What is Supply Chain Control Tower? Its Benefits & Features

Supply Chain Control Tower
01 Aug

Supply chains today can vary from simple to highly complex global networks. The use of several third-party logistics providers often weakens supply chain visibility and can make it difficult to track orders as they move through the system. This approach leaves businesses struggling to gather the needed data to resolve exceptions, implement corrective actions, and improve processes. This is where Supply Chain Control Tower comes in play!

A supply chain control tower delivers the ability to assemble and evaluate end-to-end data in real-time all through the supply chain as demonstrated by Gabriel Werner – Vice President, EMEA Solutions Advisory for Blue Yonder. They provide a personalized data presentation of key business metrics and events across the supply chain, which, when effectively used, increases performance. The supply chain control tower enables businesses to fully understand, prioritize, and resolve essential issues in real-time

1.     What is Supply Chain Control Tower?

First, the supply chain control tower is not synonymous with physical towers. Still, it delivers a unified hub covering all technological and organizational tools, including processes, required to capture data from all end-to-end stages in the supply chain.

The control tower employs real-time data in pinpointing strengths and weaknesses present in any supply chain through predictive analytics. Its processes are necessary for improving and delivering greater efficiency across your supply chain network. The supply chain control towers let you operate smartly and efficiently, irrespective of the complexity of your supply chain network. The data obtained delivers more excellent benefits to every participant in the supply chain, including consumers, while lessening costly exceptions.

Defining a digital control tower strategy remains a vital part of any digital supply chain initiative. Supply chain systems are distributed and based on different technology stacks and different platforms like cloud and on-premises. In addition to the architectural components, many businesses are already using digital technology components like IoT, AI, and analytics to automate their supply chains. Within the supply chain ecosystem, digitalization already provides inbound and outbound logistics visibility, collaborative order management, inventory visibility and management, collective supply and demand planning capabilities, and much more

In the logistic space, control towers have been around for a while, mainly focusing on visibility and events around transportation. Also, in the planning context, the control tower as a term has been more used in the sense of being able to create transparency. Control tower as an organizational entity, so companies would call a team a control tower that looks after developing openness and visibility in the supply chain.

“More recently, I think what is emerging is the idea that a control tower is a more holistic and more end to end when it comes to providing visibility and transparency for a supply chain.” – Gabriel Warner (Vice President EMEA Solutions Advisory Blue Yonder)

See the full episode of The Supply Chain Show, where Dr. Muddassir Ahmed has interviewed Gabriel Werner – Vice President, EMEA Solutions Advisory for Blue Yonder.

The ability to ingest these large amounts of external data in a controlled fashion, you know, line it up and align it with the internal data and create a picture that is then possible to interrogate through search mechanisms elastics.

2.     Benefits of Supply Chain Control Tower.

The integration of a control tower to improve the capabilities of your supply chain management system and offers so many benefits that should not be ignored when pondering on possible network solutions.  Some of the significant benefits include:

Autonomous Decision Maker Process.

The decision-making abilities of the supply chain control tower are one of its key features and possibly the future of the whole industry. The process of collecting data, analyzing it, running possible situations, and taking the necessary prescription to enhance efficiency and reduce cost is one thing to consider. Without taking any actionable steps on the acquired data or following a prepared plan dependent on human intervention for execution, the control tower is the desired tool.

Supply chain control towers take essential data/information and execute the needed processes automatically, effectively implementing the most efficient strategy. This approach to autonomy will transform your business process with the power of data that previously would require several human hours in research to achieve defined goals.

End-to-End Visibility.

The visibility on every part of a supply chain remains essential to all participants, and every manager/supervisor understands its importance. I have recently done a Linkedin survey and asked a question “while creating supply chain strategy, which V you will prioritize in 2021” to chose between Improve Velocity, Reduce Variability & Improve Visibility as the most important V’s in Supply Chain Strategy. With no surprise, 71% of 1108 people voted “Improve Visibility”.

Supply Chain Control TowerThere are several scenarios to counter over time from bad weather, delays, emergency shipments, inventory loss, and more. Ultimately, the level of visibility plays a part where end-to-end contact is required. Supply chain control towers offer the needed visibility to detect exceptions in real-time. The period between exceptions and resolutions is greatly minimized. This approach reduces the time it takes to detect and resolve exceptions. It reduces operational costs and enhances overall performance across the supply chain.

Lowered Costs.

It is clear to see how effective information sharing and communication between end-to-end participants on a supply chain can enjoy the guaranteed availability of data within the shortest possible time. A practical operation usually carries a lower cost. With supply chain control tower and implementation of the appropriate parameters, exceptions can be handled before arrival to limit loss in cost and time.

Improved and Shared Communication.

The Supply chain control tower allows for better communication and partnership amongst crucial participants in a network. Every participant can access needed information and shared data to grasp the collective process and possible changes better.

Enhanced Productivity.

Applying the power of data and predictive technological concepts, supply chain control towers can identify exceptions along with the network, diagnose and recommend solutions in real-time. This feature permits businesses to work smarter and focus on attaining the desired goals. Supply chain control towers also continuously adapt and learn more efficient routines, limiting manual hours dedicated to research and less effective processes.

3.     Critical Components and Features Comprise the Digital Supply Chain

They may not be the solution to every company’s supply challenges. It is essential to seek the very best for your business process. Many providers claim ownership of the digital supply chain, and many have worked on associated capabilities for several years. Few, however, are positioned to deliver the full promise of the digital landscape, as their offerings are limited to components.

For organizations evaluating their digitalization roadmap, the critical components and features comprise the digital supply chain to look out for includes:


Operational dashboards and pre-emptive alerts can also be instrumental in the management of recognized and likely disruptions. However, the coordination of a response in a manual environment requires pivoting across applications and will likely result in missed opportunities. Therefore, the underlying applications that manage supply chain planning and execution are critical.

Real-time orchestration must occur, which means the digital supply chain must be interoperable with those applications. While public communications based on Application Program Interfaces (APIs) will facilitate integration, those providers that offer both the underlying applications and the orchestration layer will operate from a holistic view. This means they will be able to maintain those connections as technology advances. This is where the digital control tower comes into play.

Predictive Insights and Recommendations.

Historical data, coupled with big data, can be leveraged to provide predictive insights and recommendations, a core capability of any true digital supply chain. Providers that embrace advanced simulation capabilities enabled by machine learning will quickly outpace any competitors as they benefit from the accuracy of both the predictions and the dynamic response recommendations that result.

Real-time visibility.

We repeating the visibility topic here, but from digital supply chain perspective. Understanding real-time inventory positions, order statuses, and resource availability are critical to remove constraints from dynamic response options. As such, this visibility is a cornerstone of any digital supply chain. Visibility can also be considered in the context of collaboration across departments or even organizations. Providing consistent information in real-time and allowing internal and external partners access to update assumptions is critical.

4.     How Control Tower Enables Digital Supply Chain

The digitalization of the supply chain makes companies evaluate all relevant information holistically and repeatedly. This approach implies they can iteratively improve their supply chains and dynamically respond to likely disruptions with balanced plan revisions. The digital control tower sits at the heart of the supply chain ecosystem, facilitating sharing information and the automation of the response and optimization mechanisms. For businesses to succeed with the integration into their network, the digital control tower must have the following capabilities:

  • Provide visibility across business units, geographies, and functions, enabled by digital technologies such as blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • Enable collaboration among internal and external stakeholders in real-time for superior visibility.
  • Ingest big data and make suggestions, or initiate remedial actions based on near real-time information.
  • Enable cognitive planning and positioning of assets for peak seasons.
  • Provide intelligent asset maintenance and tracking.
  • Convert raw data into meaningful insights for proactive decision-making.
  • Provide enhanced actionable data analytics for carriers, vendors, and suppliers.
  • Enable self-corrective action that improves turnaround time.

Supply chain control towers can take your business to the next level with improved autonomous decision-making and end-to-end visibility. The implementation process for supply chain control towers is no easy task as it requires an efficient infrastructure to yield optimal outcomes. Also, true automation is a long way from the standard of available technologies today.

Nevertheless, the benefits of employing control towers far offset the cost of any infrastructure upgrade. Supply chain control towers remain relevant proof that automation and data are vital to the future of the overall supply chain industry.


Supplementary Supply Chain Best Practice Content You Should have in your SCM PlayBook.

Supply Chain Self Assessment Tools to Identify Area of Improvements:

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