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Deploy the Right Type of Supply Chain Control Tower Featured

Deploy the Right Type of Supply Chain Control Tower "Just passing through in airport and saw this control tower. I searched for a perfect angle and place to take this. and worth it."

A supply chain control tower is often a confusing term to many in the market. It confuses with regard to what it actually means and its value to supply chain organizations. A supply chain control tower is a cloud platform focusing on providing end-to-end supply chain visibility and control. It integrates and extends existing ERPs, WMS and TMS systems with 3PLs, suppliers and manufacturers, and other partners. This integration provides visibility, actionable insights and operational control across the supply chain. Furthermore, it reduces lead times and inventory costs and helps mitigate exceptions while increasing the percentage of orders delivered on time and in full.  

A robust Control Tower will perform the following:

Real-time order planning- One of Control Tower's key tasks is improving customer service. To achieve this, it must capture and leverage key data such as delivery time, inventory availability and transportation costs in real-time. Doing this allows an organization to select the best and the most cost-effective flow of orders.

Exceptions management- This means that a control tower can focus on delivering OTIF orders consistently through supply chain tracking and sending of alerts. The solution should also allow you to take actions directly on the app.

Granular visibility- Control Tower, on top of tracking and tracing, is required to bring granular visibility to the details of every order to fulfill each required element effectively.

Although some technology vendors may refer to their analytics solutions as "Control Towers," some do not have the above capabilities. They may allow consolidation and display of data but cannot enable users to act on what they see. Although analytics solutions may help in planning stages, Control Towers must empower users to act on the insight. Therefore, when choosing a solution, remember that most supply chain software has analytics capabilities, but Control Towers should also offer an operational function. Below are two examples of control towers that provide visibility and analytics, enabling you to act on insights in real time.

Types of operational control towers

As discussed earlier, on top of having analytics capabilities, control towers must also offer visibility and allow you to act on insights in real time. Therefore, control towers should alert you on problems or exceptions as they emerge and allow you to resolve problems identified in real time within applications. These solutions, however, may differ in the degree to which they offer visibility and control in the supply chain. Therefore, as a buyer, note these differences and beware of significant gaps in functionality among the control tower solutions available in the marketplace.  

Here are two examples of control towers that you are likely to come across as you look for the best solution to your problems:

Transportation-focused Control Towers

These Control Towers mainly offer insight into the inbound and outbound shipments, visibility into aspects such as deliveries, ASN, freight spend, on-time delivery, track and trace and other crucial details. They are more likely to be purchased as an add-on or, in some cases, included within a TMS (Transport Management System). The limited focus means that they are siloed from other supply chain processes, offering end-to-end visibility

Supply chain focused

These Control Towers focus on the supply chain, ensuring visibility across internal and external supply chain processes and milestones. Furthermore, it focuses on sales and purchase orders, inventory across internal and external suppliers, maintenance and repair, and manufacturing. Due to end-to-end visibility in the supply chain and in-app, they allow collaboration with suppliers and partners.

The most significant difference you need to identify when choosing Control Towers is their focus. For instance, if you want end-to-end visibility and be able to act on insights, you should choose analytics or a transportation-based solution.

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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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