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Which applications to use for support of your SC Control Tower?

For orchestration and improvement of their supply chain, shippers and logistic service providers are running Supply Chain Control Towers. Technology and data are crucial for the success of a Control Tower set-up. IT vendors offer control tower functionality as part of TMS, OMS, Sourcing and Planning systems and SC Business Network and RTTV platforms. Also, dedicated Control Tower solutions and tools for specific functions are available. How to select the core system and additional tools for your SC Control Tower that best fit your objectives and requirements?

The core SC Control Tower system needs to support the basic orchestration services/processes in a certain area like transport management, order management, inventory management or will have an end-to-end set-up. Making the right choice for the core system depends first of all on Control Tower characteristics like this SC scope, but also the specific industry, Control Tower services/processes and organisation set-up.

From solution perspective, the current application landscape and core capabilities of the system play a significant role. Core capabilities are related to the level of visibility that is needed, varying from real-time visibility, forecasting, scenario analysis up till automated decision support. Based on these considerations a decision can be made whether to use functionality from the current or a new RTTV, TMS, OMS, Business Network, Sourcing, Planning and/or BI application or to select and implement a dedicated Control Tower system.

Next step is to analyse in more detail the required functionality of the Control Tower system to support the SC Control Tower services/processes and the integration with SC partners like material suppliers, customers, carriers, agents, warehouse providers, customs brokers, etc. Probably the outcome of the evaluation of the core SC Control Tower system is that as part of a best-of-breed set-up dedicated tools are needed in one or more of the following areas:

  • Network design and Digital Twins: tools to analyse, evaluate and optimize different network scenarios from providers like AIMMS, 4flow, Blue Yonder, Coupa and Oracle

  • Procurement: package-based tools and platforms to support the preparation, exchange and evaluation of tenders or spot quotes

  • Purchase Order Management: package-based, more often tailor-made solutions for exchange of purchase order and shipment info with material suppliers

  • Real-time transportation visibility (RTTV): platforms to collect and provide in-transit tracking information and ETA predictions from providers like Project44, FourKites, Shippeo, Transporeon, Descartes and Blume Global

  • Webportals: solutions for order entry, capturing and providing status info, document exchange and/or performance dashboards; often tailor-made because of specific customer/user requirements

  • Middleware: solutions provided by various vendors to support integration with other internal systems (ERP, OMS, TMS, WMS, MES, etc.) and direct connections (EDI/API interfaces) with SC partners and customers

  • Workflow and document management: package-based tools from various providers to streamline communication between and cooperation with internal and external stakeholders

  • Business intelligence: package-based tools from providers like Qlik, Tableau and Microsoft to store, analyse and present data from the core SC Control Tower system and other sources

  • Risk management: tools to provide visibility into the structure of an organisation’s end-to-end supply chain and support the process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks

  • AI/RPA/ML: use of Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation and Machine Learning technology integrated in the core system or the tools mentioned above to improve efficiency and data quality

Based on this functionality review plus technical, implementation and support considerations and costs of the solutions, a final decision can be made on the selection of the core SC Control Tower system and additional tools. Fortunately, more and more vendors provide integrated solutions for the core SC Control Tower system and additional tools and the number of vendors involved can be limited.

An overview of the main characteristics of 75 solution providers and systems for SC Control Tower support can be found here.

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