Beyond Control Towers – Supply Chain Command Centers
Exploring Gartner’s vision of the Command Center and how Noodle.ai aligns with this philosophy.
Supply chain control towers—analytics-driven, decision-support tools that help improve supply chain visibility and control—have been around for decades. But the pandemic-induced supply chain disruption of recent years and other dynamics, like the need to meet sustainability targets, have made it clear that organizations need more powerful solutions to increase cross-functional process efficiency and decision quality.
Enter the supply chain command center, which is an evolution of the supply chain control tower. In its recent report, Innovation Insight: Supply Chain Command Centers, Gartner explains that supply chain command centers capture and use “operational data from across the ecosystem—from a variety of business partners, devices, feeds and events—to provide enhanced visibility and improve use case-specific decision-making and outcomes.”
In its report, Gartner also named Noodle.ai a Representative Provider of supply chain command center technology. We were delighted, and thought it would be a great opportunity to talk more about how and why our Inventory Flow solution helps enable a supply chain command center.
Today’s supply chain operators need to respond to change fast, and they must often make complex decisions on the fly. To do that well, as Gartner explains in its report, they need access to “more contextual, continuous and connected data from within the business ecosystem.” Inventory Flow intelligently uses that data to help drive better supply chain decision-making.
Inventory Flow: A Full Solution—Not a Toolkit
A critical way that supply chain command centers differ from control towers is by enabling actionability versus just providing visibility. They are also focused on specific use cases that help organizations make more precise and timely decisions that impact real-world outcomes. They give you information to make decisions and take actions—and they can even automate sets of decisions and actions.
Also, while supply chain control towers collect and display data that is “domain-specific,” supply chain command centers provide connected insights, recommendations, orchestration and execution for specific use cases that may be distributed across functions.
That cross-functional aspect is where Inventory Flow comes into play as a command center technology by design: It’s an intelligence platform layer that sits on top of your core planning systems, helping you fill gaps in weekly execution plans and manage the flow of inventory in the critical 0-16 week execution window.
Inventory Flow uses artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize the flow of goods through your supply chain. It features four modules that can be deployed independently, but which work in concert, to help reduce waste: Demand, Distribution, Production and Materials.
A Clearly Focused Use Case
To assure actionable insights and value capture, a supply chain command center requires specific use cases—and Inventory Flow has that aspect covered.
The solution is specifically focused on course-correcting execution plans driven by planning systems that are trying to replicate a probabilistic world using deterministic math (i.e., trying to apply fixed rules and relationships to an unpredictable environment). These traditional systems break down monthly plans into weekly supply-and-demand execution plans using these fixed rule, and inherently assume supply will always be executed exactly as planned.
However, these plans frequently end up not aligning with the reality on the ground, and they are riddled with blind spots. Because traditional planning systems can’t see these supply-demand gaps, they don’t even know they exist and therefore, can’t solve for them. This leaves planners spending most of their time manually reacting to and trying to recover from risks as they emerge.
The power of advanced analytics and AI is required to provide accurate predictive visibility into these supply-demand gaps and help planners identify the optimal actions to resolve them. The Inventory Flow Distribution module is made exactly for this: It can identify risks within your finished goods distribution network, such as inventory stockouts or overages, and provide specific adjustments to individual stock transfers. In turn, you can refine your distribution plan and avoid risks before they even occur.
A Digital Supply Chain Digital Twin—Plus All the Other Critical Components
Gartner explains in its Innovation Insight: Supply Chain Command Center report that the use of a holistic Digital Supply Chain Twin (DSCT) is central to a supply chain command center, emphasizing that it must be “one which approaches a connected, end-to-end view across silos.”
Inventory Flow is powered by a DSCT with embedded AI that is a fully productized solution—not a do-it-yourself toolkit. This is possible because we know exactly what information Inventory Flow needs to build a DSCT that’s tailored for its use case. A general-purpose solution may put out information, but there is no guarantee you will know what to do with it or how it will measurably impact your business.
A DSCT is one of the five components that Gartner has identified as being critical to a commend center. Here’s how Inventory Flow from Noodle.ai delivers on the other four:
- Data hub—The data hub consists of a standard domain data layer populated with data elements that are known drivers of the use case, including information that may be outside of what typical planning systems can see.
- Development library—Instead of a development library, use-case specific AI and machine learning (ML) algorithms are embedded directly into Inventory Flow’s DSCT representation to provide predictive visibility into the likely behavior of the supply chain.
- Insights—These are provided in the form of both clear visibility of risks, in terms of business dollar Value at Risk (VAR), and recommended actions to resolve risks.
- Integration—The “actions” (see above) are then integrated directly into advanced planning systems and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This allows Inventory Flow to take thousands of actions to course-correct plans, which is well outside the ability of human planners and captures the clearly identified associated value.
Clear Outcomes Tied to Value? Check.
A key takeaway from Gartner’s Innovation Insight: Supply Chain Command Center report is that the most critical part of a command center is the ability to drive clear outcomes tied to value.
Through our time working with our customers, we have found that many control tower solutions may give information, but achieving ROI requires insights and ultimately, action.
The focus of Inventory Flow—from the visibility it provides to the actions it drives—has a unifying metric of VAR at its core. Every action recommended by Inventory Flow has VAR assigned to it, and tracks actions executed. The sum of the executed actions equals the total value achieved. It’s as simple as that. This is what takes Inventory Flow from simply delivering advanced analytics to enabling a true command center.
Inventory Flow is designed with business users in mind, including supply chain executives, managers and planners, who are all accountable to deliver products to their customers and value to their organization. Inventory Flow can help supply chain decision-makers identify and understand the potential business impact of disruptions, with 100% clear ROI.
Stop getting terrible advice from your supply chain tools. To find out more about Inventory Flow and how it can reduce waste and positively impact your bottom line, contact us.