Supply Chain Matters has dedicated lots of time to speak with clients and audiences regarding the purpose and benefits of a supply chain control tower (SCCT) capability, along with key design principles building the overall framework of an SCCT.  Today’s global supply chains are far more complex with fast moving business events. They need the ability to foster more responsive and timely decisions across the extended supply chain with the context of these decisions grounded in customer, operational and/or financial priorities.

This author will often stress that any control tower needs to be anchored with a singular information utility that spans the cross-organizational business processes and physical boundaries of the extended supply chain. (See below figure).

Supply Chain Control Tower Architecture from The Ferrari Group

This backbone utility needs to support both predictive and context-related decision-making capabilities of both the customer facing or demand-sensing aspects as well as the supply facing or responsive replenishment aspects of the supply chain. In essence, the supply chain control tower must foster both a synchronized planning and fulfillment execution capability coupled with deeper two-way customer and supplier collaboration. SCCT can further be a rather important facilitator for responding to major supply chain disruptions such product recalls or natural disasters.

Supply chain teams are sometimes confused as to whether the roadmap to SCCT includes an extension of current supply chain planning, integrating into fulfillment execution, or the other way, supply chain execution integrating with overall planning. The path toward expanded capabilities is not as important as the all-important B2B network platform that forms the foundation of SCCT capabilities.

Those supply chain organizations that are planning to invest in SCCT technology support should therefore spend extra time in architecting the architecture of the network backbone. Make doubly sure that the backbone can support both structured and unstructured information integration needs. The good news is that the vendor community has begun to respond to these needs in both the backbone as well as the supporting software applications that leverage advanced SCCT capabilities.

Here are some examples.

Last week, E2open announced a new capability the vendor has termed as E2Rapid Resolutions. This capability builds on the foundation of the E2open B2B network by adding pre-designed demand/supply fulfillment, and replenishment workbench capabilities to synchronize activities and/or decisions among network participants. The capability is designed to help organizations match both inbound and outbound product demand with changing supply plans, and to promise inventory to the most profitable channels.

A little over a year ago, Kinaxis partnered with supply chain execution network provider GT Nexus to provide SCCT like capabilities by integrating more predictive planning with execution. The Kinaxis Rapid Response Control Tower planning and response capabilities are permeated across the GT Nexus execution network to facilitate more informed decisions.

Similarly, enterprise vendors such as IBM, Oracle and SAP are now beginning to understand the importance of providing supply chain teams with an enhanced B2B network backbone that enables supply chain teams to synchronize planning and execution, support more predictive decision-making and build control tower like capabilities. These vendors however have more work to do.

Any house, big or small, austere or grand, is built upon a well -designed and solid foundation. When initiating an SCCT roadmap, insure that the foundation and supporting information architecture will meet your needs.

Bob Ferrari

©2013 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and the Supply Chain Matters Blog.  All rights reserved.

Disclosure: Both E2open and Kinaxis are current named sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters Blog.