The Control Tower Bird’s Eye View
Heathrow Air Traffic Control Tower, NATS – Creative Commons Licence
SAP recently launched its Spend Control Tower solution. But why use the aviation metaphor, and what can we learn from real airport towers? In fact, at a recent conference I attended in Dubai the Economist’s John Ferguson observed “Everyone’s talking about Control Towers” so why is this such a strong image in Procurement and Supply Chain? Let’s take a look.
Complete 360° Visibility
Every Airport control tower is high up, and has windows on all sides, for literally a 360° view of everything happening. Signals come in from lots of places: aircraft transponders, flight schedules, voice communications, weather and the controllers need to be able to assimilate it all to make sense of what is happening and guide the plains accordingly.
Like air traffic controllers, business intelligence provides procurement and supply chain leaders with an overarching view of end-to-end operations throughout their procurement operations. Data comes across from sourcing, supplier management, inventory, logistics, and demand planning. With clear visibility into orders, stock levels, shipments, and disruptions, supply chain controllers can guide activities across the ecosystem.
All on one screen
Control towers organize airspace to maximize safety and efficiency, but controllers don’t have time to dance between different systems. They want everything on one screen. They are also coordinating responses to different stakeholders: air crew, ground staff, airlines even the security services.
Like the airport control tower dashboard, the SAP Spend Control Tower condenses a slew of complex data into an intuitive single screen. Key spend KPIs, supplier scorecards, product segment analyses, and contract dashboards are all visible at a glance. Controllers can spot issues arising from supplier delivery delays to price fluctuations and issue guidance to the different stakeholders. Just as a tower dashboard synthesizes indicators like flight paths, weather, and traffic, the Spend Control Tower provides consolidated visibility across spend for informed decisions. With real-time intelligence at their fingertips, procurement teams can obtain coordinated views across spend data that once lived in separate systems.
Agile Response to Changing Conditions
We’ve all been in aeroplanes that have been delayed, re-routed or had to spend time in holding patterns. Towers, and the controllers in them, adapt rapidly to changing conditions using real-time data.
Procurement leaders also need agile responses based on live data. When a supplier delay is detected, procurement can swiftly shift orders. If severe weather affects a distribution center, logistics can immediately reroute shipments through alternative facilities. By linking planning with execution, business intelligence allows supply chain controllers to course-correct just like the air traffic controllers.
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