During 2012, the Supply Chain Matters Blog will feature a series of  commentaries directed at the goal of providing broader market education to the concepts, business benefits and capabilities being articulated by industry supply chains who are evaluating Supply Chain Control Tower initiatives. The goal of this series is to provide broader education for our readers by featuring interviews with those closest to this emerging area of interest.  Our interviews include technology and service providers along with supply chain functional teams evaluating the deployment of control tower capabilities.

In this posting, we are pleased to highlight an interview with Monique Rupert, Vice President of Customer Services at Kinaxis, a provider of supply chain control tower support technology among other supply chain planning and response management capabilities.  Monique and her professional services team support the global deployment, training, and other needs of customers with a mission to drive business value in their technology deployments. We have known Monique since Kinaxis became the first named sponsor of the Supply Chain Matters blog in 2008, and we often seek her perspectives on customer interactions with advanced technology. The following outlines are Q&A interchange.

How would you describe the current market and/or customer interest level regarding Supply Chain Control Tower capabilities?

There is a continual and growing interest. We hear more and more customers using “Control Tower” to indicate future initiatives they are considering. Brand Owners are looking to better understand how a Control Tower could benefit them. They want to hear more about the buzz in the industry that everyone is referring to as Control Tower. Most are looking to better understand the building blocks and hi-level processes needed to assemble a CT environment, and what steps need to be taken to construct the foundation.


Are current interest levels coming from specific industries or specific supply chains?

Not specifically, it seems to be coming from all industries and supply chain.  We see the biggest interest – and likely highest potential value of return – from our Brand Owner customers in the consumer electronics industry as well as other customers with high volatility and complex supply chains.  Customers and prospects in the Consumer Electronics industry are seeing that they can no longer support their rapidly moving supply chains on disconnected spreadsheets and email. They need the ability to sense and respond to their customer’s ever changing demands and consumer trends.  They are also seeing that the legacy approach of “functional excellence” with best-of-breed solutions targeted at specific business problems or limited geographies as no longer working.  To be competitive in the marketplace, they are seeing the need to bring all the supply chain data and decision making into a single Control Tower platform, otherwise, they find out too late and act too slowly.


Are current interest levels stemming primarily from supply chain functional teams, their associated IT teams, or both? 

Typically it’s the business teams that start the inquiries but surprisingly the IT side isn’t far behind with their interests and questions regarding architecture and data requirements.  We’re finding that most of the interest comes from those customers that have a complex outsourced supply chain that goes beyond the 4 walls of the corporation or the corporate IT realm. That being said, it’s the functional supply chain team that has the most to gain, but they also own the processes and are responsible for securing the supporting data to make a CT project successful.  The drivers for businesses inquiring about Control Towers are outlined in the answer to 1b.  The drivers for IT seem to be a combination of servicing the business as well as the move to rationalize planning tools to drive to a better over IT TCO of solutions.


What are the primary questions being asked by either group?

What is Control Tower?

Do we need a physical CT room?

What are the typical alerts and dashboard metrics used to determine if the system is in control?

What additional data will we need? How deep does the Supply Chain data need to be to provide the proper level of visibility?

What is the recommended data freshness frequency?

Is this another application from Kinaxis?

What are the benefits to implementing a Control Tower?

Where should we start? Demand Planning and S&OP, or Supply Planning and visibility?


What advice can your team share regarding how firms can best be prepared for a Supply Chain Control Tower roadmap initiative?

The first place to start is to define your business objectives and performance measures. The organization as a whole (top-down) needs to understand what CT metrics will provide the visibility/control that they expect to maintain. The metrics need to alert the right actors to current and projected out-of-tolerance processes.

The next step is to document your end-to-end supply chain. Surprisingly most outsourced manufacturing organizations don’t have swim-lane or simple Visio diagram depicting their extended Supply-Chain. The resulting Supply-Chain map should include all nodes from top (Demand) to bottom (supply) and outline Forecast and customer Order processing flow through the nodes.

Inventory the process have been documented and data that the organization has access to in their current environment. If your vision of CT involves pulling in data from outside of your organization it is important to alert your partners that they will be asked to provide supply chain data in a more consistent format/frequency in the coming months.

 Bring in a Management Consulting firm to provide you with an outside opinion of what the scope of the CT should be and manage the process change associated with this type of initiative.


Are there important organizational and change management implications that firms need to be cognizant of?

Change management would surely be an important success factor but the best preparation would be to assign a dedicated team to the effort along with a budget to make it happen. Making the current supply chain owners part of the design and implementation process will help reduce the opposition to the change force them to think outside the box.

When supporting Supply Chain Control Tower implementations, what in your view, are the top 3 areas that customer implementation teams should focus upon to insure a successful rollout?

1.       Create a well-defined vision of the To-Be state so “Control Tower” has specific and tangible meaning to the key stakeholders in the organization.

2.       Identify and re-engineer the business processes that need to change.

3.      Build a realistic project plan with phasing of changes that allow the organization to digest the changes in smaller chunks rather than planning for wholesale changes simultaneously



We want to thank Monique and her Kinaxis customer services team for taking time from their busy schedules to participate in this Supply Chain Matters market education series. If readers have specific thoughts and/or needs in the area of control tower initiatives, or if your organization wants to contribute to this market education series, please send us an email: info <at> supply-chain-matters <dot> com.

To reference a previous posting in this educational series, readers can reference both Part One and Part Two of our interview with consultants at Infosys Ltd. on this same SCCT topic.

Bob Ferrari


Disclosure: Kinaxis is one of other named sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog.