I interviewed William Leo who discussed the trends in supply chain IT in Asia over the last 10 years. William has almost 19 years of experience in the supply chain IT industry since he implemented his first supply chain system at his first job. His first part of his career was in the end-user environment. He was helping companies manage their warehousing, distribution and transportation planning process. He also worked at a large food and beverage company working on production planning, procurement planning, material planning etc. After this he become a consultant where he was doing a project for a company in Korea, Japan and Malaysia. He then joined various supply chain software companies like Adexa, SAP, Red Prarie and Infor. William has been heavily involved with supply chain IT for the last 8 years.
Opportunities for supply chain IT in Asia
William sees that the growth has been very much in China for the last 10 years in supply chain IT. Companies are maturing and there is a need for planning and optimization, as well as execution. Most of the opportunities are in the WMS (WarehouseManagement Systems), as well as TMS (Transportation Management Systems). Supply Chain Planning is up and coming right now.
Challenges for supply chain IT in Asia
Some of the challenges are the readiness of the customers themselves. There is a lot of opportunity to improve operations using IT. However, not all companies are mature enough. They don’t have the competency to manage it. In fact, a lot of companies are still using spreadsheets for planning, especially for supply chain.
The WMS and TMS the customers are more mature and it is very much execution based. Therefore, there are less complexities compared with a planning solution.
Over the last 10 years what transformation has taken place in China in terms of supply chain IT?
10 years ago many Chinese customers did not understand what logistics is. They had a very vague understanding that it was just warehousing and transportation. However, today a lot of customers are very well versed in warehouse (WMS) and transportation (TMS) areas. Also, 10 years ago there was very little design for supply chain planning, even for demand planning, supply chain planning or production planning. Today demand is increasing. More companies see the value of supply chain planning.
Although there is demand for supply chain planning in China, customers are still not mature enough. A lot of customers are trying to replicate what they are doing with spreadsheets.
Trying to replicate what you were doing with spreadsheets is a challenge for any customer or software vendor to do it properly. A lot of customers are still very traditional and hope that the supply chain solution they invest in is a replicate of what they were doing the past 10 years. This undermines the true benefits of having business systems. If the spreadsheet could do the job, why would you buy the software?
There are a lot of errors and limitations to spreadsheets for doing planning. More education is needed for Chinese customers. They need to know why they need change management and process change. If you want to maximize the supply chain solution, you must be willing to change. The change management piece is very important.
If you do well in supply chain planning using IT, the benefits are huge. I personally have implemented Adexa for a Unilever joint venture in India. India is very backwards in terms of infrastructure and IT systems. When I did the Unilever project in 2001 there was not even a forklift in the warehouse. Unilever achieved a $55 million saving. They implemented the demand planning, supply chain planning and strategic network planning solutions. The project took about 6 months to complete. There was a huge improvement in profits and cost control.
My advice is to take a good look at supply chain planning because it really helps with the bottom line. The savings are continuous forever.
About William Leo
William Leo has over 19 years experience in supply chain management with focus in manufacturing, logistics and retail industry in Asia Pacific, especially in Greater China.
Mr. Leo started his career as Distribution and Warehouse Manager (Fuchs Lubricants) and then worked successively as Planning Manager (YHS Ltd.), Global Supply Chain Consultant (GlaxoSmithKline), Project Director (Adexa), Regional SCM Manager (SAP Asia), Country Manager China (Intermec Technologies), Country Manager Greater China (RedPrairie), SCM Director Asia (Infor Global), VP Sales (Kewill) and now Country Manager Greater China (Mahindra Satyam).
Over the years the SCM projects that Mr. Leo has been involved and implemented are GITI Tire, Fanhang Logistics, Haier Logistics, Shanghai Tobacco, Shanghai GM, Nansha Logistics, Sony China, Digital China, Hansol CSN, LG Home Shopping, San Miguel, Unilever, Chartered Semiconductor, Mitac, KYE etc.
Mr. Leo graduated from National University of Singapore with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computing, and received management training at Gemini Consulting. He was trained and certified at SAP, Adexa, Manugistics, Kewill, Infor and RedPrairie, and is a board member with International Supply Chain Education Alliance (ISCEA) and consultant member of the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP) associations. He is also the expert advisor on SCM and ERP for Gerson Lehrman Group Council, DeMatteo Monness LLC and PrimaryInsight.