The term "control tower" is often broadly applied when describing reports and dashboards; however, it’s much more than that. While visibility is a prerequisite, having a true control tower goes beyond personalized colorful dashboards and charts. It involves people, technology, and processes that enable enhanced data visibility and strategic decision-making. Having an understanding of what a control tower is, common hurdles, and the right questions to ask before implementation will help expand your knowledge of what a true supply chain data control tower is.
What Is a Supply Chain Data Control Tower?
An effective supply chain data control tower provides you with a comprehensive view of your supply chain, including financial, fulfillment, and transit-based performance metrics. By aggregating data from your business systems and carriers, you can quickly identify priorities, critical areas of focus, and opportunities for optimization. Shippers with a multicarrier, omnichannel strategy typically deal with a vast number of carriers and many different systems within their tech stack. This effectively creates a data problem -- gathering, normalizing, and making sense of this volume of data can be challenging for logistics teams. A supply chain data control tower streamlines this complexity, modernizes, and accelerates how the logistics function can make shifts and improvements, and, most importantly, the organization can trust the decisions they're making because they're driven by data.
Obstacles in Creating a Supply Chain Data Control Tower
Supply chain professionals are tasked with exceeding customer expectations while delivering on cost-saving initiatives and meeting key business metrics. Often there can be several obstacles in the way, including:
● Data Silos — With a variety of disparate systems, processes, teams, and partners, it can be challenging to see a complete and accurate view of supply chain operations.
● Data Quality — Data aggregation can be hard to achieve without the right partner and technology in place.
● Data Normalization — Many tools require data to come into their system in a very specific format, making it difficult and time-consuming to use.
● Build vs. Buy — The age-old debate. Financial resources, personnel resources and skills, timeline, and more are all factors to consider when determining whether to build or buy. For many organizations, the build isn't the concern; the ongoing support of a homegrown system becomes the problem.
Questions to Ask
Asking the right questions can be a great starting point in deciding if a data control tower is right for your business. Here are a few of the many questions to consider when getting started:
- Do we have a clear singular point of truth in our supply chain data?
- Do we have real-time access to cost and performance data?
- Detailed financial reporting? Total landed costs? Time in transit data?
- What performance metrics and KPIs are essential to our operations?
- What KPIs should we have that we currently don’t have visibility to?
- Do we have the data and insights we need to be flexible and agile in the face of supply chain disruptions?
- Is the data from our various external and internal systems complete and accurate?
- What business systems, vendors, carriers, etc., must be integrated?
- Who is going to own the data quality?
- Can your technology ingest data in any format so you can use the insights and make quick decisions to pivot when necessary?
- How will having a data control tower impact various departments? Accounting? Finance? Logistics? IT?
- How will a control tower impact external partners and customers?
- How will this impact decision-making, collaboration, and overall business functions?
How to Get Started
A supply chain data control tower allows for continuous improvement, advanced insights, and a holistic view of the operations. With the right people, technology, data, and processes in place, the control tower will be more than a visual dashboard but a source of truth for decision-making.
Coby Nilsson is the CEO & Co-Founder of Enveyo, the leading provider of logistics data management, visibility, and shipping optimization software, helping 3PLs and shippers of all sizes move their logistics forward through data-driven technology. From shipment analytics and automated carrier selection to post-purchase delivery experience management and carrier auditing, Enveyo is the only suite deploying solutions across the logistics lifecycle. Powered by a robust, enterprise data management platform, Enveyo Insights, Modeling, Cloudroute, Alerting, and Audit solutions enable organizations to make business-transforming shipping decisions. To learn more about how Enveyo moves logistics forward, visit enveyo.com.