Is your control tower unresponsive?

Dr. MadhavDurbha

Supply Chain Control TowerAs I finished dinner, I was ready for some entertainment. What better entertainment is there than the latest scoop on the US Presidential election! This thing is more exciting than “House of Cards” season 4. Well,  I have to say this. That season 4 was flat. Ok… I digress. I switched on the TV in anticipation. “…. when we return from the break” said the cheerful TV anchor. Then started the commercial break.

As I was getting ready to switch channels, this ad started playing.  A group of armed masked men storm into a bank. The customers downed to the floor in fear. They look at the man in the uniform and ask him to do something. The man in the uniform nonchalantly reports back saying “I am not a security guard… I am a security ‘monitor’. I only notify people when there is a robbery”. Then he goes on to announce “There is a robbery” as the confused robbers and customers look at each other. Then comes the text “WHY MONITOR A PROBLEM IF YOU CAN’T FIX IT?”

So true! Why monitor when you can’t fix? That made me think of my credit monitoring service. Yes, I do get quite a few alerts. But most of them don’t tell me what to do about them. A bit like some of the supply chain control towers in the market. They alert you about a problem. But they do nothing to fix it… sort of like the “security monitor” in that ad.  Yes. “Monitoring” is necessary for a control tower, but not sufficient. A best in-class supply chain control tower enables a “Plan, Monitor, Respond” paradigm. This type of control tower “monitors” the internal and external environment for threats or surprises that could derail the supply chain “plan”. The threat could be a developing weather pattern delaying shipments, a promotion performing exceedingly well resulting in out of stocks, a production line going down, or a potential miss from the budget plan three months out.

The true differentiation for a best in class control tower is in the “Respond” part. A responsive control tower provides you means to assess the threat in terms of KPIs and financial terms, create scenarios in near real time, and share them with the impacted stakeholders for collaboration. In other words, scenario management, real time capability, and collaboration are integral to what constitutes a best in class “responsive control tower”.

Here is why “scenario creation” is critical. Pretend you are playing a game of chess, when it is your turn to move, would you think about only your next move, or would you also consider next several moves? If you are an above average chess player, you would consider “what if the opponent makes this next move or that next move” before you make your move. In other words, you are creating a mental playbook with a bunch of “what if” scenarios. If you are doing this for a game of chess, why would you not do this to manage your supply chain which is orders of magnitude more complicated than chess? (Sorry chess fans… no offense!).

Now… why does this scenario creation need to be in near real time? Say, you are driving and you encounter a traffic jam, do you think you can wait till tomorrow morning to find the alternate routes? No. Pressing problems require immediate responses. Today’s supply chain problems, if not addressed quickly can result in significant risks to your operations. Hence speed is of essence, which means near real time response. Why collaboration? Because, supply chain management by nature has several roles and actors. One role or actor, while should be able to see the impact of a problem in the end to end supply chain, may not have the ability to solve the problem and hence will have to collaborate with the appropriate actor. In summary, a good control tower’s job is not just to monitor and raise awareness, but also to enable response mechanisms for increasingly complex threats to supply chain.

I was jolted out of my thoughts as my phone buzzed. I looked at the message on the screen. Yet, another cryptic alert saying “an account balance increased by a specified percentage” from my credit monitoring service. I picked up my phone to cancel my monitoring service. I have very little use for a monitoring service with no response mechanism!

Dr. MadhavDurbha

As Vice President of Industry Strategy at Kinaxis, Madhav serves as a trusted advisor for our customers through sales and implementation, ensuring success. He also engages with our strategic customers and key industry leaders to drive thought leadership and innovation. Madhav joined Kinaxis in the summer of 2016, bringing many years of experience in Supply Chain Management across various industries. Madhav started his professional career at i2 (which was later acquired by JDA). During his 17+ year tenure at i2/JDA, Madhav played numerous roles in Customer Support, Consulting, Presales, and Product Management. During his illustrious career, he was instrumental in helping enable numerous large scale transformational supply chain opportunities. He is very passionate about Supply Chain Management and the role it plays in making the world a better place. He shares this passion with others through his engagements and writings. Madhav has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from University of Florida and a B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras. Madhav received the ‘Supply Chain Pro to Know’ recognition in 2017 by Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine.

More blog posts by Dr. Madhav Durbha

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