Academic journal article Journal of Economics & Management

Control Towers in Supply Chain Management – Past and Future

Academic journal article Journal of Economics & Management

Control Towers in Supply Chain Management – Past and Future

Article excerpt


The global economy requires global supply chain management, which engages many partners, processes, resources and a lot of information. In such conditions, competing means implementing and maintaining agile, adaptive and aligned supply chain [Lee 2004]. Dynamic alignment [Gattorna 2008] and agility requires visibility and responsiveness, both driving the need for real time information available to all decision makers with operation's synchronization mechanisms and feedback loops. The visibility and responsiveness could be achieved by implementing supply chain event management (SCEM) consisting of: "[...] monitoring the planned sequence of activities along a supply chain and the subsequent reporting of any divergence from that plan to enable a proactive, even automatic, response to deviations from the plan" [Christopher 2011]. The business reports, IT solutions providers' reports shows that the supply chain event management is delivered by supply chain control towers. The author hasn't found any research publications regarding practical applications of control towers. Therefore the understanding how the control tower system delivers the supply chain event management in business practice became the author's research challenge.

The goal of the research paper is to identify business examples of different approaches to the supply chain control tower in the past and initiate a discussion on their future. The author also aims to examine the current state of the supply chain literature in terms of a knowledge gap regarding the control towers operations and their future. Through selected case studies and comparative analyses in the high-tech industry this paper brings an update from the market. The results could be used in a further supply chain research and modelling. This paper also delivers to the supply chain managers up-to date practical knowledge regarding possible trends in configuring and developing supply chain control towers.

The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. The Section 1 contains review of theoretical and practical background for the supply chain and supply chain control tower. The supply chain control tower is analyzed in three dimensions: organization, IT solutions and processes.

In Section 2 the research methodology is presented. The author selected three companies that operate in the high-tech market and are engaged in aftersales service. The methods used were both case studies and in-depth interviews with management representatives followed by comparative analysis and enriched by literature data directly related to the researched companies.

In Section 3 the research results are presented. The past of the researched control towers operations and their expected future are characterized. The article finishes with the results discussion and overall conclusions regarding the past and future practices in supply chain control tower operations.

1.Literature review

According to Poirier and Reiter [1996] a supply chain is a system through which organizations deliver their products and services to their customers... a network of the interlinked organizations, that have a common purpose: the best possible means of affecting that delivery. Similar approach was taken by Aitken [1998] followed by Christopher [2011] saying supply chain is a network of connected and interdependent organizations mutually and co-operatively working together to control, manage and improve the flow of materials and information from suppliers to end users.

The supply chain requires management. Following the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCM 2016), it could be stated: supply chain management (SCM) encompasses the planning, organizing and controlling all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics activities. It also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, which can be suppliers, intermediaries, third party service providers, and customers. …

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