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Enable smart visibility across multiple back-end supply-chain systems and augment intelligent decision-making

Cognitive control tower is a capability that provides smart visibility across multiple supply-chain systems at the back end and augments intelligent decision-making for customers’ supply chains. It also is a concept that can be implemented using the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Insights with Watson™, and intelligence products like the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Business Assistant and other Sterling products.

Challenges the cognitive control tower addresses

There are typically multiple systems that reside within multiple applications that deal with your supply-chain operations — ERP, CRM, transportation management, inventory management, order management, warehouse management, etc. It gets extremely difficult to get clear visibility into a particular supply or demand, and into shipments, in addition to understanding what impact all of these systems are having across your supply chain in real time. Today, in order to understand a supply problem, a business user may have to log into multiple systems, query multiple databases, or use different UIs to pull out information, then consolidate the disparate relevant information in order to make sense of it. Also, there is a surmountable amount of information that is federated across systems, which have a lot of scope for building insights about your supply and demand, about the end customers, about the drivers of the business benefits, and customer satisfaction. There is a need for a single system that unlocks the potential of the vast amount of data lying dormant in huge data stores that can uncover new insights for your product, your business, and your customer. Analyzing the data using machine learning will surface the intelligence in human-understandable form.

By extending IBM Sterling Supply Chain offerings, you can:

  • Gain visibility into your supply chain
  • Make intelligent insights about your supply chain to aid supply-and-demand planning, forecasting, route planning, optimization, and ROI prediction, and profit and loss
  • Orchestrate required transactions or a actions across multiple systems, and data sources in your supply chain

By developing a cognitive control tower, you provide business users with the capability to understand the business, the domain, the key decisions involved, and the data driving the decisions.

A foundation of your cognitive control tower is IBM Sterling Supply Chain Business Assistant. It is an AI-powered business assistant that understands the supply-chain domain to provide required visibility of the operational supply chain in a human-understandable form (natural language). It also orchestrates across multiple information sources to bring in the information relevant for a user query and take necessary actions. It serves as an intelligent adviser and orchestrator that can provide easy visibility to the relevant information, provide recommendations, and next best actions for supply-chain operation, along with relevant contextual real-time insights. The various people involved in key decision-making, monitoring, and analysis in the supply chain will greatly benefit from being able to find the required information in a natural language query as opposed to navigating across multiple applications and querying multiple systems. IBM Sterling Supply Chain Business Assistant can provide the natural language understanding and overarching advisory for the supply-chain operations across Sterling Order Management, Inventory Visibility, Delivery Transaction Intelligence, Supply Chain Business Network, and other applications.

IBM Sterling Supply Chain Insights can provide the KPI-driven monitoring and visibility into key supply-chain parameters and alert for any deviations in real time. It also has the capability for advanced collaboration across key stakeholders for resolving any supply-chain issues, where Watson as an observer can provide information retrieval and intelligent recommendations to aid the resolution and learn at the same time.

Another advantage of a cohesive cognitive control tower is that trading partners, who share such things as promotional, point-of-sale, and inventory data, utilize Sterling Supply Chain Business Network for translating, transforming, and communicating with other partners, suppliers, and vendors. Since they are part of the network, these partners can use the cognitive control tower capability to connect to other partners in order to transmit information or tap into other messages, hence creating a network of networks. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) networks (secure networks on which docs can be exchanged between business partners) have information about logistics, transport, and advance shipping notices (ASNs), which form an integral part of the supply chain. These crucial pieces of information serve as the basis of the function of a supply chain. Note that this function is the bottom-most layer of supply-chain systems. It is important to continuously monitor this information and tap into the critical events. Doing so helps to detect alerts, delays, issues, anomalies in the entire supply-chain network. Once anomalies are detected, the cognitive control tower can predict the impact on the entire supply chain and also send this information to different connected applications like ERP systems, order management, warehouse management, or transport management systems to analyze the impact. Furthermore, this data is used to predict further issues and make recommendations for resolving unfavorable situations. These recommendations and corrective actions are translated to the corrective actions section at each application layer and executed at each layer to initiate a supply-chain self-healing or self-correction process.

Let’s look at an example: A supply-chain analyst for a grocery retailer is responsible to prevent out-of-stock scenarios across a network of 800 stores and hundreds of suppliers. He needs real-time visibility into the inventory supply-and-demand picture and the demand-consumption rate. He also needs to look at the supply forecast and the supplier performance to predict any issues in meeting future demand. How does he regularly keep track of upcoming product expirations to avoid wastage and be able to sell them or chart out promotions to optimize supply consumption? Let’s imagine a simple conversation between a supply-chain analyst and Sterling Supply Chain Business Assistant.

Order No Items: Qty Order Status Expected Delivery
ABC_1 Item1:50, Item4: 100 Picked for Delivery 14-Sep-2019
ABC_2 Item2:136, Item4: 150 Order Back Ordered from Node1 -Delayed 30-Sep-2019

Joe: Why is ABC_2 backordered?

Watson (Sterling Supply Chain Business Assistant): I found the following possible reasons: The Supplier order SUPP101 is delayed, and will reach Node 1 only on 29-Sep-2019 (in 15 days). There is a sudden surge in demand for the Item4 in the Melbourne Region. Check demand forecast and consumption here. Here are some recommendations:

  1. Ship the Order from this Node – 2 since it has surplus inventory that will get expired soon.
  2. Create a procurement order for item 123 for Qty 1000 with SUPPLIER SUPP2.
  3. Check SUPPLIER SUPP2 performance here.

A cognitive control tower aids in the demand planning, forecasting, route planning, and optimization for complex supply chains across multiple industries, including retail, manufacturing, travel and transport, as well as to the financial supply chain.

Learn more about this approach and other IBM Sterling intelligent supply-chain capabilities for developers.