Embracing A Retail Revolution With Innovation

Adopting a visible end-to-end supply chain process is critical in establishing accountability and adapting to an ever-changing market. Especially given the growth of e-commerce, the industry needs to be prepared to meet the challenges of last-minute changes in customers orders, quick deliveries and sudden cancellations.

Those demands are just from the customers’ side. What happens when supplies are missing or do not arrive when expected? After all, supply chains typically use several layers of companies, manufacturing sites, and warehouses between raw materials and customer delivery. A minor hiccup can quickly snowball into lost sales and additional expediting costs. Every time a company is forced to battle fires, it loses grounds on efficiency and profitability. This is why end-to-end solutions are vital; it is the only way problems can be flagged real-time for immediate assessment.

“This is where JDA excels in, and probably the only company with the capability to provide these solutions. We bring planning, execution and retail insights across manufacturing and supply chain for end-to-end visibility. We expect to continue to be a leading provider in this area,” says Mr Girish Rishi, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of JDA Software (JDA).

In this issue of Supply Chain Asia magazine, Girish sheds light on the role of technology in the industry, the growth of smart cities in Asia Pacific and preparations for the transformation of the retail industry.

Leading the world of digitalisation

Girish may have only joined JDA in January 2017, but he is well-versed when it comes to the conceptualisation and execution of digital transformation. Prior to joining JDA, he was responsible for Tyco International’s global retail solutions business and North America building automation business, which had more than US$4bn in annual revenue.

“We live in a multi-sensor world today, where there are soft and hard sensors. Soft sensors refer to social media, like Twitter, and weather data, while hard sensors include physical devices, such as radio-frequency identification. Ultimately, my goal is to push JDA to be the leading provider that provides multi-sensory data for customers across the supply chain. This is why we need to move towards technology innovation,” says Girish, who also once served as North America’s Senior Vice President for the Enterprise division of Motorola Solutions before working at Tyco International.

In that aspect, the CEO believes JDA is slightly ahead of the curve. The company is already focused on embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and exploring the benefits of a connected network. He believes these technologies are vital not only to improve processes but also to promote workforce efficiency.

“While we already have very advanced workforce management tools to optimise the work that is carried out, we still need to look at the gaps in today’s business models. We are looking at developing a capability map to highlight these gaps. It is only when we understand the gaps, can we move forward and encourage talent optimising. That is the hardest part,” shares Girish, who has worked for software and system companies focused on supply chain solutions for the past 20 years.

With automation displacing jobs and pushing people to manage specific tasks, the future workplace looks even hazier than usual.

“It is obvious that while more drones and robotics will manage the repetitive and tedious tasks, humans will continue to focus on customer service and consumer insights,” adds JDA’s chief.

Embracing the rise of smart cities

Singapore has set up a new ministerial committee to push ahead with its smart nation dreams. Smart nation refers to a society that adopts “a model where aggregated data will be used to improve living conditions and standards.” Having the right data also means correct decisions can be made to reach positive outcomes in supply chain.

While Singapore is seen as one of the most advanced cities in terms of automation, it still has plenty to do before being officially termed as a smart nation.

“It is the data that is currently lacking. Asia has the biggest wireless coverage compared to other regions. Singapore has the model and infrastructure ready, but not the data. Still, I believe that the nation will be the leading indicator of how far supply chain can leapfrog in the future,” explains Girish.

There are several initiatives Singapore will be taking to establish its smart city status. One of which is Virtual Singapore, which will integrate layers of data about the city’s buildings, land, and environment. Organisations can use this to understand traffic patterns and learn the landscape of a particular area, which can be crucial when it comes to planning delivery routes and setting up distribution centres.

“The supply chain is currently undergoing a disruption, and it is important for us to embrace it and to look at technology for solutions. I think Singapore’s initiatives will help the industry to serve our customers, and to incorporate IoT and machine learning into our solutions,” says the supply chain veteran.

Balancing the transformation of the retail industry

Credit Suisse analysts expect more than 8,600 store closures by the end of 2017. For comparison, 6,163 stores shut down in 2008, the worst year for closures on record. This has led to some lamenting the death of the retail industry, but others, like Girish, only see an industry in the midst of a transformation.

“The retail industry will not be boxed,” says the CEO. “The retail industry will be driven by where and when consumers want to shop, and the industry needs to provide instantaneous access that leads to the purchase decision. This means a plethora of distribution capabilities has to be available to serve the customers’ needs. The industry will be transformed into providing highly customised options according to an individual’s preferences. The industry is currently experiencing growing pains because of this transformation, but it will prevail.”

Still, providing such options can lead to high costs and expensive processes. Who will bear the costs: the companies or customers?

“Consumers today are very demanding, which means the focus on consumers is stronger than ever before. So now, brick-and-mortar retailers have realised that the only way they can serve the consumers is through alliances. I think the next generation of retailers is based on alliances as no one independent retailer can fully serve all of its consumers’ needs and demands. Asia is already leading the world in implementing new retail models that are centred on collaborations,” says Girish, who grew up in Asia and is currently based in the US.

All the links in the supply chain need to be connected and work cohesively for the industry to succeed. JDA’s main proposition is bringing these elements and linkages together.

“I find e-commerce an interesting challenge for the industry. We need to understand where the demand comes from, even though it could come from anywhere. We need to ensure that tons of inventory are in place, and ready to be picked into individual parcels. How do you guarantee this end-to-end success for e-commerce? That is what JDA excels in and will continue to focus on,” shares
Girish as he passes his one-year mark in the company.

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