Verizon Connect: providing integration friendly solutions
We take a closer look at Verizon Connect, a company which offers advanced fleet management software solutions for industries such as supply chain and logistics, to help streamline their operations. Derek Bryan, General Manager EMEA of Verizon Connect, gives his insight.
Could you tell me a little bit about your company and your role at the company?
I’m the EMEA Vice President at Verizon Connect, responsible for driving growth and innovation across Verizon Connect’s portfolio, as well as leading the sales team and strategy. With over 18 years sales experience, I’ve got a passion for technology and specialise in software as a service (SaaS).
Verizon Connect offers advanced fleet management software solutions for a wide range of industries, including supply chain and logistics. It helps businesses to track vehicles in the field, improve fleet operations and encourage safer driving.
What are the current trends within your industry?
The big trend is the increasing use of data and analytics, especially within the supply chain industry. Thanks to additional processing power, managers are now able to generate multiple data sets at once, providing a more informed view of their supply chain fleet. At the same time, greater processing power makes all this extra data easier to understand and facilitates the automation of some tasks. It’s likely that this trend will continue to grow as the industry collects more contextually relevant data from a combination of devices such as vehicle, mobile and other IoT-enabled sensors.
Another innovation on the horizon is the additional computing power within vehicles. While the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles may be some time off, the computing power of non-autonomous vehicles is already growing significantly, to the point that vehicles can now report more information to managers than ever before. This trend is likely to continue, as the depth and quality of this data increases, helping improve the management of vehicles, including maintenance, and reduce fuel consumption.
What makes your company competitive?
Verizon Connect was established through the merger of SaaS fleet management providers Fleetmatics, Telogis and Networkfleet, reflecting our rich heritage in building the best software to suit the needs of fleet managers. Not only does this include visibility of fleet locations, vehicle health, job allocation and driver behaviour, but also forms a digital foundation upon which fleet managers can easily implement new tools and innovations such as AI, Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication and enhanced driver safety systems based on predictive analytics.
With technology quickly shaping the future of the automotive industry, it’s crucial for fleet managers to have a single, centralised platform from which their business can run. That’s why we’ve made our solution ‘integration friendly’ through our API toolkit, which allows in-house software engineers or third-party developers to build custom connections between our software and another solution, from billing, payroll, and HR to maintenance, CRM and health and safety. Using commonly accepted standards and robust security protocols, our platform helps provide fleet managers with the software foundation they need to digitally transform and continue to compete and grow in today’s technology-driven business landscape.
What innovations has your company been developing during 2019?
We’ve launched several new products this year to enhance our platform and deliver more solutions for our customers. In September, we launched Immobilisation for Verizon Connect Reveal, which allows fleet managers to disable a vehicle’s ignition once the vehicle’s engine has been shut off, effectively stopping vehicle misuse in near real time. Developed specifically to prevent unauthorised use of vehicles and aid in the recovery of stolen vehicles, this new functionality provides customers with peace of mind that they have power to take action with the push of a button.
We’ve also launched a number of products that enhance access to the data sets, helping fleet managers to effectively plan ahead and reduce risk. For example, we launched Engine Connect in March, a tool designed for light commercial vehicles which collects critical data directly from a vehicle’s engine to help monitor for potential issues with the vehicle, helping prevent mechanical problems and increase vehicle uptime. We’ve also updated our digital tachograph offering so managers can now remotely download the data tracking driver activity and mileage. This is helping businesses be compliant with the new European tachograph regulations, as well as increasing vehicle uptime and streamlining day-to-day processes.
What are your predictions for the industry in 2020?
With artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) already a hot topic of discussion in 2019, it’s likely we’ll see its benefits come to light in fleet-based operations in 2020. As the growing mobile workforce requires increasingly frictionless engagement with managers, AI/ML will be key to keeping fleet-based operations running efficiently and to meeting customer expectations. For example, in the event that an electrician be delayed in installing a light fitting, AI/ML should be able to automatically identify the delay and assign another colleague to the next job – all without intervention from the worker or causing inconvenience to customers.
2020 may also see mobile workers harness the power of voice recognition technology to help improve safety. Despite the growing popularity of consumer products in recent years, there has been a slower rate of adoption of this technology from enterprises. Over the coming year, however, improved voice recognition technology will become an ever more powerful tool for the mobile worker, enabling hands free input of data, activation of tasks and streamlined communication with managers.
Is there any exciting news you’d like to share with our readers at Supply Chain Digital?
We’re constantly innovating at Verizon Connect, looking at the types of technologies that will help transform supply chains, vehicles and logistics and working on the ways our customers adopt them. At the same time, we’re always looking at how we can help improve efficiency, decrease operational costs and, crucially, make fleets safer and more secure.
We recently launched some research into driver hours and found that a surprising one-in-five commercial drivers in the UK are spending more than the legally defined period of 4.5 hours behind the wheel without a rest break, potentially putting themselves and other road users at risk of fatigue-related accidents. For drivers, there is a lot of pressure to meet strict service level agreements and cope with increased demand in the lead-up to Christmas, but safety must always come first. With health and safety at the top of the agenda for fleet managers, we will continue to provide customers with the tools they need to help stay safe and compliant on the road.
For more information on all topics for Procurement, Supply Chain & Logistics - please take a look at the latest edition of Supply Chain Digital magazine.
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.”