Delivering the best of IBM
Chip Schneider, partner in IBM Global Business Services (GBS), worked alongside T-Mobile to bring about what he calls a “cognitive process transformation” with data analytics, artificial intelligence and cognitive cloud.
IBM was chosen by T-Mobile as their strategic partner to deliver the programs and projects to propel T-Mobile forward with back-office functions like financing in supply chain.
“That’s a broad statement but it’s a pretty broad goal,” says Schneider. “T-Mobile have been really challenging us to bring the best of IBM to them, and especially for our guidance in supply chain transformation.”
IBM has been a partner with Sprint for a number of years so when T-Mobile and Sprint merged last year, it was an opportunity for IBM to showcase their expertise.
“We operate as an open book with our clients and especially key clients like T-Mobile,” says Schneider. “We share perspectives from our knowledge and experience in the telco and media industries worldwide.”
Schneider is enthused when discussing the working relationship between IBM and T-Mobile, saying there is “always an air of excitement” and “they’re so willing to listen”.
“T-Mobile asked us to make the work we do for them ‘palatable and meaningful’,” says Schneider. “That means bringing industry leadership, functional leadership in finance, supply chain customer management, and the technical aspects of hybrid cloud, cognitive and machine learning, data intelligent workflows, and blockchain. We had to make sure it's not just us talking to them, but us working together with them.”
Of course, the benefits of a close, collaborative relationship like this work for both parties, especially when digital transformation is accelerated by a pandemic.
“That changed everything,” adds Glenn Finch, Global Leader Big Data & Analytics at IBM. “2020 was a matter of survival for most companies with a focus on business continuity and cost reduction. So you saw this radical growth in back office transformation, in front office transformation, and then this this unprecedented growth in data. We are a hybrid cloud and AI company. That's exactly what the market wants right now.”
Finch explains how companies were faced with a critical cloud decision and turned to IBM as a trusted, reliable partner.
“When clients were having to bet their careers, they bet on us,” says Finch. “Our AI and hybrid cloud resonates so perfectly in a market like this.
“When we go into a process and we drive a bunch of AI into it, we're shrinking cycle time by 80 to 90%, we’re cutting costs by 50 to 60%, and NPS scores are going up by 10 to 20 points. Sometimes clients think that can’t be right as it sounds too good to be true.”
Schneider emphasises the importance T-Mobile placed on not only transforming the technology but also empowering individuals.
“T-Mobile are hyper focused on ensuring that not only their customers feel the human connection, but also employees,” says Schneider. “And so our job is to take the data – internal and external – and present it back to them and say, ‘Hey, here's what I found’. It's really like building a colleague for them to help drive their strategic decisions on their supply chain.”
Japan Seeks to Revive Stalled Semiconductor Industry
Post-pandemic, Japan has seen the consequences of relying solely on foreign imports for its semiconductors. Over 64.2% of its chips are usually imported from South Korea and Taiwan, leaving the country dependent on its neighbours. Industries from auto manufacturers to consumer electronics firms wait for chips, to no avail. But now, the Japanese government looks likely to put real funding behind its semiconductor industry, with top officials emphasising their support.
Domestic supply chains have never been more important. Rather than remain tied to international shipping routes during shortages and delays, governments are doing everything in their power to develop local lines of supply. But the question remains: can Japan pull it off?
How Will Japan Pay For It?
Herein lies our first issue. Japan’s debt has rapidly increased over the past few years, and the semiconductor industry will need roughly a trillion yen—US$9bn—in this fiscal year alone. This cost, however, pales in comparison to what Japan could lose if it fails to keep up with Europe and the US. Both nations have launched aggressive funding measures to revive their local semiconductor industries. And if Japan refuses to invest due to its debt, it could slow down progress in fields ranging from artificial intelligence to autonomous driving.
According to Tetsuro Higashi, the former president of Tokyo Electron and Japan’s top government advisor in semiconductor strategy, ‘If we miss this opportunity now, there may not be another one’. Yet one advanced wafer fabrication factory can cost more than US$10bn, and any money poured into the industry will go fast. That’s why Japan, rather than invest trillions and trillions in failing domestic firms, is considering a second option.
What Do They Plan To Do?
Japan now intends to look abroad and convince overseas chip foundries to come to its shores. Its past failures mostly centred on trying to merge domestic firms that were already going through tough times. ‘This sort of made-in-Japan self-reliance approach hasn’t worked out well’, said Kazumi Nishikawa, a director at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry’s IT division. ‘This time the goal is to offer a strong incentive for an overseas logic foundry to come to Japan’.
As follows, Japan will now reach out to industry partners and leaders in other countries, including the industry heavyweight Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), to build Japanese bases. According to the South China Morning Post, the heart of Japan’s mission is a US$337.2mn research and development project in Tsukuba that will involve TSMC and more than 20 Japanese firms. ‘I think we need to cooperate with our overseas counterparts’, said Akira Amari, a senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. ‘[And] TSMC is the world’s top logic chipmaker’.
Indeed, if that’s Japan’s strategy, the future looks bright. TSMC recently set up a venture near Tokyo to research energy-efficient 3D chips with several Japanese partners. And in the future, the multinational chipmaker may consider expanding its Japanese operations—that is, if government incentives pave the path forward.