Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

IBM control tower manages inventory

Steve Rogerson
July 14, 2020

IBM has launched its Sterling inventory control tower to help companies manage inventory and build resilient supply chains.
Many companies lack the end-to-end inventory visibility and intelligence needed to predict disruptions, optimise decision-making and mitigate the business impact. The control tower uses AI and is designed to provide insights to see inventory wherever it is, identify and understand the impact of external events to predict disruptions, and take actions based on playbook recommendations to mitigate the upstream and downstream effects.
This can allow for faster response to market changes and the delivery of better experiences.
Inventory challenges are top of the mind across every industry. The control towers are purpose-built to be used by organisations to get near real-time insights with anticipated use cases such as:

  • In grocery stores to expand inventory visibility to see beyond warehouses, including in-store locations and supply in-transit, and keep shelves stocked;
  • In hospitals to provide visibility into supply and demand gaps for critical items at PAR locations such as critical lifesaving equipment and supplies, making them available at the right place and time; and
  • In automotive to get visibility into aftermarket service parts by SKU, and stocking locations across ERP and other systems, to help ensure critical parts are in stock to meet expectations.
Each purpose-built control tower can help organisations see, predict and more effectively act on inventory to better predict disruptions, improve resiliency, manage exceptions and respond to unplanned events.
Data can be correlated across silos and disparate systems to provide a single inventory view, while quickly detecting internal and external events that could impact inventory. By establishing end-to-end visibility throughout the entire supply chain all the way from raw material availability and supplier order to the last kilometre of delivery, businesses can track days of supply by product to customise safety stock reserves by location and reallocate inventory across locations and channels.
It can help businesses by connecting data between a wide array of internal and external sources. Smart alerts can quickly detect the most relevant and impactful events so disruptions can be predicted sooner, while data drill down enabled by natural language queries helps with understanding and assessing the supply chain impact. This can allow businesses to adapt to growing market and customer complexity and meet customer commitments with accurate inventory information and insights.
Businesses will be able to collaborate across the supply chain to respond quickly to unplanned events. The AI-powered virtual resolution rooms can provide a collaboration space that can help teams convene and identify the root causes of supply chain disruptions. Additionally, digital playbooks provide guidance on best practices and preserving organisational knowledge to help speed issue resolution over time, while natural language capabilities answers questions, driving productivity for a wide range of users.
“The past few months have shown us that what was once considered good enough inventory management may no longer be sufficient,” said Jeanette Barlow, vice president at IBM Sterling. “Even as businesses strive to reopen and emerge smarter, inventory remains dynamic because supply, demand and transportation capacity are in flux. As a result, some businesses may be losing sales, aggravating customers by over promising, losing margins due to markdowns and expedited shipping charges, carrying excess safety stock, all while limiting their ability to enter new sales channels. Enterprises should embrace advanced technologies such as AI to more effectively act on their inventory across all channels in near real time, which can help mitigate fluctuations in demand and supply disruptions to create smarter, innovative and resilient supply chains.”