In the movement to digitize the enterprise and connect all things IoT and more, a former supply chain buzzword has re-emerged with more momentum than ever… and confusion! The supply chain term “control tower” is used many ways, causing some vendors to meld its point solutions into a new layer of technology and tout a beacon of insights across the supply chain with promises to include:
- Complete visibility of the entire supply chain
- Advanced and, in some cases, autonomous decision support
- End-to-end optimized enablement
How the Market Defines the Supply Chain Control Tower
Definitions of the supply chain control tower vary: is it one technology, a combination of technologies, or methodologies/processes with technology? One common theme that stands out with analyst firms, management consultants, academia, and vendors is visibility. From the start of the supply chain process (sourcing) to the end delivery, visibility of the integrated process has been a critical missing feature.
Gartner takes a broad view of the supply chain control tower, calling it a “concept” that incorporates people, technologies, and processes, which ultimately provides with must-have capabilities categorized as diagnostics, predictive analytics, simulation, responsiveness, collaboration, learning, and automation.1
Like Gartner, Dr. Anna Trzuskawska-Grzesińska with the WSB University in Toruń, Poland, takes the holistic approach in defining the supply chain control tower from a global perspective. In her research, she writes, “The control tower system consists of a human organization, processes and IT solutions. It enables proactive and/or automatic response to any deviation or any constraint, or contention. It provides enhanced visibility for short and long-term decision making aligned with strategic objectives.”
Other companies like Aberdeen and CapGemini describe the supply chain control tower in terms of technologies that provide cross-channel logistics and system-integrated information hubs for cross-divisional organizations, respectively. The reliance on technologies reinforces information integration for making better decisions when monitoring, analyzing, and planning the supply chain. Additionally, the treatment of data is structured to detect and act on critical decisions that could impact the seamless flow of the production line, maximizing services and minimizing cycle times.
Gartner also states that there is not one vendor in the supply chain control tower category that includes all capabilities. Perhaps it’s why the researcher warns buyers to beware of the control tower hype.
What is overlooked with the control tower approach, however, is that advanced analytics does include all of the key capabilities in one platform that exists today.
Before investigating a lengthy control tower build, it’s worthwhile to compare the popular buzzword with advanced analytics.
No Hype Advanced Analytics
At River Logic, we see supply chain control tower technologies vary by feature limitations. The added control tower layer may offer advantages, but never fully enables the end-to-end supply chain process. Advanced analytics — especially with visual display capabilities — can. Here are a few reasons why advanced analytics supersedes control tower solutions:
- Advanced analytics extends beyond the supply chain to include impacts to other areas of the business. For example, what is the upside for a control tower solution to fulfill inventory levels at 100% if it means lower profits for the company? Advanced analytics models these predictive and prescriptive scenarios, and, in the case of the River Logic platform, tie back to the overall corporate financials, giving new meaning to end-to-end visibility.
- Advanced analytics avoids more technology layering and lengthy implementations. By design, true advanced analytics technologies embed within existing systems, utilizing what is already in place instead of creating more workload and requiring more resources.
- Advanced analytics provides smart insights. Insights without a prescribed course of action and validated on how those actions will impact financials can be akin to viewing a tsunami from behind a plate glass window. You see what’s coming,but need to rely on your own resources to scramble to safety. Prescriptive analytics provides the cognitive intelligence that delivers the execution details, too.
Like the old saying, "measure twice, cut once," companies re-igniting the control tower approach can save time, energy, and expenditures by moving to advanced analytics with visual capabilities. Rather than buying into an ambiguous terminology with rebranded technologies, advanced analytics covers the gamut with all the benefits built-in.
The other opportunity that exists with advanced analytics over supply chain control tower solutions is the ability for more enterprise stakeholder participation. Citizen Data Scientists can be part of the enterprise modeling, viewing near, real-time impacts that the supply chain has on the company and looking at other prescribed courses of actions for multiple lines of business, if not the entire enterprise.
Hype is hope sought after; in addition to supply chain tower solutions, evaluate advanced analytics, too. See why your business will be able to “cut once” with advanced analytics.
1”Gartner, Don’t Believe the Control Tower Hype — Buyer Beware,” Payne, Tim, August 2018.