In this first-of-a-kind report Nucleus Research examines the current state of the control tower capabilities provided by commercial software vendors and compares them on the basis of functionality and usability.
In its most basic form a control tower is an information hub that affords visibility on inventory and shipments.
It links data from other applications into one console to provide a picture of what’s taking place in the supply chain.
Other names for this type of platform are command center, watch tower and control center.
Control towers emerged in the 1990s as logistics providers needed a visibility mechanism to oversee shipments undertaken by carriers and third-party logistics (3PLs) companies.
Logistic control towers are the forerunners of supply chain towers, which are broader in scope and encompass a view of inventory at motion or at rest, whether on a truck, in a factory, or at a supplier’s distribution center.
Shortly after control towers emerged as a mechanism for managing outbound transportation flows, other solutions sprang up to oversee inbound flows to facilitate production.
As brand-name product makers started outsourcing production to contract manufacturers, software vendors came to support the extended enterprise by developing visibility applications to ensure suppliers could meet schedules for order commitments.
As noted earlier, most solutions currently on the market, due to their origins, are tilted toward transportation movements or production planning.
Ultimately, control towers will be driven by demand signals, and necessitate a cockpit view of supply chain execution and planning in real time down to the item level.
To assist supply chain managers with prompt real-time decision making, the control towers will have to be supported with advanced business intelligence to sift through all the data reaching the center from multiple applications and a multitude of supply chain partners.