Supply Chain Visibility: The View from the Control Tower

Today’s competitive business landscape and ever evolving customer demads are re-shaping traditional supply chains. Globalisation is increasing supply chain complexity, as physical supply chains extend their geographic scope in order to leverage low cost sourcing options to gain access to emerging markets. What’s more, outsourcing is taking the supply chain outside the four walls of an organisation, meaning collaboration with partners is imperitive for supply chain effectiveness.

On top of this, organisations typicallly will prioritise the need to increase revenues and profit margins. This results in the business challenge to focus on creating strong end-to-end supply chain visibility capabilities. Having this visibility provides speed, reliability and flexibility which could result in competitive advantage in the form of well controlled and managed supply chain functions.

One of the most recognised enablers of any truly visible supply chain, is the concept of control towers which are more relevant than ever…

 

Siloed Supply Chains

A lack of real-time tracking, visibility, and transparency across your organization’s supply chain can prevent you from responding quickly and dynamically to volatility or stakeholder demands. It also makes it difficult to expand into new markets and geographies.

Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of your supply chain operations is all about breaking down the silos in which it operates. Although many organisations have pockets of excellence in various areas of their supply chain, they are not always connected and lack any overall visibility.

While you might have visibility for a particular product or process within an individual supply chain of your organisation, you might not have visibility of that product or its process across product lines, divisions, markets and operating models of your organisation.

 

Evolving control towers

Implementing a control tower across your supply chain operations enables you to consolidate and harmonise all of your products and markets in one place. Acting as a central umbrella-like hub that merges data and physical material flows with your organisation, processes and culture, a control tower can improve your supply chain visibility.

Of course, this is nothing new. Control towers have always been a powerful approach to increase supply chain performance – but they have been held back by a lack of appropriate technology. Now with the rise of virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent automation, and robotization, control towers have the potential to contribute massively to the way you control and execute your supply chain management.

 

Innovative operating model

Organisations have traditionally run their supply chain operations in a top-down manner. This has typically generated a set of consistent or inconsistent sales data across product lines and geographies, which is used to inform the organization how future operations of a particular product should be set up and run.

A future-ready control tower operates in exactly the opposite way and leverages a bottom-up approach. Firstly, organisations must ensure their data is complete, consistent, and provides the right visibility on how they operated the supply chain for a particular product. This typically involves the use of dashboards and cockpits that provide real-time visibility.

Secondly, by applying logic, intelligence, and analytics to their data, organisations can understand exactly how supply chain operations for that product runs. This involves root cause analysis, simulations and “what if” scenarios, as well as risk analysis and response management.

Finally, once these steps have been carried out, organisations can plan, produce, fulfill, sell and deliver the product. This is underpinned by a technology backbone that connects an ecosystem of suppliers, logistics service providers (LSP), contract manufacturers, customers, and distributors.

 

Conclusion

The implementation of a technology-enabled control tower represents a paradigm shift in the way supply chain operations are carried out.

By unlocking visibility into connected aspects of the supply chain, control towers can ensure that supply chain managers are better informed and able to address issues not directly within their control by collaborating with supply chain partners. Offering a single version of the truth across functional boundaries and across suppliers, contract manufacturers, transportation carriers, third-party logistics providers and more, the control tower can act as a hub for decision-making, and action, based on real-time analytics.

By applying these functionalities, it in turn improves awareness, communication and collaboration, by which companies can achieve truly efficient supply chain.

 

 

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