When you think of a dashboard, you might think of the one in your car. It’s great at giving you a quick glance at important information about where you’re going, how fast you’re getting there, and how the internal systems are running. Useful, but ultimately limited information.
Because of the many solutions currently offered in the market as supply chain control towers, many people think of control towers as just dashboards with some additional features and capabilities. However, the two aren’t merely distinct – they’re altogether different. Supply chain control towers, the digital oversight systems sitting atop supply chain management software, are purpose-built not just to give you information, but to enable timely communication and action.
Here are six fundamental differences between a supply chain control tower and a supply chain dashboard.
- Data Analytics – A control tower should bring together data from all over the enterprise, with an AI-powered system to analyze all that data and generate actionable insights. For example, generating demand and supply plans that are based on more than just historical data.
- Context – A control tower depends on bringing supply chain data from disparate sources together. Control towers can be set up for functional areas like inventory or transportation, but the key is understanding data within the context of your end-to-end supply chain. Global supply chains are vast, interconnected and rich with data. Equally as important as the status of goods in motion or the location of finished inventory is the ability to make decisions when the situation changes. By breaking down data silos between systems, you gain greater context about why changes are occurring, where to make improvements and how to do it.
- Control – Without the ability to make adjustments across your supply chain, a control tower won’t live up to the hype. As opposed to a dashboard that gives you a glimpse of what’s going on, a control tower should enable you to make changes to keep processes running and physical goods flowing efficiently.
- Dynamic – Rather than a static snapshot of a moment in time, a control tower should give users up-to-date developments and alerts of potential events – such as a mismatch between expected capacity and demand – that could impact operations across the supply chain.
- Real-Time Collaboration – When situations happen, the ability to collaborate with suppliers and stakeholders in real-time is central to resolving them successfully. A control tower should help you bring together work teams, define objectives, delegate tasks and communicate results. By enabling agility in collaboration and problem-solving, control towers support more resilient supply chains.
- Forward-thinking – With how fast events move today, and how quickly problems can cascade through interconnected supply chains, being reactive is not an option. Knowing what’s happened is nice, but you need to be alerted to potential issues before they become problems. Forward-thinking, predictive analytics are critical tools for a control tower to be effective.
Align Your Control Tower With Processes and People to Build a Strong Foundation
Implementing an end-to-end control tower for your supply chain is a long journey – companies need to put in the work to get all their data in one place so that an AI-powered supply chain management software can act on it.
Having the broadest set of data to analyze is crucial, rather than just a subset that a dashboard might be based on. So gathering that distributed data from the nodes in your supply chain and centralizing it in the cloud is a key element.
Control towers deliver value by taking the widest view and enabling you to see and act based on the whole picture. And in order to create and maintain them, most companies need to do the hard work of organizational and culture change that may be necessary to enable supply chain managers to use them effectively. Ultimately, a control tower is a tool – a very powerful, versatile tool – that needs to be aligned with processes and people to truly be effective.