capacity data, and “situational” traffic, roadway and weather data for updating ETAS.
Visualization tools display the end-to-end network operation in at-a-glance, graphic form with configured views to support user specificity. Analytics measure performance, spot potential exceptions, recommend response options, and optimize workflow and processes against established business rules and priorities. This real-time, shared, end-to-end network view enables parties to track, prioritize and allocate freight, orders and inventory, predict and manage exceptions, and make more informed operational and strategic decisions.
A control tower isn’t simple plug-and-play software. Typically, it can be an entry point, or an end goal, in a larger digital transformation process that relies on continuous, networked data and reporting from partners and vendors, from sourcing to point-of-sale. The more granular, current and complete the data, the higher degree of trust in the data and the more detailed, insightful and actionable the visibility.
Towers can be built in stages, initially designed around specific visibility needs — shipment tracking and ETA accuracy, supplier and carrier management, inventory controls to ensure on time and in full (OTIF) delivery and avoid stockouts and production delays, or end-to end system performance and planning — adding capabilities later as needed.
Large manufacturers, retailers and 3PLs have been early adopters, because of both the complexity of their operations and their ability to leverage volumes and buying power to compel data standardization and reporting compliance from upstream and downstream partners. But as the technology has become more accessible and costs have come down, it has attracted interest from small and mid-sized companies grappling with demand volatility, supply or capacity issues and worker shortages.
Change management among supply chain partners remains a challenge. But as a critical mass of smaller suppliers, niche retailers and warehouses, last-mile logistics and fintech service providers plug in, and as supply chains consolidate and interconnect, control tower integration will likely become industry standard.
Expect digital transformation to accelerate as adoption shortens order-to-pay cycles and exception response times beyond the capabilities of a conventional manual operation and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.
Widespread introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning will make networks and their control towers more predictive and prescriptive. The endgame: automation of most supply chain processes and refinement of governing business rules for a faster, frictionless supply chain, freeing up scarce people and resources from repetitive, mechanical functions for higher-value work.
You can almost sense the demand lights flashing.
Resource Link: www.infor.com/products/infor-nexus-control-center
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.