Is it possible to get real-time, end-to-end visibility across your supply chain? Absolutely. But only if you have the right tools.
Since the term “supply chain” was first coined, we’ve all been searching for the holy grail: end-to-end supply chain visibility.
Now, as we recover from the initial shocks of the pandemic and manage through ongoing challenges, we need it more than ever. But is total visibility actually possible?
That was our question for Takshay Aggarwal, Global Lead Digital Supply Chain Partner at IBM Global Business Services.
Takshay and Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently talked about building resiliency in a disruptive environment.
A flawed strategy
Prior to the pandemic, a “just in time” inventory management strategy worked wonderfully well for most supply chains, but “just in time is only able to respond to certain fluctuations,” Takshay said.
When the pandemic drove large-scale disruption, the strategy unravelled. Retailers, for example, were left with empty shelves, late deliveries, and no warning about shipping delays.
And it wasn’t just retail. Industries across the board lacked critical products because companies didn’t have visibility into their tier 2 to tier 10 suppliers – where 40% of supply chain disruptions occur.
Suddenly, companies were scrambling to change supply strategies.
“The companies who have started on transformation journeys before COVID have fared much better,” Takshay said.
In fact, IBM’s visibility of its own internal supply chain meant it could predict the supply chain impact from the pandemic much sooner than most.
Path to resilience
So how do you get that same level of visibility and resiliency across your supply chain?
It starts by asking the right question.
“[People should be asking] ‘what kind of supply chain do I need to have?’” Takshay said.
That’s why the smart companies are re-balancing their risk appetite.
A real control tower
A resilient supply chain is a transparent supply chain. And the only way to get that crucial visibility is having a smart control tower.
The concept of a control tower isn’t new. It’s a place to pool data from across your supply chain, and use it to make informed decisions.
The right tower helps you see problems a long way off, so you can minimise disruption and maximise profitability.
But Takshay noted a worrying trend in procurement where any sort of dashboard is called a “control tower”.
That’s a problem, since most inventory control towers are seriously limited. And you can’t make excellent decisions without knowing the full picture.
Takshay pointed to the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Control Tower as a huge development that finally gives companies the end-to-end visibility they crave.
Here’s how the sophisticated tower can help you overcome the five biggest barriers to visibility.
Problem 1) Most inventory control towers don’t work across silos.
A huge frustration is most control towers can’t handle all the siloed systems of today’s complex enterprises.
It’s a bit like depending on an air traffic controller who can only see part of the runway.
Takshay noted IBM’s control tower works seamlessly with ERP systems, warehouse management, demand planning, order management, e-commerce platforms, and logistics.
You get one version of the truth across your entire inventory.
Problem 2) Most control towers only show you an inside-out view.
It’s a big task to monitor operations across the supply chain. But you’re severely limited if your systems won’t sync up with your suppliers’.
That’s why the IBM Sterling Inventory Control Tower makes it easy to work across business partner network.
The result? You can make decisions with confidence, knowing you have all the external information you need.
Problem 3) Most tower controls can’t get into the nitty-gritty detail.
A crucial flaw in most control towers is they lack granular detail. That’s a pretty big issue when your job hinges on knowing the right details.
So instead of depending on people to enter the right data in the right place at just the right time, there’s a smarter way.
IBM’s control tower gives you the microscopic detail you need to make confident decisions.
Problem 4) Most tower controls are inflexible.
A major drawback for most inventory control towers is the rigid structure.
There’s only one way to input data, and don’t even dream of changing the architecture. But the pandemic showed us how fast everything can change and how flexible and agile your supply chain needs to be to respond effectively.
You need a control tower that can keep up with the reality of supply chains today. That’s why the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Control Tower is ideal. It adapts to fit your business needs – no matter how quickly they change.
Problem 5) Most control towers predict the future based on past events.
If you don’t have real-time visibility across your supply chain, you are making decisions based on past events, Takshay said.
At the very least, a control tower should give you current information. But IBM takes it a step further with predictive capabilities.
The control tower looks for patterns in your data – flagging possible issues before they happen. That way, you can quickly adapt and avoid disruption.
Don’t wait for perfection
Control towers go a long way toward visibility and resiliency, but they aren’t a silver bullet, Takshay said.
So instead of waiting for perfection, start bringing your systems together now.
“The more visibility and the more integration, the more resilience,” Takshay said. “You’re able to bounce back much faster.”
If you want greater supply chain resiliency, you need greater visibility.
And you’ll get that level of visibility if you choose a control tower that actually gives you control.
Watch the full webinar – Building Resiliency in a Disruptive Environment: How Control Towers Make a Difference – for free >