Advanced analytics is a game changer for organizations: Irfan Khan, President & CEO, Bristlecone

Ruchika Goel
New Update
Advanced analytics is a game changer for organizations: Irfan Khan, President & CEO, Bristlecone

If you look at the maturity of supply chain across verticals—what is your due diligence: Are they using enough technology interventions for seamless operations?

Maturity of supply chain can be classified as being reactive (functional integration), internally integrated (cross functional integration), externally integrated (cross enterprise

integration), and finally agile (responsive & flexible).


At Bristlecone, we firmly believe that technology plays an important role to enable this transition. As an example, cross functional/internal integration is possible through an ERP solution whereas achieving agility and responsiveness through collaborative planning forecasting and replenishment requires advance digital technology platforms for enterprise collaborative planning.

Currently we can identify three levers for achieving supply chain maturity— collaboration, data, and analytics. A digital supply chain can be leveraged to enable effective collaboration amongst multiple stakeholders on a real-time basis with the organization.

The collaboration can be internal or external and applied in functions of demand forecasting, purchasing, customer interface, or CRM towards information sharing. Data consistency is one of the most crucial elements of any supply chain transformation program. Master data management tool can ensure consistency of data throughout the disparate applications of a seamless supply chain.


Traditional supply chain systems have become more complex with a mix of operations having a global presence, ever increasing pricing pressures, and customer expectations. These challenges lead to a sub-optimal supply chain.

Here is where we can leverage data analytics to analyze raw data to help draw conclusions about information collected and have a more effective decision making. The use of advanced digital technologies such as big data analytics offers significant potential for overall operations.

Based on our experience across various industry verticals, levels of adoption and technology adoption itself greatly differ. It is primarily influenced by the level of competition and amount of competitive advantage each supply chain transformation project is expected to achieve. To conclude we believe in technology interventions being driven by industry specific needs in the course of achieving supply chain maturity.


What are their pain points?

The biggest challenge for most companies is to achieve synergies between technology, process and people. This is especially difficult since the transitions in technology is often sudden, whereas maturity of processes and people is gradual. It is not necessary that implementing the best CPFR tool will reap immediate benefits as aligning processes and people is a time consuming process.

The use of technology becomes more vital as companies try to increase their maturity levels. Moreover, as supply chains get mature, the barriers between processes and technology are receding. The supply chain community often looks at processes and technological initiatives independent of each other.

For example, implementing a technology solution which is not aligned with industry specific best practices will not provide any competitive advantage. Advance supply chains initiatives which require collaboration with external partners also face challenges like lack of buy-in of the entire community, disparate technology platform between partners, disagreements in benefit sharing, establishing joint performance management system, etc.


Supply chain transformation is a journey which requires constant supervision and assessment. Bristlecone has devised frameworks and analytics to capture data and assess the effectiveness and relationship between technology, processes, and people. In the recent past, most of the organizations embark on this supply chain transformation initiatives with an intent to have a seamless digital supply chain. In doing so, the challenges faced which impede realization of benefits can be listed as:

„„1) Transformations are function specific and detached tools rather than a holistic solution.

„„2) Most organizations focus on the external supply chain and lose focus on having a more robust and efficient internal supply chain.

„„3) People awareness and level of understanding also plays a crucial role in the success of supply chain transformation initiatives.


How are you creating a unified supply chain framework that clients can leverage all forms of supply chains into one seamless platform?

A unified framework enables sharing of best practices across geographies as well as different business units and product lines. It results in cost efficiencies in the short term with a centralized support structure and also in the long term when it comes to rolling out into new geographies & diversifying the product portfolio.

Bristlecone unified framework is not only about building a global template product, but it also maximizes the synergies between global optimization and localized benefits specific to a particular portfolio or a geography. For example, service levels may be the highest priority for one product group in some geography, but for the same product group in a different geography the cost efficiency might be the competitive edge.

The essential aspects of the framework benchmarks processes & technology enablers against global best practices & solutions, not just in terms of efficiency & costs, but also in compliance with global standards of quality, product delivery and local competitive landscape. The result of such an analysis helps us to form the basis of ‘Glocal’ deployments.


One of our leading chemical industry client, has a huge product portfolio spread across the entire globe. Our efforts were channelized to provide them a seamless unified framework which harmonizes about 70% of the Supply Chain processes across the multi-network Supply Chain and ensures a robust, resilient technology platform. The remaining 30% were local customizations.

Bristlecone has a proven methodology for process harmonization across multiple business units and consolidation of disparate technology platforms to enable our clientele in creating a unified and seamless supply chain framework.

Clearly, advance analytics will play a key role in bringing much needed operational efficiencies. Can you give some details about how are you doing this?

At Bristlecone, we work with a mission of enabling a digitally connected supply chain that is powered by analytics for our customers. For this, we focus on the entire spectrum of analytics—right from descriptive, diagnostic to predictive, prescriptive, and cognitive. As we’ve all experienced, today’s world sees an explosion of data that comes from not only your enterprise systems but also external environments—be it sensors, machines, social media, location-based services (GPS).


So, we also leverage these digital technologies and overlay external data and enterprise data to bring in strategic business value. This applies across the supply chain business processes and brings in the much needed operational efficiencies as well as enables new business models.

Let’s take a few examples—we’ve seen a lot of organizations struggle with profitability as they are purchasing raw materials when the market is peaking, what if they can use advanced analytics to predict the price of raw materials and make their purchases when the price will be at its lowest?

They can negotiate their contracts in accordance and make the right pricing decisions for best profitability. Now, if they can also overlay this with their demand forecast, inventory carrying costs and shelf life of the materials—they have the means of being able to control and optimize every facet of their purchasing decisions for the best profitability.

Let’s look at another example, organizations need to balance their inventory at every stock point such that they can maximize their fill rate while they minimize the inventory

carrying costs. What if they can put all of this data together in a statistical model that prescribes the inventory policies while simulating the SLAs and costs? Clearly, advanced analytics is a game changer for organizations and we are using it at the core of our supply chain solutions and advisory services.

What is your strategy for the Indian market in 2016?

We recently announced that we are accelerating our India and Southeast Asia investments. We believe in a very simple philosophy—’Localize Customer Solutions and


The Southeast Asia and India markets have been maturing fast and India is on the path to become a manufacturing hub as well. As such, the supply chain and analytics focus in this region has taken centerstage and a new level of importance. We have won a lot of new clients over the last six months and are seeing an increase in the demand for the services in the region.

This is coming from several industry verticals, from discrete manufacturing and process industries—hi-tech, pharmaceutical, automotive, consumer products, retail, and telecommunication to name a few.

There are three reasons for us to expand our focus in the region. Firstly, the number of Southeast Asia and India- based customers who have an increased demand for their supply chain and analytics needs have reached a critical mass.

Secondly, our global customers continue to expand operations in these markets and want us to help take the best practices and localize them for their needs in the new markets. Finally, as we continue to expand our capability and innovation map, this region continues to be a hotbed for innovation and it gives us an opportunity to prototype many solutions here before we launch globally in the other markets. We are increasing our GTM, delivery, and innovation investments substantially in the region.