What is a supply chain control tower?
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What are supply chain control towers?

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 understand, prioritize and resolve critical issues in real time more fully.

Supply chain executives are under enormous pressure to provide customers with 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 use 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 enables 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.

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Key capabilities and benefits of supply chain control towers
Real-time, end-to-end visibility

Gain end-to-end visibility of your supply chain with a control tower that correlates data across siloed systems and external events. Get personalized dashboards that provide actionable insights into potential disruptions, allowing you to manage 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 resolution rooms, digital playbooks, and 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, as well as 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 that there’s an adequate supply available, 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 have driven home the need to strengthen resilience across global supply chains. As businesses start to emerge and reopen, the day-to-day challenges that are 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 that optimize core supply chain functions. For example, a purpose-built control tower could give you essential real-time insights to manage inventory more effectively.

When enabled by AI and machine learning, a supply chain 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 an accurate, real-time, available-to-promise inventory to drive improved decision-making and outcomes. This aids in predicting possible vulnerabilities and disruptions and understanding the upstream and downstream impacts, enabling a more rapid response.

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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 that 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 that data is understandable and applicable to common activities and problems.

Mindset change management

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

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Take the next step

IBM Sterling Supply Chain Intelligence Suite is an AI-based optimization and automation solution. Designed for organizations struggling to solve supply chain disruptions through traditional transformation, the suite facilitates supply network resiliency and sustainability, increases agility and accelerates time-to-value through actionable insights, smarter workflows and intelligent automation.

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