How control towers enable sight of the supply chain


By Marijke Voet, Commercial Manager. TMX UK.

With supply volatility and geopolitical unrest circling, supply chain visibility has become a major priority for today’s business leaders. Control towers are enabling savvy businesses to not only solve immediate problems but identify future disruptions they wouldn’t have otherwise seen coming.


In today’s supply chain, even minor disruptions can reverberate across worldwide networks. Vulnerabilities exposed by ongoing issues such as geopolitical tensions and climate change mean embracing data is no longer an add-on, rather a prerequisite to dealing with unforeseen disruptions and demand fluctuations.

To ensure goods and materials are in the right place at the right time, budgeted for appropriately, and replenished as needed, supply chain managers aspire to have a real-time view of all the links in their chain. Total visibility remains elusive for most businesses, however, with a survey by the Supply Chain Dive suggesting only 6% have full visibility on their supply chain. GEODIS interviewed more than 600 industry professionals in 17 countries and found that supply chain visibility has risen to the third most important strategic business strategy.

One of the biggest challenges to achieving visibility is disparate siloed technology systems – when data is stuck in core Enterprise Resource Planning or legacy software systems, effectively managing supplier relationships is a major challenge. 

To overcome visibility challenges, cloud-based software is being increasingly adopted in different sectors – consolidating data into one manageable platform creates a better base for visibility and therefore better decision making. Control towers have and will continue to be an important part of this revolution, offering benefits for supply chain operations and performance. 

Foresight for future problems

A control tower is a centralised software platform that provides visibility and coordination capabilities across the entire supply chain. By connecting data from multiple sources across suppliers, logistics providers, warehouses, freight forwarders, and other parties, transport control towers give logistics managers real-time tracking of products in transit. 

In essence, the technology serves as a mission control hub which leverages data consolidation to enhance oversight and agility across supply networks. 

We can’t predict the future, or know how global tensions or environmental events will impact the economy, but supply chain leaders need to remain proactive. 

Transport control towers can help identify problems before they’ve made themselves known in a few key ways: 

  • Real-time tracking of all shipments provides an early warning system for delays as they occur. GPS locations, sensor data, and status notifications help to spot problems during transit as soon as they arise, such as a lorry breaking down or a container getting stuck at a port. 
  • Performance management dashboards highlight trends in carrier delays, inconsistencies in transit times, or recurring issues at certain ports that may indicate larger problems. Deep data analytics can forecast that delivery delays are likely to worsen or ripen into full-blown bottlenecks. 
  • Control towers connect disparate data between order management systems, warehouse operations, supplier inventories and transportation moves. By spotlighting interdependencies, control tower visibility facilitates better demand planning, capacity management and inventory balancing to buffer against looming fulfillment volatility.
  • Machine learning algorithms within advanced control towers analyse tens of thousands of data points to identify weak signals and odd outliers that may prelude larger disruptions. Sophisticated AI pattern recognition provides powerful early diagnostics for the control tower mission controllers to act on pre-emptively.

Powering automotive supply chains

Expanding from a ‘just-in-time’ supply chain mentality, automotive companies are investing in transport control towers because of the immense complexity they face in coordinating thousands of suppliers across multiple continents to keep assembly lines running. 

A major automaker may source transmission components from suppliers across South America, Europe and Asia, for instance, and ship them to central warehouses in the UK, coordinate logistics to multiple manufacturing plants and finally distribute finished vehicles to dealerships globally. 

Control towers offer critical visibility and oversight into the massive logistics operations required by companies like McLaren and SEAT SA who are exploring this technology. In an interview with Automotive Logistics, Alexandre Lerma, Logistics Manager for Seat SA explained how the company’s new transport control tower project is helping cross-functional teams leverage automation-driven advancements and new operational frameworks. For automakers, control towers provide:

  • Real-time tracking of imported parts status from overseas suppliers to redirect containers faster if there are port delays in Asia.
  • Dashboards spotlighting domestic capacity constraints.
  • Early indicators of weather impacts to routing packages appropriately to avoid flooding zones.
  • Customs visibility at international borders to accelerate clearance processes when possible.
  • Total order visibility to adjust production scheduling when await-parts situations occur upstream.

As automakers move towards electric and autonomous vehicles, managing immense supply chain complexities will only intensify. Transport control towers serve as mission control hubs – providing the visibility required to find and mitigate disruptions. Proactively solving logistics challenges will be crucial for automotive supply chain resilience and an imperative strategy for the road ahead.

Add a Comment

No messages on this article yet

Editorial: +44 (0)1892 536363
Publisher: +44 (0)208 440 0372
Subscribe FREE to the weekly E-newsletter