As multi-industry supply chains continue to overcome the various challenges and/or opportunities provided by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Supply Chain Matters blog will continue to provide enhanced content, thought leadership and perspective related to industry and business implications for either the existing and post COVID-19 period.   Cloud based systems

Another mechanism we have provided is our Supply Chain Matters Podcast series which we officially launched in mid-June. Thus far we have recorded and made available five episodes and readers can anticipate two episodes per month moving forward. The podcasting medium serves as a supplement to our various published content and is an opportunity to feature various thought leaders, executives and practitioners in a two-way conversational discussion related to important topics.

Podcast listeners may have noted that as moderator speaking with thought leaders and technology executives, one area of discussion I continue to explore with invited guests is how companies and their supply chain management teams have been addressing their COVID-19 challenges in terms of business process and decision-making needs, and in addressing challenges with needed technology. Each of our guests thus far have provided many important and insightful observations that can assist organizations.

One particular podcast we wanted to call Supply Chain Matters blog reader attention to is Episode Two- Insights in Supply Chain Management Business Process and Technology. This particular episode features my conversation with Jon Chorley, Group Vice President of Product Strategy for Oracle’s supply chain management applications, and who leads teams responsible for driving the business requirements and product roadmaps for these applications.

Chorley further serves as Oracle’s Chief Sustainability Officer. Oracle is both an enterprise data management, Cloud infrastructure and software applications provider, as well as manufacturer of custom engineered computer servers utilized for Cloud based compute needs including Oracle’s own global based services.

I asked our guest as to what major challenges or trends industry supply chains are encountering relative to business process and decision-making areas. Chorley provided an astute viewpoint, namely that COVID-19 has not so much broken supply chains but has rather surfaced a slew of supply chain fault lines that have been evident for quite some time. These fault lines relate to prior component or finished goods sourcing strategies, driven mostly from lowest-cost criteria, a notion that he describes as: “Make in the east, and sell in the west.” A further insight is that initial product cost can no longer be the sole determinant in today’s reality of globally extended supply chains existing in highly uncertain economic and business settings.

Indeed many industry supply chain, along with sales and operations planning  management teams have little choice but to initially resolve tactical challenges related to either product supply network or product demand shocks, or both simultaneously. But at the same time, Chorley observes that such challenges have led to questioning, for instance, why does our business strategy provide for so many stock keeping units (SKU’s). Such questioning then leads to discussions of business simplification which, in-essence, turn out to be baseline elements of supply chain resiliency strategies.

At the same time, business downturns are opportunities for businesses to take the time to prepare how they want to be positioned in the new or revised business environment. Chorley cited studies indicating only one in three businesses will be really prepared to move forward on the backside, and that most businesses make strategic moves during a downturn or disruption, either in re-visiting core business vale propositions, or as what McKinsey consultants describe as questioning: “What is the company’s endowment?”

To the specific question of how-to best leverage technology in the current environment, Chorley described three specific areas:

1) Added automation applied to certain challenged business process areas, for instance planning, production, logistics, transportation, customer services or other areas. Automation can be physical or software related, or both.

2) Fostering resiliency in either simplifying product lines, sourcing of key components logistics providers or applied to other areas. An area that likely falls in this category is Cloud-based technology adoption which many businesses discovered when the bulk of employees were forced to work from home. Noted was that during the pandemic, many Oracle customers benefitted by Cloud adoption in relation to access to critical applications and information when employees and teams needed such information. Chorley noted the benefit as getting the organization out of being hampered by internal IT management and maintenance challenges or constraints and more focused on adapting to ever changing business process and decision-making needs, which was the primary need.

3) Heightened flexibility in different manufacturing, production or services options that can be deployed as needed, or identifying and responding to market opportunities that the disruption may have provided. Here again, Cloud adoption and digitally based processes can provide for needed flexibility in time-to-benefit.

When I asked Chorley to elaborate on what Oracle has observed in Cloud technology adoption paths, he pointed to three general paths:

Short-term: a tactical approach of filling-in a business process or decision-making capability gap.

Underserved: Identifying and operating unit or division that has been underserved in technology related to key process areas and needs that can readily and more quickly benefit from Cloud technology adoption across supply chain management or other business process areas.

Burning and Broad Challenges: A realization that business and supply chain management processes need a full digital based technology refresh in a phased adoption timeline.

His counsel to listeners regarding technology is to first and foremost have an agreed-upon action plan- know where you want to get to, and in what time period, especially in having a connected digital thread.

The goal for supply chain management as well as integrated business planning teams has always been to provide a singular information capability related to customers and suppliers.

 

Business and Supply Chain Sustainability

Given Chorley’s role in leading sustainability efforts for a multi-billion-dollar corporation that includes manufacturing and supply chain elements, he articulated that sustainability and supply chain should be viewed as a singular strategy.

In other words, designing, producing, servicing and managing products and supporting processes with sustainability as a context and a goal. He described notions of sustainability being integral parts of business, products and service line processes.

Indeed the COVID-19 pandemic has provided all of us the opportunity of shining a light on what’s possible in breathing cleaner air, quieter roads and a more carbon-free global presence. It has provided awareness that whatever the new normal turns out to be, it can be in a safer, more sustainable planet, with sustainability as the natural part of any business.

Readers can listen to the full podcast by clicking on this web link. You may well garner some benefit and insights relative to business process and technology perspectives.

While visiting, view our other recorded episodes including Episode 5- Establishing a Digital Foundation.

 

Bob Ferrari

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