intelWe know that supply chain visibility is a requirement for any company competing in today's global marketplace. You must be able to see something if you want to manage it. It is the key to Supply Chain Management. We have talked about the Supply Chain Control Tower and who sits in the tower, now we are going to talk about what should be going on in the Supply Chain Control Tower and what it can do for you.

Good Supply Chain Management procedures lower inventory and costs. So why do a lot of companies have trouble putting it all together? Everyone already has electronic identification/bar coding on just about everything. Lower-tier suppliers are very cooperative sharing their data. No, it's not a report you want to see. That is something in a rear-view mirror. Instead you want to see a real time micro view of where everybody and everything is at. Basically, it is an exception report: things that aren't right.

You want to be in a position to match insights to strategy and balance supply and demand. You and your suppliers should constantly be letting each other know where each of you are with requirements. If you know instantly, then you can predict the effect over the whole chain. It is called “actionable intelligence”. The “in-flight data” for your control tower must have tools to help you act immediately to drill down into problems and predict events before they occur.

You need to see things like alerts, lates and warnings in your control tower. The more data you get, the more value. You should expect to see high value data (like problems), medium value data like “on target”, and even low value data like score cards. Let's design the “home page” for the system in our control tower. It will start out looking like an exception report, but each item is clickable and will expand into backup details. Let's imagine we are a store chain with numerous manufacturers supplying products. Our data elements will be:

  • Supplier (expands to location, contact, other products supplied, dollar volumes)
  • Item number (expands to volume, specifications, alternate suppliers)
  • Store destination (expands to store location)
  • Ship date
  • ASN delivery date
  • Status (alert, late, warning)
  • Carrier (expands to location, contact, alternate transportation resources)
  • Reason (intransit, dock, exception)

All this separates a dashboard from a real Supply Chain Management control tower.

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