What is a supply chain control tower?
Break free from visibility challenges with AI that gives you the insights to act faster with confidence
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Supply chain control tower defined

A supply chain control tower is traditionally defined as a connected, personalized dashboard of data, key business metrics and events across the supply chain. A supply chain control tower enables organizations to more fully understand, prioritize and resolve critical issues in real time.

Supply chain executives are under enormous pressure to provide customers what they need — when and where they need it — while also optimizing supply operations and achieving cost-saving goals. This is especially challenging in times of unpredictable yet inevitable vulnerabilities and disruptions.

A smarter control tower should provide end-to-end visibility across the supply chain — particularly into unforeseen external events. It should leverage advanced technologies, such as AI with machine learning, to help you break down data silos, reduce or eliminate manual processes, and get real-time actionable insights.

A smarter control tower will enable collaboration across teams and trading associates and preserve organizational knowledge to improve and accelerate decision-making and outcomes. Ultimately, this helps you better predict disruptions, improve resiliency, manage exceptions and respond to unplanned events.

Explore how IBM Sterling Inventory Control Tower generates AI insights

Key capabilities and benefits of supply chain control towers

Real-time, end-to-end visibility

Establish end-to-end visibility across your supply chain with a control tower that correlates data across siloed systems with external event information to provide actionable insights into potential disruptions — all in personalized dashboards — so you can manage the exceptions.

Predictive and prescription decision support

Better predict disruptions and improve resiliency with smart alerts and real-time actionable insights to help you understand the upstream and downstream impact of events on customers and prioritize your response.

Collaborative information sharing

Better collaborate on and manage exceptions across the entire supply chain with AI-powered resolutions rooms and digital playbooks, combined with supply chain applications, that help you quickly respond to unplanned events and hone execution to drive KPI performance.

Types of supply chain control towers

Logistics/transportation control towers

Logistics/transportation control towers offer advance shipping notifications, delivery data and track-and-trace information — and visibility into inbound and outbound logistics.

Fulfillment control towers

Fulfillment control towers specialize in assisting package shipments, and are designed to help expedite orders while reducing the overall cost-to-serve.

Inventory control towers

Inventory control towers enable real-time insights into inventory management, with special emphasis on preventing inventory stock-outs and shortages.

Supply assurance control towers

Supply assurance control towers ensure there’s an adequate supply available, that more supply is planned for delivery, and other matters related to supply.

E2E supply chain control towers

E2E supply chain control towers are engineered to provide visibility across internal and external systems and processes, with applications for various departments or entities.

How can a purpose-built control tower help you achieve end-to-end visibility?

World events in 2020 have driven home the need to strengthen resilience across global supply chains. As businesses start to emerge and reopen, the day-to-day challenges faced by supply chain and fulfillment leaders are being amplified by enormous disruptions in supply and demand.

The need to act quickly has never been more crucial. To respond effectively, companies need real-time intelligence and actionable recommendations to help mitigate disruptions and risk.

That’s best achieved with purpose-built control towers designed to optimize core supply chain functions. For example, a purpose-built inventory control tower could give you essential real-time insights to manage inventory more effectively.

When enabled by AI and machine learning, a supply chain inventory control tower enables end-to-end visibility across inventory silos and disparate systems — from raw material availability and supplier orders to the last mile of customer delivery.

It provides accurate, real-time, available-to-promise inventory to drive improved decision-making and outcomes. This aids not only in predicting possible vulnerabilities and disruptions, but also understanding the upstream and downstream impacts, enabling a more rapid response.

Read the IBV paper

Supply chain control towers for industries


Hospitals lose as much as 10% of inventory value due to lost or misplaced items. Protect inventory investments, increase efficiencies and improve quality of care by ensuring you have the critical lifesaving equipment and supplies you need at the right place and time.


Manage overwhelming demand and ensure the availability of goods by monitoring and mitigating an ever-increasing range of potential disruptions. Keep shelves stocked with expanded inventory visibility to see beyond warehouses, including in-store locations and supply in-transit.


Meet service contract SLAs while minimizing the amount of inventory you hold. Get visibility into service parts by SKU and stocking locations across ERP and other systems to help ensure critical parts are in stock to meet customer expectations.

Considerations when deploying a supply chain control tower

Data quality

An effective supply chain control tower depends on quality data, which directly influences the level of visibility that can be achieved, as well as the output of insights.

Practical and actionable outputs

For data to be useful, it must first be usable. Practical and actionable outputs ensure data is understandable and applicable to common activities and problems.

Mindset change management

Deploying a control tower typically requires much planning and significant changes in operation, and a concerted effort to get away from existing mindsets.

Supply chain control tower case study

Client success story: Lenovo
Visualize, monitor and gain real-time insights

Bobby Bernard, Global Procurement and Supply Chain Executive at Lenovo, explains how the company’s AI-powered approach to risk management reduces its response time to supply chain disruptions from days to minutes.

Explore how Lenovo is building smarter control towers.

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