Events

Achieving the Intelligent Supply Chain Control Tower

Everstream Team | December 14 2021

Rick Meyer: 

Hello everyone, and welcome today’s webinar. I apologize for the late start. My name is Rick Meyer, and I lead the global go-go-market teams at Everstream Analytics. Currently working from the home office in Burlington, Vermont. I’m going to be your webinar host and moderator today. In case some of you don’t know or aren’t familiar with Everstream Analytics, let me just provide a short intro. 

From our perspective, almost all supply chain decisions, whether procurement, supply chain design, plan or execution can be improved by taking risk into account. Everstream Analytics integrates end-to-end insights into our customers’ software platforms to create risk-adjusted supply chains that are more resilient, agile, sustainable, and effective. Our customers realize 30% improvement in margin by reacting faster to disruptions as well as operational benefits such as reduced expedited freight, improved downtime performance, and overall employee efficiency. 

Okay, so we’re excited to have everyone here today participating in our joint webinar, Infor Nexus. We’re going to spend the next 30 minutes or so talking about the disruptions in supply chain, control and command centers, and answering questions and sharing our thoughts on how to achieve intelligent control towers. Having been involved in supply chain for more than 20 years, it’s exciting as well as a bit concerning to see supply chain disruption and control towers front and center of everyday conversations. And frankly, it’s about time the financial channels such as CNBC have caught on to the impact disruptions in the supply chain creates in our global economy. So I’m really looking forward to the session today and hearing from our panelists. So as I mentioned, all attendees will be muted, but we’d love to make this as interactive as possible, so we encourage you to provide questions and comments in the meeting chat throughout the webinar. 

So like the term visibility these days, command centers and control towers carry an array of meetings and capabilities. With so much variation and definition, it can be challenging for companies to collaborate and come to an agreement of which capabilities are needed in a constantly changing risk landscape, especially in the post COVID-19 era. Whether control tower manages status or shipments, tracks inventory availability or plans next week’s movements, they rely on other applications to successfully aggregate information to manage the known and unknown disruptions, and the one thing I think we can all agree on is that control towers are playing a vital and evolving role in supply chains, and for companies to achieve their objectives in 2022, they need to find the right innovative solutions and partners that will help them to achieve their end-to-end supply chain goals. 

All right, so in today’s webinar panel, we’re going to discuss driving the increased need for supply chain control towers, the role of the supply chain and digital twin, and then how in the future predictive and prescriptive insights will make controls towers more successful. Okay, so let me introduce our panelists. Welcome, Heidi Benko and Ulf Venne. Great to have you two here. Heidi Benko is the VP of product management responsible for Infor Nexus end-to-end visibility and orchestration solutions. Heidi has over 20 years of experience in supply chain product management, strategy and marketing, delivering innovative supply chain network solutions to companies across industries that help them transform their supply chain operations. Personally, I’ve known Heidi for more than five years and have always been amazed at her ability to easily explain how companies can deploy technology to drive value across our enterprise. So Heidi, great to have you here today and thanks for participating. 

Heidi Benko: 

Thanks for having me. It’s good to be here. 

Rick Meyer: 

Absolutely. And then Ulf Vena is a director of Center of Excellence at Everstream Analytics. In the last eight years, Ulf has been instrumental in increasing awareness on the topics of supply chain risk management and helping companies improve their supply chain resilience. He has authored several articles and white papers on risk and resilience tools and methodologies, and has been published in numerous books and magazines, and he’s also instrumental in helping our employees at Everstream and customers stay on top of industry changes and challenges. So Ulf, great to have you participating as well. 

Ulf Venne: 

Thank you so much. Looking forward to the discussion. 

Rick Meyer: 

Yeah. Well, I’m pretty sure you didn’t have a choice, but great to have you here. All right, so back to the control tower. Let’s get started with the basics. We’re going to walk through a few questions. The first one coming up is a supply chain control tower. What does it mean to you? Heidi, let’s start with you. 

Heidi Benko: 

Yep. I think the goal of a control tower is to help companies sense and respond to what’s going on in their supply chain, to issues as well as opportunities. A control tower is something that connects all the supply chain systems, partners, and processes in a single shared view, and that provides alerts, actionable insights, as well as decision support tools and different levels of response mechanisms to truly sense and respond to supply chain issues and opportunities. So that’s what it means to me. 

Rick Meyer: 

That’s how you see it. And Ulf, would you like to add something to that? 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah, I would maybe say when I started in logistics, 3PLs often saw our control tower about creating basic visibility, but soon afterwards I believe we can say that companies like Infor changed the game and made visibility as something that a digital solution can easily cover. So more and more, the philosophy about a control tower, about staffing a control tower, it was about taking action. So sense and respond is how Heidi talks about it. For me, it’s about just being there and take action. And for taking action, you need to know a known what, right? And this is why insights will come into play and will probably build the next phase in the control tower, which then is an intelligent control tower. Yeah. 

Rick Meyer: 

Great. Well, that’s what brought us both together today. So let’s go to the next question here. So Heidi, what types of supply chain control towers do you see, and why do you think most are not end-to-end today? 

Heidi Benko: 

Yeah. I think the concept of control towers everyone’s hearing about all the time right now, especially with all the supply chains in some cases being overused and misused. What we see as a foreign in the market is there’s four different types of control towers, and they’re not all end-to-end. So I’m going to walk through. The first one is there’s planning control towers that are really focused on end-to-end planning. They’re based on end-to-end planning solutions, and they’re really focused on planning decisions and horizons. So they want to be able to get visibility in what’s going on the supply chain to be able to sense and make decisions and re-plan within that planning window, but they’re disconnected to what’s going on in the execution window. And a lot of supply chain issues that we’re seeing right now are what’s going on in execution and how do I react and respond to that? They don’t have those capabilities in execution. So better focus on planning than execution. 

Then in the execution control towers, here we see it’s mainly based on extensions of logistics and transportation solutions. So these are mostly focused on what’s going on in shipments. So they have very limited upstream and downstream visibility. They’re not used to connect the suppliers and collaborate and make sure you have enough supply visibility into, “Okay, product is delivered. Is it available into inventory?” And what we’re seeing there is a lot of companies in the market talking about being control towers, but again, it’s just shipments. It’s not, “Where’s my inventory?” It’s not that upstream and downstream. So the information is still siloed, which also makes limited sense and respond capabilities. 

The next one is analytic control towers, and here’s where we see companies that are trying to really break the silos. So they take data across supply chain systems from planning to transportation through a data lake, apply machine learning intelligence to get actual insights, typically connected to an ERP system, not to real networks, not really getting real-time signals. And because they sit off to the side, they’re really disconnected and you can’t respond. So you can see what’s going on in plan, you can see what’s going on in execution, and it gets better decisions, support tools, and information, but then to take action is a trick with that one. 

And then the last one is really to have end-to-end visibility, what supply chain flows of orders, inventory and shipments throughout the supply chain, you really need to be connected to a network. So multi-enterprise network base control tower first is connecting all the partners and lighting everything up and providing end-to-end visibility for all those people or parties that are required to really, “How do I fulfill my customer order?” So I need planning, I need transportation, I need warehouse customer service, providing a single control tower where all of them can see what’s happening in supply chain to see an act. And then what we’ll talk more about is collaboration, but collaboration amongst those internal parties so that we can see and act faster. And those are the four that we see, most of that being end-to-end. 

Rick Meyer: 

Okay, so the fourth one there is obviously where we’re headed on this discussion. Ulf, your thoughts? 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah. For me, I do believe the conundrum that eventually has to be solved is around how do we get to end-to-end? I think a stringent lead to cash flow where we have one guiding ID that everybody can rally behind and orchestrate on and talk about, which, for example, can be the customer order number, will be vital to get people working together because you right now have people talking within the company on shipment level. So they use the shipment ideas guiding principles. As a planner, you use the material code as your guiding principle. As a purchaser, you talk about your purchase order numbers. You need somehow a system that combines all of these together so you can rally the troops behind one thing that is unique and helps people to take action, and I think that’s fundamentally what is missing to build an end-to-end control tower. 

Rick Meyer: 

Well, this set of questions is really to talk about the basics and get everybody level set on a foundation. So Heidi, I’ll go back to you with what you think are the characteristics, and I know you brought up a little bit of it already, but around the intelligent control tower. So what’re just the basic characteristics, and maybe you can talk a little bit, too, about industries and which industries you feel are most appropriate. 

Heidi Benko: 

Yep. No, definitely. I mean characteristics, again, there’s a lot of control towers. I really think to have an intelligent control tower, there’s multiple things. First of all, it really needs to be end-to-end. So a lot of control towers, and as I just highlighted, are still siloed. I’ve got a planning, I’ve got execution. I really don’t have end-to-end. I can’t see further upstream. Your downstream is going on my supply chain. So it truly needs to be end-to-end. So one of the key characteristics is connecting to a network of partners because 80% of all data and processes sits outside of any single enterprise. So I need upstream with my suppliers, I need downstream with my customers, I need all of that connected in a single place. 

So foundation, I really think of intelligent. To get real-time insights is connecting to partners, systems. There’s a lot of capabilities around IoT. I can see the status of a product, I can see a status of shipments, so lighting up that real-time supply chain and getting visualizations, so advanced visualization tools. So I really need a high-fidelity picture of seeing, but then also that data has to be harmonized. So, that end-to-end visibility. Everybody is looking at the same status of an order product shipment throughout the supply chain, and when it’s harmonized, if you think about sensing and responding, it’s all the internal people, but as well as your supply chain partners. So everyone needs to be looking at that same information at the same time. 

When you harmonize data, then you can really provide that end-to-end intelligence, and once you have data and good harmonized data, now you can apply machine learning and get to those predictive insights because a control tower shouldn’t just tell you, “Hey, your shipment is late.” A control tower should see, “By the way, we foresee your shipment is going to be late. Why? There’s port congestion? Why? The supplier has not done the vendor booking in time. Why? There’s going to be a labor strike in a port.” So getting those proactive insights so your users can practically resolve. 

And then also intelligence is there’s so many signals and problems in the supply chain, you don’t want to react every one. So maybe I’ve predicted there’s late shipment. Well, do I have enough stock at a location? It’s not as important. If I have enough stock, I can focus on other things. So there’s a lot of intelligence that goes in control towers. So you let users make the right decisions, and then once you practically alert users to what to act on, you have to bring in context decision support tools. So an intelligent control tower doesn’t just tell someone there’s a problem. It gives them the tools to resolve it, and then the last key thing is taking action. You need to be able to turn around and take action quickly. And many, in that execution window, it’s either canceling, rebooking a shipment, asking a supplier to ship more, asking to expedite. That, you have to be able to collaborate and do in the network as well. 

And frankly, right now we’re seeing this across every single industry with different needs. So many of our customers are focused on meeting their customer needs in excellence and making sure they have enough stock to get it where it needs to be, where is it, and responding quickly. We’re seeing it from everything for retail fashion to industrial manufacturing. If you think about all the signals early on in COVID when we have high-tech and manufacturers where automotive sales are going down, I don’t need those parts, but my high tech customers orders are spiking. How do I quickly orchestrate what’s going on my supply chain? I need a control tower to tell my users to do that. 

Rick Meyer: 

Okay. so now I’m concerned. Ulf, can you hear me okay? 

Heidi Benko: 

Yep. 

Ulf Venne: 

I can hear you, yeah, just fine. 

Rick Meyer: 

Okay, good. I’m getting some network static on my side, so hopefully you don’t lose me. Welcome to Vermont. Okay. Oh, so let’s move on here. Thank you both for setting us up with the foundation of the basics. Ulf, I know there’s a little bit more on the characteristics. Anything you want to add to before we move on to the next one? 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah. I mean, maybe give me one minute for a small analogy maybe. 

Rick Meyer: 

Sure. 

Ulf Venne: 

So if you look at the control tower, the intelligent control tower, which is what we want to discuss today, I think this is where the people working at the control tower, the IT systems, supply chain systems, the process and then the insights all run in sync and cooperate with each other, right? It’s like being in a band. So the operators being the lead singer, being on the forefront, and they will definitely feel first the pain of not hitting a note, but then the guitarist being like Infor, the supply chain systems, and then you have the process shaped by consultants is the bass player, sometimes chiming in a little bit, but otherwise being part of the rhythm section. 

And then insights and analytics is what is essentially the drums, the beats per minute that defines a song and gives you the pace of every song, but also on every day in the control tower. And I think this will be more and more the case where, essentially, the way your control tower operates, how busy it is per day, this will all be defined by the insights that will feed the intelligent control tower. So like beats per minutes, you will have actions per insights in the future. 

Rick Meyer: 

Ulf, I think the analogy of a band is excellent and couldn’t be more appropriate for you with our team in Germany, since I know you guys have your own Everstream Analytics rock band. So if we have some time at the end of this webinar, maybe you can pull out your base guitar and play us a few tunes. No, not happening? Yeah. 

Ulf Venne: 

I can’t pull out my guitar. My bass, actually, is missing a battery. So I can’t play it right now. 

Rick Meyer: 

Okay. All right. Well, we’ll hold off for the next one. Okay, so we’ve got the basics down, and those are some pretty advanced basics for some of us, but very good, great descriptions. How do companies get started? That’s a big question. So how do we execute? So when you look at, “Why should companies embark on the journey towards a supply chain tower?” Based on your description of the basics, I think it’s intuitive, but Heidi, why don’t you share it? 

Heidi Benko: 

Yeah. I mean, it’s so critical right now. I think prior to COVID and everything we’re experiencing, companies really thought they could get by with just manual processes. They didn’t have to react so fast or sitting on excess inventory, and I think all of that changed very, very quickly. So companies need to embark on it because they need a digital supply chain where they can see what’s going on in their supply chain. They can’t have their users spend all day analyzing where product is. What’s going on in my supply chain? Are things late? They need to know immediately, “What is happening? Are there problems, and what can I do about it? And what’s feasible to act on?” Because some things I can’t do anything about, and other things I have to. So they really need to embark on the supply chain. 

And some of the things that we do see with control towers, people think it’s very daunting. “Oh my gosh, it’s my end-to-end supply chain. How I do all that?” You can definitely start in pieces. We’ll have companies, depending where the problems where they lack visibility the most, start with connecting to suppliers and seeing and collaborating orders, making sure they’re shipping on time or connecting to their logistics networks, carriers, 3PLs, and lighting up where product and shipments are flowing in the supply chain. So there’s steps to get there, but it’s really, really critical right now. And what we’ve seen with our customers, it’s changing from 80% of the time analyzing what’s going on, “Do I have time to react? 

There’s only so much I can do if I find out late that the shipment is late. I can either expedite the product somewhere else, or a learning customer, versus if you’re doing that analysis and you’re telling practically, “There’s more options.” Great, maybe I can ship more supply on an existing order. Maybe I can transfer stocks. There’s a lot more options when you light up the supply chain. Think about with COVID, with all the impacts and all the port issues that were going on, companies could quickly see which supply chain flows were impacted so they could reprioritize their orders to make sure they didn’t lose sales. You can’t do that if you don’t know immediately which flows are impacted, what products are on that flows, for instance. Right? 

Rick Meyer: 

Yeah, perfect. No, perfect. And then, Ulf, when you think about the supply chain risk and what’s going on and how that’s incorporated in supply chain towers, what are your thoughts on why companies should embark? 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah. I mean, as always with this, there’s an efficiency gain to be had here. People focusing on the topic of crisis management and exception management is quite important. We do know how it is if somebody has it as a side gig and should invest five to 10% of their time in crisis management. It never works. I mean, we see that in purchasing, we see that in logistics, we see that in even planning. I mean, that just isn’t the thing. So regionalizing or centralizing their control tower, bringing orchestration or organization to it is good because, first, people who are in that situation, they will leverage IT systems more because you’re focused. Then they can work with the right insights and really focus on being sure that they also source the right insights from the right sources and align that with the processes and then really act. 

I mean, that’s the most important bit. If you have faced a crisis 15 times, you know what to do. If it’s the first time for you ever, it’s very hard to do crisis management. So the efficiency gains are enormous, and we will see the concept of controlled towers maybe expanding out from this logistics use case more into the procurement world even more. And we have it in the planning world, but maybe also not so much as an act and respond control tower set up. But I think that will happen as well because, yeah, I don’t think disruptions will go away very soon. 

Rick Meyer: 

Well, interesting that you push it outside of the logistics and towards the procurement, and it makes me wonder, “How is collaboration, whether it’s internally or with your external partners, going to change through the control tower?” Heidi? 

Heidi Benko: 

Yeah. I mean, I think changing, and I think the key is an end-to-end, an intelligent control tower. So again, today there’s some planning control tower transportation. Companies really need end-to-end, and it really does change everything because you have a shared view to everyone that’s responsible for delivering to customers, the planners and customer service, the warehouse, everybody’s looking at that same information at the same time, and then they’re able to collaborate jointly on the best course of action because they’re looking at that same information. They’re not going offline, they’re not going in separate systems. All that information is at the same place, and it’s actually changing the way people work. A supply chain planner can look at, “Where’s the status of product in the supply chain?” Customer service knows the order, when it’ll arrive. On the transportation side, “I have late shipments, Oh there’s plenty of stock in that location. Moving on.” 

So it’s really changing the way the companies work internally because they’re providing information and they’re streamlining processes and just collaborating. Instead of offline and emails, they have better insights together, and then externally. So in that execution, a lot of the changes you need to make are with partners. So you need that same tool to basically say, “Okay, I have this problem. What do I need to do? I want to reroute a shipment. I connect to those providers and partners directly in the control tower.” So it changes it because it provides that shared view, that shared information instead of dropping off in emails and spreadsheets and losing the thread and wreaking and not reacting in time. So I’ve seen a lot of change. 

Rick Meyer: 

Yep. And Ulf, I guess when you’re looking at it, from your perspective, collaboration and how all that’s going to be changed with appropriate control towers? 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah. I mean, I think everything Heidi said is super spot on, so I don’t have a lot to add, but maybe one element is just staying calm. I think a lot about a control tower is crisis is a constant there, and this is what you have to do and what you have to solve. And if you do it the first time, that might be a big issue for you. You’re nervous and you don’t know what to do, and those guys, they do that every day. For them, it’s nothing special. So for them, it’s like every day work. They’re calm and they’re collected. They will follow a process. 

It’s essentially the same as if I stand in front of a burning house, I get very nervous and I probably don’t make the right course of action. But if a firefighter comes, he knows what to do. They have their process. They know exactly how to go about it and be very efficient in extinguishing the fire. Yeah. I think staying calm, collected, and being able, under stress, to collaborate with each other is what our control tower is really striving at, and then having the right information to do so is important. 

Rick Meyer: 

Very good. Nice tie-in there, Ulf. Okay, so one of the words I really enjoy hearing, one of the descriptions, I guess, I really enjoy how you’re talking about is the digital twin, which, to me, is a word that came up from the product data management solutions when people are looking from an engineering perspective. So it’s very cool to see this coming back in play with the supply chain, and again, I think it just makes perfect sense. So Heidi, how do you feel about the role a digital twin will play in an intelligent control tower? 

Heidi Benko: 

Yep, absolutely. I mean, to sense and respond what’s going on in the supply chain has to be based on what’s actually going on in the supply chain, not what you assume based on your static upfront configurations and assumptions. So a digital twin is key because that is the actual digital representation, what’s actually occurring. So it’s observing what’s going in the network model to provide insights and enable users to make decisions that are based on that. So billing that knowledge as things are flowing through the supply chain, understanding what are true lead times, what are true constraints? 

So when you sense, it should be getting predictive insights with the twin is seeing in the supply chain, and you respond, it has to be what’s feasible and possible. I can’t go and make decisions if I base it on static configurations. As we know, supply chains are changing so greatly. Lead times are increasing, certainly in certain ports. So when I make a decision, the system should not automatically know that I’m prescribing those decisions. So it really needs to be based on what’s truly being observed. And in highly dynamic supply chains, that’s not something people can manually keep up with. You need a lot of technologies building a digital twin, understanding the knowledge graphs of what’s going on with products, parties, places, the monitoring of processes, and all those insights to really manage what’s going on in the supply chain. So it’s definitely something we’re hearing a lot more about, and the digital twin has a lot of key technologies to really create that live supply chain and information. 

Rick Meyer: 

Yeah. I was going to say, difficult to bring that into the live part of that when you have a digital supply chain. So definitely a lot of technology is going to be involved in keeping that up to date and relevant both. Ulf, any thoughts? 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah, a quick one. So essentially there’s a lot of data on the world. You can get a lot of data from different places, and then you need to convert that first to information. But to really have something insightful to say, and as in the digital world, it’s called insights, you need to be able to reference that back to the digital twin, to tell the customer, “This is my network, this is your network, this is what’s going on in your network, and that’s how it’s impacting itself.” So for us as an analytics company, talking about the digital twin and how we can solve problems by referencing to the digital twin is very important to us, and that’s also, “How do we get things going? How do we get data to build a digital twin?” is one of the first things we ask customers when engaging with them. So for an inside company, the digital twin is super vital. 

Rick Meyer: 

Are you seeing and hearing the words, “digital twin,” more often in your meetings with large prospects? 

Heidi Benko: 

Yes. You broke up a little bit, but I think you asked if we’re seeing more- 

Rick Meyer: 

Oh sorry. 

Heidi Benko: 

… questions on digital twins in the meeting. Absolutely. I think companies hear a lot about it. The analysts are talking about control towers and digital twins and how they’re essential. And companies are hearing more about, again, “I can’t base things on my static configuration and assumptions. I need to really understand what’s going on in my supply chain and build out that digital twin.” And there’s digital twins of tracking a product or part, but there’s also the end-to-end supply chain digital twin and how they get that visibility. So it’s coming up all the time, and companies ask, “Well, what is your digital twin? What does that made of? What does that mean?” Because I think just like control tower is an often overused term, digital twin is as well. And there’s a lot of core technologies that you really need to build a true digital twin. It’s not just that you can see what’s flowing in the supply chain in real-time. There’s a lot of building that knowledge, understanding process modeling, constraints, and all of that so that way when you sense, the system tells you how to respond. It’s based on what’s truly happening. 

Rick Meyer: 

Yeah, yeah. No, that makes perfect sense. Okay, thank you. No, that was helpful. Okay, so one thing a supply chain webinar and today, and we did talk about COVID-19 and how that’s become an accelerated and control. So how do you think the improvement of supply chain control tower is going to change post COVID-19, again, if we get there? 

Heidi Benko: 

Yeah. I mean, I’m sitting in New York City today and now we have to wear masks to get inside, I think in places where not everybody’s vaccinated. So I’m in a conference room, so I can be free of my mask. But it’s amazing. I feel like every week there’s something. But, I mean, a few things. So one, we saw it’s really accelerated the need for digital transformation. That used to be an option, used to be a competitive advantage, but now everybody has digital transforms. You need data, real-time insights. People cannot spend all that time analyzing, and the purpose of the data and the needs around creating that visibility, agility, resiliency, and responsiveness in your supply chain. 

So companies of all sizes are looking at this. When it starts with visibility, real-time connections, so knowing where my product is and we hear about shipments stuck outside of ports hanging out for weeks, what products are on there? What customers are impacted? Or just everyday delays. “Does my supplier, is he going to ship in time? Is there enough?” And companies can’t spend time digging and scrambling for that. So it really did change that. Companies need actionable insights. We had companies where, because when COVID first kicked up and they needed to get supply out, they could quickly log in and see what suppliers had product that was ready to ship. They did two seconds of answers. 

I mean, companies can’t spend days and weeks analyzing anymore. So we’ve really seen the need from digitally transforming, get all your information to data, get real-time visibility, and visibility’s always been number one or number two on every supply chain survey for years. But again, now everyone wants real-time connections. I don’t want to go to partner sites and systems. I see one place. So really has changed the overall need. Companies that we are talking to went to accelerate faster. I need more my supply chain in one place to get those insights. 

Rick Meyer: 

Yeah, yeah. No, that’s right. Every year the results come out and visibility is exactly one or two on everybody’s chart requirements. Of course, similar to control towers, we have multiple definitions for each one of them. 

Heidi Benko: 

And great. 

Rick Meyer: 

Post COVID, I think we’re going to actually [inaudible 00:30:45] if people are going to truly understand what it is. Ulf, what do you think? 

Ulf Venne: 

So for us, also, the conversation dramatically changed. Because, I mean, what COVID showed, I guess, most is there was a lot of coverage around COVID and what was going on in which country with which restrictions. But primarily, you had to be in country to understand this. So local intelligence combined with making sure that you understand how the impact, then, is for your supply chain gets more and more important because there is a lot of things happening. There’s a lot of data, but to align that with your priorities and with your supply chain is a challenge for people. And they realize that more and more, and this is where we come into play and help. Yeah, so I have to say last year has been good. A lot of interest, but having the digital twin, again, so having laid out where is what in the network and all these things that are going on right now that are a lot, how do they impact us? That’s the challenge. 

Rick Meyer: 

Yeah, yeah. And Heidi, just from an Infor perspective, where do you see Infor technology playing a role in, I guess, call it the new normal? 

Heidi Benko: 

Yep. I mean, just as we discussed, I mean. companies right now need to know at their fingertips where is the status of my product shipments and inventory throughout the supply chain? So they want that information. They also want to apply AI machine learning to get predictive and prescriptive intelligence. So building in that control tower. So that’s where Infor helps our customers with these solutions. We’re doing all the connections, we’re providing those real-time insights, the end-to-end supply chain, taking in all the supply and demand signals, and providing the predictive insights, decision support tools, and the ability to respond. So companies are looking for a platform to pull all these capabilities together, and certainly in a way that they can manage implementing it out. And we’ll continue to add more signals, more sensors, more information, and more keys, predictive and prescriptive insights. Oh, we lost Ulf. He went dark. 

Rick Meyer: 

Ulf is having a private moment. I’m sure he’s sorting something with a cute [inaudible 00:33:05]. 

Ulf Venne: 

I’m here. No, no. No worries. It was just- 

Heidi Benko: 

[inaudible 00:33:09] turn off your cameras. 

Rick Meyer: 

No problem, Ulf. Thank you for coming back. [inaudible 00:33:18]. All right, so listen, so we talked about the basics of the control tower, right? We talked about how to get started, how to execute. Of course, we had to cover the impact of COVID-19. So let’s talk what everyone’s waiting for, how we change intelligent control tower. Ulf has been using a word that we use often at Everstream, which is pretty good insights. So all predictive insights shape the success of the supply chain in 12 hours. Heidi, do you want to take that? We’ll go with you first, again. 

Heidi Benko: 

Everyone we’re talking to wants to be proactive. Again, there’s only so much you can do when something happens. It’s going to be late. Okay, how far in advance can you tell me I’m going to have an issue? One of the first signals we hear often from customers is just managing, if we have third-party contractors building product, have they booked the shipment? Is production on time? The earlier you can be aware and get a predictive insights, more options. So it’s predictive insights, the broader you can go, which requires more connections, you need to be connected to suppliers, you need to be connected the 3PLs, carriers, forwarders, customers, the more insights and the better data. 

Where was I going? I just lost my brain. With the predictive insight, so it’s about more … And then it’s about the level of information. So there’s a lot of predictions used today in predictive insight. It’s, “Where is your shipment? Okay, but what’s on the shipment?” I need to know inventory and is there an impact of that? If I’m predicting it to be late, but we tell you there’s enough stock. So predictive insights with all that end-to-end data is really critical. So the goal is to really shaping a control tower with more predictive insights across the end-to-end supply chain and how they impact the end delivery to customers so you can see about it sooner, and then getting prescriptive with response as well. So it is about predictive and prescriptive, and I really think that’ll change the success. And we already see what companies will start with one piece, “Okay, I’m going to manage my inventory and transit. Now let’s go upstream to suppliers.” So I can really get it ahead of things. 

Rick Meyer: 

That was great. Ulf, I know you agree with that one. 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah. So for me, I mean, that was a really great take. It’s not a lot to add here, but I just want to say that to create insights fast and be able to have a limited time to action, I think companies like Infor, they already build a lot of foundational things that we need to work. So working together with Infor helps us to really reduce the time to value and just, essentially, plug and play a lot of the insights to really get going. So customers very easily can get on-time performance up and costs down by using disruption intelligence. And that, combined with shipments, is really vital and key to get going. And nothing is simpler than if most of it is already in place. 

So I think we’re at a natural transition where people already embedded solutions that helps or systems that help them create visibility and manage their control tower, and now it’s about creating this rhythm again that I talked about earlier. And that’s where we come into play, and the more companies talk to companies like Infor and now want to go to the next level, I mean, that’s really where analytics companies, this is what they are there for, really providing intelligence towards something that is already built as companies like Infor. 

Rick Meyer: 

Good. Yep. Very good, Ulf. Listen, I’m not sure we have our questions in order here, but there was another digital twin that came up is the game changer in supply chain control tower. Heidi, do you want to approach that again? 

Heidi Benko: 

Yeah. I mean, I think it is a game changer. It’s essential. So again, the more you can really see what’s going on and understand what’s truly going on the supply chain, and it’s not just taking in the transactions and seeing, “Here’s the shipment, here’s the products on it, and predictive capabilities,” when it arrives, is really truly understanding what’s going on and that constantly evolving network model that’s constantly changing in the supply chain as companies need to sense and respond, shift which ports are going to, shift which suppliers are shipping from, watching throughput at a particular DC warehouse supplier. So you can’t do that without a digital twin. And a digital twin, again, takes a lot of different capabilities. 

As I mentioned, companies use the term and misuse term, but there’s analysts out there who have talked about their key components. To understand digital twin, you have to understand what’s going on in the network and what’s going on with the network model and what are true throughputs, what are true lead times? Typically, if I’m dealing with an outsourced contract manufacturer, how much does he ship on time and full? What’s his typical throughput carrier performance? All this a digital supply chain twin will manage. So that way when we’re signaling issues and opportunities in supply chain, when you go to make those response decisions, the digital twin has the best answers. I’m in New York City and the sirens are going to kick in, so I’m going to mute a second. 

Rick Meyer: 

I can hear. Yeah, something [inaudible 00:38:49] around 16. Okay. Ulf, what do you think about that digital twin as a game changer in the supply chain control tower? 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah. Again, I think what Heidi said is very good. It’s essential. So I would say it’s a fundamental way of operating in the future. So without it, companies are just going to fail because if they don’t understand their own network and are not able to digitalize their own network and the processes around it, it will be very tough to survive, essentially. So with that, I believe, yeah. It’s going to be a game changer, but more that it’s a necessity than anything else. So yeah, I’m looking forward to the future because the more fundamentals are done, the easier it will be to really get smart around your supply chain. So for me, it’s a first step in a long journey of being smart on what to do in your supply chain. 

Rick Meyer: 

Right. We talked about just some of the conversations we’re having with customers and prospects, and more and more those are being left by the digital transformation officer, and the words, “digital twin,” comes up all the time now. So as it’s happening here, it’s hitting supply chain for sure. So what are the challenges to obtaining predictive insights for creating the digital twin? I talk now about, of course, the digital transformation officer. Not every company has somebody in that role, and not everyone’s even familiar with the term, but what are some of the challenges there and how are you overcoming those challenges? Heidi, do you want to take that? 

Heidi Benko: 

Yeah. I mean, a lot of the challenges and the starting points of both is getting all the connections to the data and the best data and the best sources of data. I mean, if you’re applying machine learning predictive intelligence, you want it to be on good data. Data quality is key. So with any control tower initiative, it is about good data and data quality, making sure you’re getting the best connections, real-time connections from source systems, also multiple connections. So if you’re managing shipments, let’s use global, and you’re getting data from the carriers, you’re getting real-time AS data, you’re getting sales schedules, you’re able to fill in the blind spots and come up with better information. So it’s about multiple connection points as well as making sure that data is good, it’s timely, it’s accurate. 

And then predictive insights across the end-to-end supply chain. It’s a lot of connections. You have to connect to all your upstream partners, all your other systems, and you don’t want to have to do that as one company. So a network does that, right? That’s what a supply chain network is good at, going on and onboarding all those partners into a single place to provide that. And the end-to-end view, which is also key in creating the digital twin. The foundation is that network, and then there’s a lot of technology and capabilities required to make a true digital twin. So that way you can see, you can understand the true patterns, the network model and evolving supply chain patterns and constraints. There’s a lot of technology to do that. So companies building themselves is difficult, starting by connecting to a network and pulling it in one place and all those different sources of data, whether it’s external, what’s going on with weather, whether it’s shipments and flights coming from an AS or telematics data, all that in one place, it helps if you already have a network. 

Rick Meyer: 

Yeah, yeah. And again, [inaudible 00:42:21] collaboration, right? Collaboration with the network tying this all together. Ulf? 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah. So I do believe if you look at control towers in general, and then the intelligent control tower, it’s always a buildup. So first you have to look at can you rally your troops behind regionalizing and centralizing your logistics operation for intrinsic movements and build control towers? That’s the first step that people sometimes struggle with. Then you have to make use of the systems that you need to operate this. How do I make use of a transport management system, for instance, in our control tower? People are still stuck in this journey, but then you have others who already have everything together in this department and now we’ve built our processes and now want to add more insights to it and be effective and efficient. 

I think that’s where a lot of people are heading right now because latest, when there was a ship stuck in the Suez Canal, people realized, “Okay, if it takes me 10 days to figure out what is going on, that’s definitely not where we should be.” This is, I think, a moment for a lot of companies to realize, “Okay, we really have to get this going and we really have to drive the agenda.” Yeah. I mean, I definitely see that there’s a lot of momentum around that right now. So with this, and just real quick, I want to ask Heidi one question at the very end of our session- 

Rick Meyer: 

[inaudible 00:43:55] off the script. That’s all [inaudible 00:43:58]. 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah, yeah. You have to because you have to, real quick, fix your microphone maybe, Rick, if that would be possible. How to overcome those challenges, Heidi? 

Heidi Benko: 

I mean, the good news is you can connect to a multi-enterprise business … I can’t even speak. Multi-enterprise business network in a control tower. So there are solutions and platforms out there that help companies overcome those challenges and get up and running quickly. So again, you have to connect it all at once. You connect [inaudible 00:44:26] of the supply chain. So to overcome that, working with a company that can connect your partners, light up that control tower, make sure you have good data and good insights to your users to get going. 

Rick Meyer: 

Good. Very good. And Ulf, kudos for you also squeezing in the Suez Canal and the evergreen into the conversation. I think I owe you 10 dollars. So good job. 

Ulf Venne: 

Rick, can you check real quick if you can address your microphone? 

Rick Meyer: 

[inaudible 00:44:58] 

Ulf Venne: 

There should be a second option for you, actually. While you do that, let me real quick ask Heidi a question from the audience. So are we heading to a smarter supply chain setup overall? Is this the way we go? Are we going that way right now? 

Rick Meyer: 

Yeah. 

Ulf Venne: 

Is this what must come to market? 

Heidi Benko: 

I mean, I definitely see it. So again, we talked about what COVID-19 did is really accelerated the need for companies to digitally transform. I mean, we’ve seen companies of all sizes trying to get everything to be digital in data, across processes. It used to be we talked to a company and it’s like, “Well, this part I can still do in spreadsheets. Let’s focus on this part.” No, I need end-to-end supply chain data. I need to understand where product is throughout the entire supply chain. I need to know if it’s on time, I need to know if it’s late, I need to know what the impact is. It’s late, but what customers, what items are impacted? 

So to do that, it starts with data, and then there’s so many capabilities around machine learning and intelligence to apply it. It is getting smarter and getting users. The actionable insights are getting proactive, and then intelligent in that not every exception is most important. You can’t always resolve everything. Maybe if I have a late shipment, almost a final destination versus, “You know what? It’s late. It’s an international shipment. I have time, I could reroute it. If it hasn’t reached the other port, I can make sure it’s put away faster.” There’s more options you get there early on. So I definitely see that. Yeah. 

Rick Meyer: 

Okay. Oh, can you hear me now, Heidi? Yes. 

Heidi Benko: 

Yeah, I can. 

Ulf Venne: 

Very good. 

Rick Meyer: 

Okay. 

Heidi Benko: 

Yeah. 

Rick Meyer: 

Great. Thank you. Sorry about that. Just some other challenges here. Okay. Listen, that was super insightful as well as entertaining. So thanks, Ulf and Heidi. I’m sure the audience is itching to ask their own questions now. So why don’t we shift to the Q&A session? We’ll now open up the panel to take questions from the audience. 

Heidi Benko: 

Do you want me to … Sorry? I see one. 

Rick Meyer: 

No, no. You’re good. 

Heidi Benko: 

Do want me go ahead and read? So I see a question. 

Rick Meyer: 

Yeah. 

Heidi Benko: 

You mentioned about data. How do we ensure quality data or good data is available? Yes, great question. I think this is such a focus for companies and discussions that we have. First, you have to get it from the source. So if you’re, again, the paid percent of what’s going on in supply chains outside the enterprise, not getting it from the enterprise system, going to the carrier system, the supplier’s system. There’s a lot of IoT and direct information to track products, track shipments, connecting that. So part of the data sources and more complete data sources, making sure it’s timely, making sure the data is accurate and matches what’s in the system. So there’s a lot we do with our customers to help manage that. We take the data and make sure it’s accurate, make sure the data and the locations is correct, the products is accurate, reports. You have to clean that up first. 

And what’s been interesting, too, with the control tower, the visualization tools because you’re lighting up the supply chain. It’s been actually interesting to identify data quality issues faster. It’s really hard to dig through the tables and spreadsheets. But we had one customer, for instance, like, “Where’s that shipment going? I don’t ship to Los Angeles, Chile, right?” But the data was wrong, and you can fix it quicker. So there’s a number of tools that we use to help companies with data quality and science and information on that. 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah. Maybe to add to this just real quick, I think scouting sources is very important before you try to create information or insights on top of that. So for instance, we have our own intelligence team that’s very experienced in looking at disruption data, and then we also have our own weather team that looks at what is the best way to create the most applicable forecast for each country. So with that, essentially scouting the right datasets and data pools to generate the right insights for use is quite vitally. So otherwise, it was a perfect answer. 

Rick Meyer: 

Okay. Looks like we have time for maybe two more quick questions. Heidi, do you want to grab the next one? 

Heidi Benko: 

Just wearing my glasses. 

Ulf Venne: 

[inaudible 00:49:16] digital going to be implemented in the industry. So where did you already implement a digital twin? Do you have a good example? 

Heidi Benko: 

Because there’s a lot of capabilities in the digital twin, there’s a lot of aspects we’re using. So for instance, using the knowledge graph to identify, again, just for those situations, which ones have the biggest impact in what areas, and getting companies to use that. There’s a lot of capabilities working out with our customers right now on the decision support as they’re using the control tower to really see things like truly times what’s feasible, true constraints that we’re in the process of building out with our customers. So it’s more, right now, the twin is sensing issues and opportunities, more real-time. So we’re getting ahead of it. It’s proactive. We’re predicting in three weeks you’ll have a stock-out. It’ll impact these customers. And bringing in, I can then see throughout my supply chain, because it’s digital, where else I have stock, where I have a supplier, can that supplier ship on time and react? And it’s across industries, but it’s about bringing all that data in one place on the supply and demand side to build out the twin. 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah, and also just adding real quick, I think a digital twin is more a journey as well. So you can start with a very basic setup where you just add locations and lanes and then add more and more information over time. So, for example, everybody of our customers has to have a representation of the network, otherwise we can’t help them generate insights. 

Heidi Benko: 

And we build that automatically based on what we’re observing. So we don’t meet with companies, they show us the network. We actually, through the network that we’re connected to and all the orders, all the shipment, all inventory updates, we build that network model of the twin. So it isn’t static. It’s really truly dynamic and based on what we’re actually observing, which is really key. 

Ulf Venne: 

Here’s a very good question. Shall I take this, Rick? Is it fine or- 

Rick Meyer: 

Yeah, please go ahead. I’m not sure if my microphone’s working yet. 

Ulf Venne: 

Okay. Actually, your mic is … I think this is one of the most important questions, Heidi. Is an outsourced for PL digital control tower better than building one internally in an organization in cost and digital scalability to new trends, examples like digital twins? So breaking it down, do you think that the 4PLs can essentially use innovation as quickly as if you build one yourself right now? 

Heidi Benko: 

I mean, I think it takes a lot to build an intelligent control tower. First is connecting to all the parties, all the devices from the network, and there’s a lot of technology components to it. I mean, this is a journey we’ve been on for years, and we’ve always had the connectivity and visibility, but really lighting it up in the aggregated view, really connecting all the data end-to-end to understand, “What is the impact of late shipman? What is the impact of a stock-out?” But that takes a lot of data and a lot of capabilities. I need to be able to quickly search throughout my supply chain the status of a product, where do I have issues, and what can I do about it? So I think for companies to start on the journey now, it’s a lot of work. And also, supply chains are highly evolving and technology is highly evolving. If you can go with a company that’s actually done the work for you and really just get your network on and plugged in, then companies really could focus on running their business and their supply chains. 

Ulf Venne: 

Yeah. I mean, what I saw as a trend, personally, so this is total affection bias now, because I heard that from customers. So some said, “Okay, we really want to have the basic understanding of how our logistics network and our supply chain network works internally, and we need this on a fundamental level to be able to operate continuously all the time.” So essentially, don’t feel like you want to give this away, this control over your supply chain, even to a small degree, then you just have to do it internally, I guess. But obviously, outsourcing has a lot of benefits coming with it. But given that you have to implement so much IT and you have to really make it work, I don’t think this is something that you should outsource on a yearly contract basis. It should be a long-term contract. You should try to find the right partner from the very beginning. Yeah. 

Heidi Benko: 

Yeah, you should build and evolve with it. I mean, the network evolves, it changes it, supply chains are highly dynamic, and we’ve spent … Even since COVID, there’s a lot more capabilities we’ve put in because our customers needed it, not just on visibility but real-time, quick execution tools. How do I quickly rebook and replenish them in with a carrier, for instance? You want to work with a network partner that can help you both sense and respond. 

Rick Meyer: 

[inaudible 00:54:09] 

Ulf Venne: 

… become so much more important. As a board PL, how do I actually see the vision for my control tower going forward? Because it’s not only about what you can do right now, but also what am I able to do in the next few years with the ever changing landscape of technology? Am I able to adapt to new technology? I think this is a question more and more customers ask when they ask about outsourcing these solutions. 

Rick Meyer: 

Listen, we have come up on almost an hour, so I’m guilty of exaggerating when we started the same thing, we’re going to talk about this for the next 30 minutes. So I apologize to the audience and those of you that participated in this, and Ulf, you told me this would be 30 minutes, so now you’re in trouble. So listen, those are some great questions. We really thank everyone for their participation. It’s time to wrap up today’s webinar. And on behalf of Everstream Analytics, I’d like to thank Heidi Benko and Ulf Venne for their time and the useful insight on how to achieve intelligence control tower. So I think it’s fabulous. We truly hope you found the time well spent. We look forward to having you join us on the next one. 

Heidi Benko: 

Thank you. 

Rick Meyer: 

Yeah. A quick note. Everyone that’s registered here will receive an email containing a playback link to the webinar. We’re also going to try and take all the unanswered questions and put responses, and we’ll send those out in an email. So thank you again very much. Thank you, Ulf and Heidi. We really appreciate your participation today, and thanks to all of you for participating. 

Heidi Benko: 

Thank you. Take care. 

Rick Meyer: 

Thank you. Bye-bye. Have a great one. 

Heidi Benko: 

Bye. 

 

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