The (augmented) reality of Google Glass on your supply chain
Written by Jacqueline Toms, Director of Marketing, Northern Europe, at hybris
Google Glass - a designer gimmick or serious technological breakthrough? There are plenty of sceptics warning about privacy, security, social and asymmetric effects, but they overlook the incredible opportunities it offers to B2B companies.
In the supply chain market Google Glass will push the envelope of innovation by creating a layer of live data, including social media about real objects and places, from carton boxes to pallets, trucks and staff to spare parts, your warehouse, deliveries and of course your customers. And with apps fleshing out the context for the Google Glass platform, it will be easier than ever to make crucial decisions in real-time and to collaborate with anyone in the entire supply chain. Now, you will not only know that a part is out of stock; you’ll know why, and exactly when the next batch will arrive.
How B2B organisations will benefit
Up to 80 percent of the data relating to your entire supply chain resides outside your own firewall. It’s in different formats, different systems and with different companies, making your supply chain a series of hard-to-integrate information silos, each one capable of causing delays and errors. In a world where speed matters, we need versatility so that we can run our businesses proactively instead of always reacting to problems. Google Glass will make this possible, driving your entire supply chain with a seamless flow of vital information in real time. Whether you’re a department head, a subcontractor, a process-manager, a supplier or a customer - you will have up-to-the-minute information about urgent notifications and changes as they happen.
Versatile access to information
Picture yourself as a planner in a logistics department. You’re waiting on a truck delivery of packaging materials; you’ve been informed that it is running 40 minutes late and you know this is going to cause trouble. You have a colleague in manufacturing demanding the materials now, and a customer expecting full delivery of his order the next day. With no further information to go on, you head for an important meeting that you can’t miss. Suddenly, as you walk through the door to the meeting room, your Google Glass beams you all the information you need - live picture from the truck of the traffic density and a newly-computed arrival time. You can now react instantly, quickly communicating this information so everyone can take necessary action and resume your place at the meeting table.
Business apps - the key to versatile strategy
Using Google Glass in a B2B environment without specific apps is like watching TV without a remote control. We will soon be accessing an enterprise App-store, in the same way that we access Android and iTunes apps, but with an enormous choice of business applications - and one of the most versatile platforms for these will be Google Glass, providing an incredible opportunity for established software supply chain vendors and for new emerging software companies.
The key to success will be speed - both in rapid development of B2B apps and in adoption of Google Glass as a B2B tool. In the B2B world, adoption will be driven by easily recognisable benefits; Google Glass and its dedicated apps will create smart information which combines and enriches data before delivering it exactly where and when you need it across your entire supply chain. It may not solve all problems, but it will drive crucial information, enable easier collaboration and allow for sharper response to changes across the enterprise.
Who creates all these apps?
Whilst Google makes the ‘basic platform’, there is an opportunity for app developers. As well as the well-known enterprise software vendors coming up with ‘cool apps’, we also have all the niche players with expertise in specific planning or scheduling software, middleware vendors, and don’t forget the cloud service brokers who already act as intermediaries between different data sources and who already have the power to distribute services across multiple organisations. The important thing will be the ability to integrate to valuable data sources over the extended supply chain and other external data sources, like weather, traffic, or, for example, DHL so that information can combine with and enrich existing data.
And there’s the ‘DIY’ route! B2B companies can build their own specific apps which precisely meet their unique requirements. Business people with IT knowledge are well positioned to define and commission business apps without massive IT input. Employees can make these apps within a Governance model available in the enterprise app-store and others can reuse or configure them to their own needs. A public enterprise app-store where users can select their business app is not far away and Google Glass will accelerate the usage of enterprise apps.
When we’re young, we have ambition but little sense of reality. Small boys dream of being air force pilots - soaring through the air at unbelievable speeds with the clearest imaginable view from the cockpit. What they don’t factor in is the need for a lot more information than they can get looking out of the window. The success of the mission relies on the speed and quality of data transmitted from command centre - vital info about hostile objects that could be within striking range in mere seconds. What they don’t yet understand is the value of teamwork and real-time communication.
Google does. And B2B app developers do too. Thanks to Google Glass, you will be able to pilot your business operation with deadly accuracy. You’ll get the information you want, when you want - and you’ll understand why you need it. You’ll be able to reduce costs, accelerate go-to-market, improve quality and improve customer loyalty.
And if you’re still not quite convinced, look around you - it’s happening already, ‘metadata’ provided in a personalised and real-time information stream. Just slip into an art gallery; look at the visitors wearing headsets. They’re not just examining the art; they’re listening to all kinds of relevant related information; they’re experiencing the artist’s world. They are able to see - even without Google Glass - the bigger picture. They’re connected.
We are living through a commercial revolution, and by embracing all that B2B e-commerce offers, we can make a fundamental shift in the supply chain process.
The changes in the B2B e-commerce market will be discussed at ‘Game Plan’, an event being organised by hybris on October 28th and 29th. For more information, visit http://gameplan-b2b-forum.com/berlin/
NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience
Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.
The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.
A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach
“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.
“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.
But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?
“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.
Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes
So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry.
“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality.
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”
Evolving Procurement Models
From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view.
“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.
“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”
“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”
But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?
“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.
These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.
On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”
He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”
As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”