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

The traditional supply chain system has become much more complex with the increasing pricing pressure and customer expectations. Spilling more details about how a digital supply chain can be leveraged to enable effective collaboration, Dataquest interacts with Irfan Khan, President & CEO, Bristlecone, a Mahindra subsidiary, to know the maturity of supply chains and the pain points. Excerpts

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.

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