Supply Chain Control Tower: Providing Greater Visibility, Flexibility and Efficiency

A well-managed supply chain provides companies a competitive advantage and increased profitability.

A solution that has been gaining momentum recently is the transparent supply chain process referred to as the SCM Control Tower. Control Tower acts as the supply chain nerve center, utilizing technology, organization and processes that capture product movement visibility from the supplier all the way to the customer. It allows the 3PL customer to collect and use timing, efficiency and service data in real time for short- and long-term planning and decision-making, and it assists them in aligning and realizing strategic objectives. The customer becomes engaged in the entire process across multiple domains, at a level of involvement that caters to the company’s needs.

The flexibility of an SCM Control Tower is key to the service it provides. Its role or focus can change according to the individual needs of a supply chain customer. It is very much a concept of scale; it can be part of the solution or all of it. The real-time analysis of data enables supply chain managers to immediately address questions or issues that occur unexpectedly. They can detect what is happening and determine best practices for response. Additionally, they can identify trends and anticipate potential issues that may arise in the future. The data collected allows them to analyze opportunities, mitigate risk and formulate response strategies. Simply stated, an SCM Control Tower gives customers the information they need to make informed decisions by utilizing pure visibility of daily services and tactical administration.

The most vital SCM Control Tower component is the coordination of activity along all aspects of the supply chain. Improved visibility increases the customer’s knowledge across all domains: manufacturing, inventory, demand, transportation, customs clearance and service — all aspects involved in the day-to-day operations.

For example, at the local level, a 3PL customer can coordinate with the carrier that makes a pickup, while at the same time communicating with the supplier to determine the availability of material for pickup. The customer is able to interface within the system to monitor the process from beginning to end. The customer can coordinate with port compliance for export documentation, ensuring that all paperwork is available to the customs broker for clearance. Shipments can be tracked and traced upon arrival, and required information is made available to the inbound customer’s broker for clearance.

Along with coordination, end-to-end visibility also provides the opportunity to catch and manage a potential crisis along the supply chain. Sometimes issues pop up and decisions need to be made quickly. For example, suppose a shipment is travelling LTL, and it unexpectedly becomes “hot” en route and has to be diverted — possibly going by air — in order to get to its destination faster due to a production need, or it may even need to go to a new destination. The coordination and management necessary to execute such changes require the visibility of an SCM Control Tower.


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