As supply chain professionals we always look forward to joining the conversation happening about supply chain’s evolution and this is why we were excited about attending the Supply Chain & Logistics Summit & Expo in Barcelona and the Chicago 3PL Summit. During the events, we had numerous conversations with supply chain professionals, listened to inspiring presenters talk about their supply chain innovations and enjoyed the informal program with great networking events.
While there were a ton of key trends and themes from the conference, there were three that truly stood out over the course of two events.
Trend #1: The Purpose and needs of the Control Tower
When we spoke with supply chain professionals, we received a wide variety of thoughts on the term Control Tower. It’s become a buzzword for software providers and a must have for supply chain leaders looking to establish control over the complexity of their growing supply chain ecosystems. That being said, there was a wide array of confusion around what a Control Tower was and how it provided value to the supply chain.
When you look at Control Tower, you’ll find four main types:
- Transportation focused: These control towers focus mostly on transportation across shipments, ASN, deliveries, track and trace, freight spend, on time delivery, etc. They typically are found with TMS technology but are siloed from other supply chain processes in terms of full customer order visibility
- Analytics focused: All control towers are data and visibility focused but these look into big data with the ability to slice and dice across above processes & metrics and gain high level visibility. Typically, this is taking data from multiple systems to bring the data together and therefore is subject to the accuracy of data in these systems.
- Supply chain focused: These typically focus on transportation plus other supply chain processes such as sales order, purchase orders, inventory, logistics activities, etc. These give you a more extended and full view into the customer order across key supply chain steps and processes.
- Operational focused: This can overlap with supply chain focused but this is about taking the visibility into all of your supply chain processes and making them actionable in the day to day. This control tower helps to manage your exceptions in real-time to help rapidly re-plan and adjust to serve your customers more effectively.
As we look at Control Towers, the last two types are seeing the most traction among our conversations with supply chain innovators. This is because organizations are moving from just pure high-level supply chain visibility to looking for more actionable real-time ‘insight’ to ensure they are meeting customer service levels.
Trend #2: S&OP is maturing, orchestration is next step
This ties deeply with the trend above. As we see with Gartner’s Supply Chain Maturity Model, S&OP and excellence there is becoming commonplace. It is expected that organizations have invested in these functions to accurately forecast and align production with demand in the supply chains and continue to improve there.
As an industry, we are becoming increasingly sophisticated in these processes from a global level. However, as organizations evolve their supply chains to be more nimble and agile, they are increasingly seeing the need to look beyond the borders of the own enterprise and collaborate with the supplier- and customer network. With real-time constrained supply and capacity, orchestration will be complementary to the S&OP process.
This execution driven innovation is focused on orchestrating the details across the supply chain of every order in support of S&OP. It focuses and helps S&OP in two main areas:
- First, it’s about now optimizing your supply chain customer order flows based on your S&OP decisions, driving cost and time-savings while ensuring more consistent OTIF orders.
- Second, this software helps to ensure data accuracy across the most granular aspects of your supply chain. As a system of record for each customer order, it helps to ensure the data that you use in S&OP is the most accurate and timely so you can most better decisions on trusted data.
All in all, supply chain orchestration is all about tying existing systems together in a way that maintains flexibility and ensures granular visibility that helps to make S&OP systems with data that is more accurate.
Trend #3: Omni-channel Retailing is Growing
Our last trend is focused on the Retailing sector. Ecommerce is having a tremendous impact on retailers across the world especially as increasing percentage of orders happen online. As such, we are seeing organizations look to add more flexibility into their supply chain fulfillment models to make better use of their inventory in their warehouses, with suppliers & partners and in their physical stores.
The main problem most retailers are facing however is that it is hard to build flexibility across multiple and disparate systems of record that exist across channels in the supply chain. And to enable inventory to move and ship across online and brick and mortar channels requires intensive system integration that is often hard to upkeep as changes are needed.
This means retailers need to look for solutions that can extend their existing systems and deliver multi-enterprise functionality around inventory management, supplier collaboration, transportation options and order fulfillment. As online orders become more commonplace, retailers need to begin thinking about how best to leverage their storefronts to serve customers and their rising expectations faster and better. They will also need to increasingly optimize their inventory levels to ensure lightning quick response to changing customer tastes and preferences.
Both the events were great with some lively conversation and discussion across a variety of key trends and insights. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the event and what you learned in the comments!
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