In a 2021 survey by Gartner, 68% of supply chain executives said they had been constantly responding to “high-impact disruptions” over the previous three years. Most also said they didn’t have time to recover from one disruptive event before the next one hit them.
To thrive in these challenging times, supply chain leaders need to acquire the superpower of accurate, real-time and holistic visibility.
Today, this level of visibility is hard to come by. Traditional supply chains are optimized for granular efficiency, broken into myriad small parts that perform only their assigned functions. The building blocks of a global supply chain don’t speak to one another, making holistic visibility impossible. Sequential information flow across core operating functions hinders collaboration. And an unsynchronized supply chain is unable to respond to systemic risks and disruptions.
To improve collaboration and responsiveness, enterprises need what one might call “end-to-endless” visibility — advanced analytics that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Beyond merely collecting data across sources, companies need a way to make contextual sense of it all. The answer is a supply chain control tower.
Gartner defines the concept as the coming together of people, process, data, organization and technology to enable enhanced visibility. But it’s more than that. A control tower is the foundational technology that creates a connected, intelligent and autonomous enterprise.
A supply chain control tower combines external data from multiple sources with internal data generated by enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), transportation management, inventory management, finance, sales and marketing, to provide an end-to-endless view. It enables connected insights across the supply chain, making possible such essential functions as self-service analytics, root-cause analysis, real-time notification of issues, user trigger actions and alert prioritization.
Going far beyond historical scorecards, the supply chain control tower enables predictive and prescriptive capabilities to foresee potential disruptions and address them before they even occur. This includes scenario planning and action recommendations, automating linear repetitive functions, and predicting supply chain risks based on external events.
The outcomes for the enterprise are significant. They include:
A supply chain control tower is an organization-wide project that involves multiple stakeholders and requires sweeping change management. To ensure success, companies need to consider the following:
Identify the sustainable end game. A survey by BCG of supply chain leaders found that one of the key concerns around the supply chain control tower is that its “value contribution was often not articulated clearly enough.” Without this understanding of how the control tower is an improvement over traditional systems, outcomes can seem random at best. It’s therefore critical for leaders to articulate the value of the control tower and identify areas for impact.
Build foundational data-engineering capabilities. The success of any analytics or AI project relies heavily on the accuracy, completeness, quality, relevance and timeliness of data. The supply chain control tower needs to be supported by strong data engineering. Automated data pipelines to collect, cleanse, store and process data in real time need to be enabled. These foundations drive AI- and machine learning-enabled insights and action.
Accelerate speed to value. Typically, there are two key aspects to achieving this goal: tools that can expedite the process, and the ability to customize them for each company’s needs. While choosing to buy or build a control tower, supply chain leaders need to find the right balance between the two, ideally with no compromise on either.
Deploy supply chain intelligence. The supply chain control tower isn’t a destination but a journey toward a connected, intelligent and autonomous enterprise. Companies must continue to mature along with the control tower, moving from purely historical scorecards to predictive, prescriptive and cognitive capabilities. Supply chain leaders must look for partners who can walk with them on this journey over the long term, and drive incremental value throughout.
Unlike a functional analytics solution, a control tower, powered by AI, offers end-to-endless visibility, collaboration and responsiveness across the supply chain. It enables users to imagine possibilities and implement them effectively. And it allows them to leapfrog their competition by leveraging their biggest and most differentiated asset: data.Hemanth Holla is director of supply chain products at Tredence Inc.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.