Shippers and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) face significant challenges tracking in-transit cargo due to a lack of status updates between ports. While this isn’t a new problem, the complexity of today’s modern supply chains – multi-carrier, multi-mode shipments, multi-leg, shipments crossing several countries’ borders – has exacerbated the scenario. Likewise, extreme weather, global unrest, port strikes and other unforeseen risks inflict havoc on delivery schedules, leading to missed milestones and increased costs.
“More than ever, customers want to be able to understand the end-to-end impact of delays or changes to the plan. When things don’t go as planned, the question is no longer ‘where is my stuff?’ but rather ‘what needs attention?’,” said Michael Farlekas, president and chief executive officer of E2open. “Answering this question requires the ability to see across multiple ecosystems, understand business impacts and act.”
A few weeks ago, the 2019 Nucleus Control Tower Value Matrix, was released for the sixth year. It dives into the control tower software provider market and measures the ability of vendors to deliver value in usability and functionality.
“Originally designed to deliver a view of a customer’s operations for planning or execution purposes, control tower software has expanded to include data and modeling of multiple tiers of suppliers, logistics providers, and partners. Vendors have moved their solutions from simply providing visibility to providing more orchestration and insights based on consolidated data generated by the entire value chain.”
Technology solutions have come a long way in the past decade, and companies that seek to stay on the forefront are embracing advances that give them an edge over the competition. In today’s global supply chains, complete end-to-end visibility is often thought of as the “Holy Grail.” But is it? Tracking a container from origin to destination is one example. But what value does that really provide? Do you know what is in the container? To whom its contents are allocated? What import regulations apply? Which purchase order does it correlate with?
As companies embrace digitization, one of the most significant benefits of digitally transforming supply chain functions is increased visibility. However, what does this mean?
Supply Chain Visibility
A decade ago, supply chain visibility was indeed only available at the container or shipment level. Today, visibility encompasses a complete view of the international supply chain. Full control tower visibility gives insight into each step of the product lifecycle. Visibility through digitization brings design, sourcing, manufacturing, compliance and shipping to one central location, enhancing communication both internally and externally and taking out the guesswork. It provides one version of the truth, the whole truth – for all departments and external partners to benefit.
The type of data available in top-tier technology solutions isn’t just fun to look at – it enables both capability and real insight into each aspect of the global supply chain. A digital control tower provides a means to create efficiency and unlock real value in a variety of ways.
A digital control tower enables collaboration with internal systems and external ecosystems, which creates opportunities for workforce efficiency, as well as improvements in supply chain speed and quality. Information is sent to and from the right parties and systems as fast as the internet will allow, eliminating the need to re-key the data, which results in acceleration, reduced work, and the eradication of costly errors.
A digital control tower performs automation, which can reduce manual work and reduce third-party costs. Whether through the determination of a product’s eligibility for a trade agreement or the creation of a digital version of the customs entry, automation eliminates costs.
By creating a digital version of the real supply chain, including the historical record, data analytics can be used to identify new savings opportunities. Hard dollar savings in areas such as sourcing, duty/tax, and transportation can be found, while identification of process bottlenecks will result in continuous improvement.
“Where’s my stuff?” are words that we now have a credible answer to, but even better, we can leverage the digital twin of our supply chains to SEE, UNDERSTAND and ACT. You can anticipate delays and react quickly to avoid costly resolutions, optimize inventory levels by correlating and prioritizing late shipments, use AI and machine learning to understand the impact on inventory or revenue and take action with integrated functionality for downstream transportation changes.
A complimentary download of the Nucleus Control Tower Value Matrix is available courtesy of E2open here.
Gary M. Barraco is Senior Director, Product Marketing, at E2open.