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Supply Chains 4.0 – Road Map to Digitalization

Rajeev Pemmaiah, Country Head - India, Roambee
May 19, 2021

Girish V S, Director, ISCM speaks to Rajeev Pemmaiah, Country Head – India, Roambee on digitalization of supply chains and how it can transform supply chains.

How can digitalization make the supply chain more efficient, agile, and customer-focused?

This is a question that most of our customers are asking us – how will Technology benefit us create customer satisfaction? Every business has its own supply chain and the nuances of each supply chain differs business to business. But the center of it all is customer satisfaction or the service the company can deliver to its customers. If we take a step back and look at the current landscape of different businesses, regardless of the vertical, there is a central theme to it – how to provide an outstanding customer experience. Today every company has a supply chain in place. And there are processes in place to run the supply chain. The one thing that is lacking in the entire system is visibility – what is going on when did goods move from one node of the supply chain to the other. Without visibility, the supply chain team is not able to visualize the movement of goods along the chain and inform the next node when the goods are likely to arrive. Between the point of origin of goods and its arrival at the destination, all that happens is where digitalization can help. To address the question of how digitalization is going to benefit the company – you need to look at how digitalization can help a company overcome the supply chain visibility problem. Digitalization has two components – visibility and the information the company gathers to ensure visibility. Visibility could mean movement of goods, signals the company is receiving on the condition of goods or any other third party signal from anyone who is involved in the movement of goods. And this information can then be delivered to the customer as estimated time of arrival, predict the type of delivery, and thereby help the customers receive the goods.

To address the question of how digitalization is going to benefit the company – you need to look at how digitalization can help a company overcome the supply chain visibility problem

Digitalization has a huge impact on the supply chain. The process of digitalization is not restricted to the signals you receive from the sensors alone. It is also how the company processes the data. We have a number of tools like artificial intelligence which can be used to study the data and provide business intelligence to the customers. Machine learning is available where you can learn from the data the company is receiving and look at some patterns on the lane or route on which the goods are moving. Then there is process automation at the back, which will allow the company to automate the repetitive processes using the same data. And then we have blockchains which we use in supply chains to solidify the movement of goods and have a proper ledger of what is happening without it being prone to manipulation. All of this will come together deliver the complete digitalized supply chain. It is not one player who will have any impact, but an ecosystem of technologies, partners and supply chain entities coming together to form a network.

What technologies converge to create a digital supply chain?

From a technology perspective, one of the factors converging to create digitalization is RTVP – real-time visibility platform as it is called. The second is artificial intelligence – providing customers predictive Analytics. Then there is machine learning which allows you to study patterns and provide inputs to the customer which enables them to use data as a decision support system, as opposed to using data to fix regular problems in supply chains. Then there is a robotic process automation – RPA – and blockchain. All of these technologies are converging in one form or the other. Each of these technologies are complementary to the other and has a role to play. Each of them has a very specific role. We see all these aspects of Technology coming together to create a digitalized world for supply chain.

Two issues cloud digitalization – The right data and right processes. How can we balance the two?

Process and data are complementary to each other. Customers have an idea about real-time visibility solutions. What we need to understand is that the data is only as good as the process they are running. If you look at enterprise customers, they have a very clear process of digitalizing their business, including their supply chain. First, they identify the processes that need to be in place for the supply chain, before they go and look for a technology that will feed into the process. Technology will basically bring the data and deliver the data to the business as intelligence from the edge of their business. But the data cannot be of any use if the process has not been defined and put in place, to act on the data when it is available. Remember – a tool is only as good as a carpenter. And not the other way around. The right process and right data – data with integrity collected from the source and delivered to the business will have a great complementary effect. Both are important on their own.

What are the essential organizational capabilities to be built before firms embark on digitalization of supply chains?

We will take an analogy from ERP implementation. A badly implemented ERP is detrimental to the firm. In large enterprises, deployment of an ERP is a consultative process. The organization has to map every part of its business and business processes. It then has to address any gaps in business functions and processes. If an ERP is implemented after this, it will be a success. What we do in the supply chain space is very similar. Enterprises today understand that in order to run a supply chain they need an ERP, they need a technology that can bring data from the edge of the business and feed it to the users. Before the beginning of this exercise the organization must ensure it has the capability to absorb this technology make use of the data to the advantage of the business for delivering better customer service. Building organizational capability and capacity is of the highest order. The larger organizations use either internal consultative teams or external consultants to build this capacity before they start looking for technologies which can then feed into their needs.

How would you prioritize areas within a supply chain for digitalization?

The first step in prioritizing the areas for digitalization is evaluating the organizational capability and capacity for absorbing technology, and how to work these Technologies to their advantage. Which means the process is of self-discovery – first mapping the businesses, mapping processes to these businesses, and then using technology to feed data into these business processes. That is how we see customers approaching digitalization. The process is one of discovery and then implementation.

What are the next game-changers for Technology in Supply Chain services?

Let’s take an example of food delivery services – where customers order food from a restaurant online, and it is delivered. This where the entire ecosystem, from the time a customer places the order, to the time the food is delivered to the customer, is completely visible to the customer. The various touchpoints are clearly mapped so that everyone knows who is doing what and what is happening at any given point in time. This is exactly what is going to happen in supply chains.

The right process and right data – data with integrity collected from the source and delivered to the business will have a great complementary effect

This is exactly what Roambee is offering. We are now enabling the entire ecosystem to have access to each touchpoint within the supply chain. The supply chain is definitely not linear – it is a network. We provide access of information to the customer regardless of whether it is a supplier or freight forwarder or a 3PL who is transporting the goods, or the customer who will receive the goods, everybody will have complete and full access to the entire ecosystem. This will quite literally turn supply chains on its head. This means, all Technologies like Artificial Intelligence Machine Learning, IoT, RPA, and Blockchain will come together to create a democratized ecosystem that is transparent to the entire network. That is the future of supply chain. Roambee is working very hard to make that happen.

What disruptions do you see coming in when we digitize our supply chains? How do firms manage this disruption?

The west is clearly ahead of India at this point in time from a supply chain digitalization perspective. It all depends on the culture the firm is operating in, and how disruptive a particular Technology will be. Speaking from India perspective, supply chain has always been looked at as a blue-collar work in the past. The coming together of disruptive technologies and disruptive Business models like Delhivery and Blackbuck, and consolidation of various aspects of the supply chain through the use of technology has already disrupted the space to an extent.

Enterprises using such technologies will try to better the velocity of their process within a business to stop leakage of money

We feel very strongly about educating the customer of the benefits and the downsides of not being prepared to take disruptive technologies on board. Disruption can be beneficial only if there is a lot of education which has to happen at the grass root level – everyone in the chain has to be educated of their role when technology is adopted and how they can leverage the benefits of technology to their advantage, by very clearly mapping the role and process to the business. The entire industry has to come together to educate supply chains on the benefits of disruptive technology.  Especially in markets like India, where there is an awareness of the technology, but they are not sure of both the upsides and downside to it.

What kind of new business models do you see evolving as supply chains become smart?

Business will look at bringing in technology based on who is going to adapt technology and who is going to consume technology. For example, it was always thought that the enterprise would consume technology to provide visibility into what is happening in the supply chains. But if you really look at it each supply chain is a network in itself. Every enterprise has its own supply chain network. Something that is manufactured by the enterprise is going to be moved by a 3PL – which will have its own network. 3PL will then use the data to their benefit to gain an advantage over the competition in their own space. And then we have the receiver on the other side, who has ordered for the goods. Since Technology can provide visibility to the customer who has ordered the goods, they can plan to receive these goods efficiently. With digitalization, the velocity can be improved- which means the entire network which includes three separate supply chains can benefit from this.

Depending on where they are in the ecosystem – the manufacturer, the Transporter, or the customer, each one would use it to their advantage to better the process, improve the velocity within the business to their advantage or use technology as a differentiator. In today’s scenario, you will see 3PL, for example, wanting to use technology to gain competitive advantage and offering some additional services to their customers. Enterprises using such technologies will try to better the velocity of their process within a business to stop leakage of money. The customer will use technology to improve the velocity of their own processes to their advantage based on real-time visibility. Therefore, there are internal benefits to improve process performance or use technology as a game-changer or use technology as a competitive advantage.

What is Roambee’s philosophy for Digitalization? How does it provide a better option for users?

Roambee’s philosophy is – we are a focused supply chain solutions company. What we do actually touches different processes and verticals. That is the value proposition that we deliver to these customers. Our philosophy is to the best in class solutions provider, providing end to end digitalization – making information available in real-time and helping the enterprise use this information and signals to be actioned upon to enhance the business experience internally in terms of ability to deliver better service levels to customers, labor efficiency, providing OTIF specifics that can be actually, and optimize the cash to cash cycle. With the goal to better customer’s business performance. That is what we seek to deliver and that is experience we want our customers to have.

Our pitch and our proposition to our customer is – Roambee is an end-to-end solutions company that can deliver complete real-time visibility for the enterprise supply chain. We have a solution that involves hardware, the platform the analytics cohesively binding the hardware and platform, thereby ensuring data integrity and delivering a seamless experience to our customers. Add to it, our ability to provide global support – we have a global footprint.

There are a number of technology offerings out there? How can a user decide the right partner for digitalization?

This is not an easy question to answer. If you take an example to drive the point that we want to make – take any large player like Microsoft for software or Cisco for hardware – one of the things that make them successful is they have an end to end solution. When a customer approaches a Cisco or a Microsoft, depending on the technology they want to access for their Enterprise, what they want is a vendor who can really deliver the enter solution end to end. The crux of the argument is, do you have the ability to provide support to the customer whenever and wherever he wants it. This is where a large player has an advantage over smaller players – some who came and disappeared (though the smaller players had better Technology per se.) Sometimes the smaller players have been acquired by a larger player and become a part of the delivery system of the large player.

It is very important for a customer to look at a technology provider who can deliver an end to end experience simply because they need to have control over all aspects of the technology from the time they are gathering the data to the time the data is delivered to the analytics suite, and the data is analyzed

It is very important for a customer to look at a technology provider who can deliver an end to end experience simply because they need to have control over all aspects of the technology from the time they are gathering the data to the time the data is delivered to the analytics suite, and the data is analyzed. Else, it will be a typical scenario of garbage in garbage out. How does one guarantee the quality of data from disparate systems from multiple vendors trying to deliver technology or solution to a customer? The analogy I would like to quote is – if you pick up the best individual cricketers from across the globe as a team and put them up against a team which has practiced together, there is no guarantee the first team will win. It is very important for the teams to train under one coach, live under one umbrella, train day and night together before they can go and play a match.

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