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Hopping on the Digital Wagon

Hopping on the Digital Wagon


Held on 4 October 2016 at Marina Bay Sands, Quintiq hosted talks, demos and panel discussions that focus on the digital trends taking place in the industry. One panel discussion titled Impact of the sharing economy, IoT, robotics and big data on the supply chain industry was moderated by Mr Paul Lim, Founder/President, Supply Chain Asia.

Together with his guests – Mr Fausty David, Head of Global Demand Management at AFCI; Ms Stephanie Krishnan, Executive Director at Rutgers Business School Asia Pacific; and Mr Philippe Ruffier, Regional Supply Chain Director at Mundipharma – the panel discussion discussed the impacts of such digital transformations on the supply chain industry.

Collaboration in a disruptive world

It is hard to discuss the concept of sharing economy without mentioning Über and Airbnb in the same breath. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, to put it briefly, it is an extension of the Internet of Things (IoT). With the advancement of IoT, a highly flexible economic network has emerged to allow people to share resources, such as equipment, services and skills, with others.

Also referred to as collaborative consumption, the sharing economy allows users to rent out something that they are not using, such as a car, house or office, using peer-to-peer services. But how prevalent is sharing economy today? Does it even work in supply chain?

“Ten years ago, I would have said no, the sharing economy does not have a place, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. But today, there is a need to reconsider this stance. The reason lies less on costs and more on the need for creativity in terms of speed to market. This is why it is easier for smaller firms to capitalise on their speed to light capability as smaller firms are typically asset-ligh. In fact, the number of smaller firms in the pharmaceuticals industry is exploding and they are taking more market share,” commented Mr Ruffier, who has over 20 years worth of experience working with supply chains in Asia.

Taking the right action from data

Big data is about providing supplier networks with greater data accuracy, clarity, and insights, in order to gain contextual intelligence shared across supply chains.

Manufacturers that understand the importance of using big data and cloud-based technologies are able to move beyond the constraints of legacy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Supply Chain Management systems. For manufacturers whose business models are based on rapid product life-cycles and speed, legacy ERP systems are a bottleneck. Designed for delivering order, shipment and transactional data, these legacy systems are not capable of scaling to meet the challenges supply chains face today.

“Sometimes, companies simply look at the surface of the data and make decisions without proper analysis or asking the right questions. I have a customer who saw a huge demand in a particular emerging market, such as Indonesia or Vietnam, and immediately tried to build a presence there. The customer then didn’t understand why his strategy was not working. Most of the time, relying data alone is not enough. In his case, not only was he not sharing data with his suppliers, but he was not even sharing the relevant data among the different departments,” explained Mr David, who is armed with 12 years of experience in supply chain.

Where will the talent go?

Today, smart machines and hyperconnectivity are already transforming many areas of modern life, particularly in businesses. Large segments of companies’ infrastructures are already in the cloud. Production lines are coordinated by smart machines and robots. Wearables collect and transmit data about individuals in real time. Household appliances now can do anything from monitoring the freshness of food to dimming the lights in a specific room.

With machines taking over our lives, can we also expect them to take over our jobs?

“Sure, most of our employees have now been displaced, but they are displaced upstairs. We no longer have many employees working on the operations floor as they are moved upstairs to focus on strategic planning. This allows them to focus on more advanced opportunities to expand their skills and on the big picture,” shared Mr David on the current talent situation in AFCI.

“Ultimately, having the support of the government can go a long way. The Singapore government, in particular, is very focused on re-skilling its workers. In addition, the respective companies must work on hiring a diversity of talent. This means employing workers with a variety in the different experiences and specialisations,” said Ms Krishnan, who has nearly 20 years experience in the areas of Manufacturing and Distribution.

In short, robots are not taking our jobs. They are just helping us work smarter, and providing us with opportunities to adopt better skillsets.