Alan Brown

Alan Brown

Vice President of Supply Chain Transformation at Jabil

Alan Brown, Vice President of Supply Chain Transformation at Jabil, discusses the emerging technologies required to stay ahead in the supply chain space

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role

I’m Alan Brown, the Vice President of Supply Chain Transformation at Jabil. I lead the company’s supply chain transformation organisation, which is responsible for driving value by using technology to expedite process transformation and enable end-to-end visibility in the supply chain. With a primary focus on demand management, supplier collaboration, logistics visibility, order management and inventory optimization, our team empowers Jabil’s entire global supply chain organisation with digital solutions that automate non-value-added, tactical tasks, and provides insightful analytics to improve our overall collaboration and decision-making. 

For those unfamiliar with Jabil, how would you describe the company’s main activities?

Jabil provides manufacturing, engineering and supply chain solutions to more than 400 of the world’s leading brands across almost every industry. Our 140,000 employees, including more than 3,000 supply chain and procurement professionals, span 100 facilities in over 25 countries. Jabil's strategic supply chain organisation supports customer-specific, tailored solutions for local, regional and global execution – from assurance of supply, on-time delivery and inventory management solutions to distribution and logistics infrastructure, sourcing and supplier management and overall risk mitigation solutions. We prioritise and continually invest in our digital supply chain capabilities, keeping us at the forefront of evolving technologies and helping our customers navigate inevitable supply chain disruptions.

How did you end up working in the supply chain space?

I’ve actually worked in supply chain for my whole career – more than 25 years. I started in a graduate programme with another manufacturing company and was placed in a purchasing role. I enjoyed the fast-paced, dynamic environment and I liked having the ability to interact with both customers and the supply base. After a few years at that company, I moved to a purchasing role at Jabil in 1998 and more directly into the supply chain area in 2000. Over the years at Jabil, I’ve managed supply chains for a variety of customers and industries – including mobile devices, consumer products and enterprise and cloud – growing from one customer at one site to multiple customers with multiple products at various sites. I also had the opportunity to be based in Singapore and spend significant time in China and Southeast Asia. This gave me a deep understanding of the nuances around trade and compliance, as well as new cultural perspectives. From those experiences, I learned first hand about visibility, resiliency, collaboration and all the key elements we talk about when we develop supply chain strategy. They’re critically important when you're managing supply chains on that scale and with that level of complexity. In recent years, my focus has shifted more to how we can transform our supply chain processes and use technology to better enable our teams. Working directly with customers and being involved in different types of supply chain models earlier in my career has made me appreciate what it takes to build and leverage a set of processes, tools and capabilities that help our teams really understand what's going on in the global supply chain. That allows us to better manage supply chains for our customers.

What does your role entail? 

There really isn’t a typical day in my role, which is what interests me most. Every day is different, and I find myself being pulled into a variety of projects, big and small. On a large scale, my role requires me to think very intensely about strategy, capabilities and where we want to take our supply chain. This includes how and where to leverage technology and what future emerging technologies we’ll need in our toolset to stay ahead in the supply chain space. However, from my experience of having worked directly with customers to design supply chains, I'm still rooted in the reality of what goes on each day at the customer level. For me, it's important that I still spend a fair portion of my day connected to project execution and customer roadmaps. It’s an opportunity to understand how the strategies we develop hit the road and how we’re executing against them. 

Amid turbulent times, how are you and Jabil preparing for future supply chain crises?

To prepare for future disruptions, we’re really thinking about how we can manage risk in our supply chain. One question I ask myself is, how do you balance what has already happened with what you think is going to happen? To answer that question, we’re focused on driving transformation around five core pillars. The first is visibility, or understanding what is happening from origin to destination across our supply chain network. That’s supported by collaboration, both inside Jabil between our cross-functional teams and externally with our customers and suppliers to garner supply chain insights that we use as a basis for decision-making: how to organise our data and leverage advanced analytics to manage increasing supply chain complexity. Better decision-making lends itself to increased efficiency. A smarter use of data and analytics helps us remove non-value-added activities in our supply chain processes, reducing labour and material costs. This all leads to improved resilience and an increased ability to navigate disruptions while maintaining continuity of operations. To face the level of volatility that exists in the world, we’re enabling our organisation to make maximum use of the data we have available and gain as much visibility as possible across the supply chain. This helps us make smarter decisions about the things we know and develop mitigation strategies for potential issues we might face. When crises do occur, we have all the data organised and at our fingertips. We can navigate through the challenge quickly, minimising our time to react and time to recovery to avoid long-term impacts to our operations.

What technological innovations in the supply chain space are you particularly excited about?

As I mentioned, better visibility and enhanced decision-making depends on improved collaboration. Organisations can access more data than ever before, both across their internal functions and from the global supply chain, but relying solely on people to organise and analyse is nearly impossible given its complexity. Analytics platforms are key to providing real-time insights and intelligence that help supply chain practitioners understand what's happening across the supply chain. Armed with that understanding, they can provide greater visibility to our customers. Taking it a step further, by connecting that supply chain data with AI and machine learning (ML), we can start to build a digital twin of the physical supply chain, run potential crisis scenarios and create recommendations for response and impact avoidance. At Jabil, we’re building one intelligent, connected command centre to orchestrate the supply chain of the future. This platform brings together analytics from across our organisation and external sources, KPI dashboards, AI/ML and a digital twin all in one place, helping us build a more predictive, transparent, data-driven supply chain for our customers.

To what extent are you and Jabil prioritising sustainability across your supply chain?

Sustainability is a key priority at Jabil and it’s something our customers and suppliers are looking to prioritise in their own supply chains. As part of supply chain design and orchestration, we help our customers model the carbon footprint of various supply chain options to determine how to minimise their company’s environmental impact. In the logistics space, we work closely with our carriers on their roadmaps to determine how and when they will adopt a sustainable fuel strategy.  Internally, we’ve added to Jabil’s circular economy services with the acquisition of Retronix, a market leader in electronic component reclamation and refurbishment. These services include reverse supply chain management, medical device reprocessing and recycled packaging, all of which contribute to natural resource conservation, waste-to-landfill mitigation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. It also advances Jabil’s mission to offer sustainable options to our customers who are increasing the amount of electronics in their smart products such as electric vehicles, home appliances and medical devices.


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