Supply chain management: How technology is changing the status quo

By Lionel Alva

The past 18 months have been something of a revelation. They have exposed the fault lines that have existed in global supply chains and even specific supply chains for a business.  For many, the drastic manner in which consumer patterns changed was unprecedented. It sowed the seeds for change and progress. For others still, who were already on the technology curve, the pandemic acted as an opportunity for them to play to their strengths.

Here, the Harnessing supply chain management with the power of technology, presented by Acuver Consulting acted as a window into the world where the supply chain dynamics are fast changing. The august webinar witnessed the participation of the top Technology C-Suite luminaries from the industry, who shared their leadership views on the role of technology in helping the retail & E-commerce industry re-imagine and streamline their supply chains.

Rajiv Dinesh, Head – Data Products, Delhivery asserts that a great driver for our growth has been technology. Since we started as a digitally native company: A lot of the challenges and the very real challenges that are associated with transformation has been building upon our digital DNA. Right from the beginning, the bias has been towards collecting data, transforming that into intelligence, and using that going from system guidance to system direction in order to make the network smarter with every transaction.

Sharing his insights on some of the clear areas of change in supply chains, Akash Srivastava, Partner, Deloitte India, observes that are seeing 4 broad clear areas of change in the supply chain. The need to move away from central command or central orchestration is a clear trend that we are seeing in organisations. Most retail organisations have geographical footprints spread into nooks and crannies of our country and the command and control regime is paving the way towards an orchestration and this requires a very robust IT infrastructure to capture signals and hence address them.

Undoubtedly, the digital and technological transformation of supply chains is being accelerated. Shedding light on this, Rajiv Bhuta, Vice President Product Management, Walmart Global Tech India, highlights that Walmart US has an omnichannel platform and we are in the business of selling to customers who visit our stores or come to our app.

When we look at Walmart’s supply chain, our supply chain teams are constantly looking at how we can improve the fulfilment experience for our consumers: Be it enhancing what our store operators or supply chain operators do, using technology to do that, using technology to flow information or building up on the vast supply chain assets in Walmart’s network. The journey to omni-channel started a few years back and the pandemic has only accelerated this journey. 

Ranjan Sharma, Chief Information Officer, Head of Supply Chain, Head of Captive eCommerce and Quality Assurance, Bestseller India expounds upon the importance of collaboration in the supply chain. He highlights that Bestseller India creates a large number of designs and it is very important to move everything in terms of the design to a digital space. We used to operate in terms of design optimization by using coral draw and photoshop but there is a great degree of collaboration that happens: Once the design process is optimized, the number of designs can be reduced and the whole process becomes more focussed.

Here, players who adopted technology early have had an edge. Sandeep Jabbal, Vice President, Jubilant Foodworks Limited reveals that the early investments in technology played out very well for Jubilant Foodworks. We didn’t see the pandemic coming but always believed that the investments in digital, technology, and the supply chain will pay off and position us to grow very fast adding 100-150 restaurants every year. With the space being shaken up by the entry of big money and big players as well as the entry of Swiggy and Zomato, the dynamics of this space have changed a lot. When it comes to the supply chain, the many investments made in track and trace helped Jubilant Foodworks tackle the pandemic induced disruptions to the supply chain better.

A big catalyst for technology adoption is the change in consumer behaviour. Sunny Nandwani, Founder & MD, Acuver Consulting observes that from a perspective as a technology solutions provider, retailers over the years built a loyalty base with the customers. Due to the COVID induced disruptions they lost the interaction with the customer. While there were platforms and brands that had a headstart and garnered those interactions with customers. The pandemic has led to a more customer-centric approach by brands. Today, the brand that offers a seamless customer experience is the winner.

Shedding light on the aspects that add friction to a business, Levine Naidoo, Frictionless Supply Chain SME, IBM, highlights that people having poor decision support due to a lack of timely access to integrate information and many people are still using brute force analytics. It is referred to as brute force analytics because of the huge amount of effort required to collect data from various silos. You want to get insight as the event is happening. Particularly these days, in the last 18 months especially, you need to be able to predict or detect anomalies or disruptions in the supply chain. To achieve this, you need timely information. Friction is impeding an organization’s ability to be resilient and its ability to get timely information from a sustainability perspective.

In many ways, the pandemic has acted as a reality check for organizations. Whereas technology has been a driving force in building resilience and agility. The challenge for businesses today will be to consolidate their supply networks while maintaining their competitiveness. 

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