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Q&A: The Evolution of Control Tower & the Digital Supply Chain Webinar

This past Thursday, Brian Hodgson and I shared our thoughts on the evolution of control towers and what to look for when looking for a control tower to solve your business needs. You can find the on-demand recording here!

As always, we get a lot of questions during our webinars and here are our answers to attendee’s questions.

Q: How far into the retail supply chain can your control tower go? Can you provide visibility to omni-channel inventory and the allocation decisions that are required such as buy on-line or pick-up in store?

The short answer is Yes. An operational supply chain control tower can help you with your omni-channel strategy while helping to orchestrate the dynamic sourcing of inventory for every customer order. 

Q: What is the typical timeframe to Implement a Supply Chain Control Tower? What is the standard implementation timeframe of the tool?

This really depends on the scope of your project, however, for some organizations that means getting up the initial control tower project in as little as 3 months. Typically organizations will set up a proof of concept with dedicated order flow or two and then expand the use of the control tower to more order flows. When thought of like that it can take 9-12 months when the scope includes an extensive number of order flows.

Q: Have you considered blockchain technology to create more transparency across the supply chain?

Blockchain is one of the innovations that will become important to supply chain but it is not the only one. AI, machine learning and predictive analytics are all making their way into supply chain orchestration and control towers.

Q. You mentioned providing visibility into non-transportation steps, what steps do you include there and how do you measure them?

The biggest difference between the two types of operational control towers are that one focuses just on the transportation and the other focuses on the end-to-end supply chain. For supply chain control towers that focus on end-to-end they offer the ability to gain real-time supply chain visibility and control as well as manage by exception non-transportation steps in the supply chain including steps in manufacturing, warehouse, customs, repair as well as steps of your third party providers and suppliers.

Q. You mention analytics vs. operational control towers? Do operational control towers provide analytics as well?

Nearly every supply chain software solution provides analytics. We make the distinction between analytics and operational control towers because many analytics solutions that provide visibility are just data visualization tools such as Tableau or the analytics tool for a specific software. While this can still be valuable especially for short and long term planning, what you lose is the ability to take action on this visibility in real-time to manage exceptions and execute real-time optimization in how you fulfill on your orders.

The other important note here is who is helping to capture and maintain integrity in your granular data and visibility. Typically, an operational supply chain control tower will provide a data entity model that can help ensure accurate and granular capture of the data necessary to ensure you can make informed decisions in your analytics dashboards.

Q. How long does it take for ROI when I put an operational control tower in place?

This really depends on your overall business goals for the control tower but customers have seen a wide range of measurable return on investment from having better visibility and control.

This includes decreased inventory from dynamic sourcing, increased on-time in-full order delivery which has yielded more repeat customers, improved operational efficiency which has helped deploy their team's time to more value added activities and decreased partner, supplier and carrier cost due to increased accuracy in third party performance to name a few.

Q. In implementation a control tower, what phases do you recommend?

When we work with a customer, we typically suggest that we start with one or two key order flows to run a proof of concept for the control tower focusing on supply chain visibility first and control once that is set up. Once successful, we then expand to the other critical order flows to drive business performance.

We do this for a few reasons. One, this typically means they see ROI earlier within 3 months which helps them secure buy-in for expansion internally. Second, is that visibility and control are intertwined. Visibility often is the first goal for organizations, as they first need to understand what is happening. Control is a close second as this then provides improved efficiency to take action on that visibility.

Lastly, once a flow is set up we often review the steps in the process with the customer and realize that they may want to include more supply chain steps in the flow to get more granular visibility so they can even better manage their exceptions.

Q. We have multiple control towers, should we be consolidating them to one?

We often recommend that you have one data layer for your control tower so depending on the control towers you have in place it may make sense to combine or replace. This is because you want a central hub to be your single source of truth for the end-to-end customer order from a visibility and control perspective. If you have a control tower for your warehouse and transportation for instance, your team has to manage orders in two different systems without truly seeing all the steps required to ensure that order gets fulfilled and delivered. We would not recommend separate control towers by supply chain function.

That being said, we also see organizations that want multiple control towers for specific business needs. For brand owners, that might mean a supply chain control tower for specific business units. For logistics service providers, that might mean a multi-tenant environment with distinct control towers for individual customers. In both case, the control tower still has a full data entity model as the foundation but requires separation from other supply chain processes due to the unique needs of the business. It's really a case-by-case decision in this case.

If you want to hear the on-demand webinar, please see follow the page below:

 Supply Chain Control Tower


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