Control Towers: Five Must-Have Capabilities

Control Towers: Five Must-Have Capabilities

VIZION works with many companies as a data partner to power control towers, tracing, and visibility solutions. Our partners and customers include software companies, forwarders, 4PLs, and BCOs. We have seen many of the use cases and feature sets in these solutions and have heard firsthand about the value they deliver to the end customer. This article covers the top five must-have features for a control tower you are building and buying based on VIZION and our partners' experiences.

The concept of the "control tower" is becoming increasingly widespread in Supply Chain Management. Every vendor has its own definition, but all share the common theme of visibility.

A traditional control tower provides transparency to immediate trading partners only.  The advanced, intelligent control tower is a central hub for visibility, decision-making, and action, which is based on real-time analytics that monitor, manage, and control decisions and execution to optimize the entire network.

But first, why would you want a control tower?

Key capabilities and benefits of control towers

Real-time, end-to-end visibility

With a control tower that correlates data across siloed networks, you can gain end-to-end visibility across your supply chain. Use external event data to provide actionable insights into future disruptions - all in customized dashboards - so you can deal with the outliers.

Predictive and prescriptive decision support

Smart notifications and real-time actionable insights help you understand the upstream and downstream effect of these incidents on consumers, allowing you to better anticipate disturbances, boost resiliency, and prioritize responses.

Collaborative information sharing

Using AI-powered resolution rooms and digital playbooks in conjunction with supply chain applications, you can quickly react to unplanned events and fine-tune execution to improve KPI efficiency.

Types of Control Towers

Logistics/transportation control towers

Logistics/transportation control towers provide visibility into inbound and outbound logistics by providing advanced shipping alerts, distribution data, and track-and-trace information.


Fulfillment control towers

Fulfillment control towers are built to help expedite orders while lowering overall cost-to-serve by assisting package shipments.

Gravity Supply Chain
Gravity Supply Chain

Inventory control towers

Inventory control towers have real-time inventory management insights, with a focus on avoiding inventory stockouts and shortages.

IBM Sterling
IBM Sterling

E2E supply chain control towers

With applications for different departments or organizations, E2E supply chain control towers are designed to provide visibility across internal and external networks and processes.


What can a control tower do?

A control tower should, in practice, use data to generate insights and help its users make better decisions. It's the starting point for all decision-making and it's the entry point for all important people with a supply chain mandate. Users of a good control tower can:

  • Sense: Get real-time, end-to-end insight into the supply chain.
  • Analyze: Recognize and capitalize on incoming signals
  • Predict: Utilize advanced analytics for predictions and prescriptions
  • Solve: Do exception management and scenario simulations
  • Execute: Leverage a collaborative response framework
  • Learn: Continuously learn, sense and respond

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

After the events of 2020, supply chain resiliency has never been more important. When companies reopen, the day-to-day problems they face are exacerbated by massive supply and demand disturbances.

It has never been more important to act quickly. Companies need real-time information and actionable advice to help mitigate disturbances and risk in order to respond effectively.

Purpose-built control towers designed to maximize key supply chain functions are the perfect way to do this. A purpose-built inventory control tower, for example, will provide critical real-time insights to help you handle inventory more effectively.

A supply chain inventory management tower, when driven by AI and machine learning, provides end-to-end visibility through inventory silos and diverse networks, from raw material availability and supplier orders to the last mile of customer delivery.

It offers reliable, real-time, available-to-promise inventory to help you make better decisions and achieve better results. This helps not only anticipate potential vulnerabilities and disturbances but also consider the upstream and downstream consequences, allowing for a faster answer.

Considerations when deploying a control tower

Data quality

Quality data is essential for a successful supply chain control tower, and it has a direct impact on the level of exposure that can be achieved.

Practical and actionable outputs

Data must first be available before it can be useful. Data is understandable and relevant to common activities and problems thanks to practical and actionable outputs.

Mindset change management

Deploying a control tower usually necessitates extensive preparation, major operational improvements, and a concerted effort to shift mindsets.

The Five Must-Have Control Tower Capabilities

1. Actionable Exceptions

Event management is necessary, but it is not sufficient. For example, if you can see that delivery would be late, that is a good place to start. However, the control tower should also be aware of how exception incidents impact current supply chain plans. Knowing that an inbound shipment for a factory will not arrive on time, for example, has a variety of consequences for what can and cannot be produced. To respond to those concerns, one must be able to see the implications for planning.

Exceptions have ramifications for both customer service and finances. A supply chain control tower must be able to display certain consequences.

Resolving exceptions can necessitate the execution of various planning scenarios. Those scenarios should be able to be run reasonably smoothly. To put it another way, you shouldn't have to switch between different systems, swivel your head back and forth, and generally lose track of what you're doing. The effects of a scenario on service and finance should cascade through the processes and be easily observable.


2. Timely Data

The data must be current. All exceptions do not have to be produced in real-time. In reality, too many notifications can make it difficult for users to respond effectively. As a result, notifications should be sent first to the managers in charge of that part of the process, and those managers must be able to customize how, where, and what alerts they see.

Clean and accurate data is needed. It's easy to tell, but it's not always easy to do. Shippers, for example, claim that visibility into where empty rail cars are and when they will arrive at a loading facility is low.

3. Collaboration Built-in

It must be a venue for collaboration. It's possible that things would need to be escalated. Furthermore, resolving an exception situation can necessitate collaboration with others both within and outside the organization. Participants' discussions and decisions about what will be done, who will do it, and when must be recorded in the framework.


4. Analytics & Outcome Simulations

In an ideal world, a control tower would provide insight not only into what is happening but also into what could happen that would have a negative impact on the company. To put it another way, it would increase supply chain risks.


5. Flexibility to change

It's all about architecture. Supply chains shift, partners come and go, and the control tower must adjust to accommodate these changes. It must be a versatile approach. A Public Cloud infrastructure would be advantageous in many ways.


In supply chain and logistics, getting all the dots connected is not easy. VIZION offers data services that consolidate and evaluate data from multiple sources to help logistics teams all around the globe to stay on top of day-to-day operations and strategic analysis.

Data Management

We provide services that assist in data collection, making it accessible, comparable, and actionable for the solutions you develop.


Presenting unbiased, objective, and accountable logistics and supply chain data sets VIZION apart as a neutral solution for data used in daily operations.

The Human Factor

Our expert team of data analysts constantly monitors and quality-assures the upstream data, providing you with information you can really rely on.

Want to learn more about how VIZION can help with your Control Tower plans?

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