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2014

I interviewed Vijay Parmar who discussed Tracking Multimodal Passive Assets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s nice to speak with you today, Vijay. I’d like to hear your views on tracking multimodal passive assets. Before we start, can you provide a brief background of yourself?

 

Okay. My name is Vijay Parmar. I am the CEO for a company called Rezolt Corporation. I have been in technology for the last 25 years, the last 10, 12 years in Internet of things and machine-to-machine communications, starting with a company called Gainspan, where we invested in a Wi-Fi solution for embedded devices, what was called wireless sensor networks at the time and now known as Internet of things. At Rezolt we are building system products and solutions for Internet of things and machine-to-machine communications, focusing on wireless connectivity.

 

That’s interesting. Can you talk first about what is involved with tracking multimodal passive assets?

 

Let me just start with explaining a couple of key words. We have coined this term called multimodal passive asset management for the specific category of assets and a specific type of tracking. Passive in this terms implies an asset that’s unpowered or doesn’t have ready access to line power. This contrasts with fleet management, where you have units that sit inside a truck cabin with ready access to easy power. They’re always on, they have sufficient power, and the vehicle is being driven. Contrast that with assets like shipping containers, truck trailers, rail cars that don’t have access to easy power. That’s passive. Multimodal is a term that’s used a lot in transportation and logistics, as in assets that go from ships to trains, to trucks and some more of transportation. We expand that to also include other modes, other states. For example, whether the container is locked or unlocked; whether the templates inside the container are too high or too low; sensor shock, lock status, all of those are on my modes, so when you talk about multimodal passive asset management, you're talking about tracking passive assets through several different types of modes that they go through.

 

What are some of the challenges involved?

 

The biggest challenge is the passive aspect of these assets. They don’t have line power access, so they must survive on batteries. It’s possible, in some cases, to use rechargeable batteries, but those present their own challenges because you have to have line power to recharge the battery. The good news is that many of these assets still need to be tracked in real-time, so, as in a cabin unit that’s used for tracking a truck needs to send location and other data very frequently, maybe once every 30 seconds or once every minute. In the case of a truck trailer or shipping container, you could send the data once every hour and that’s good enough. If it’s not moving, then you could send it up once a day just as a heartbeat.

 

The important thing is that these assets need to run on batteries for a very long time. Our belief is that the best solution is primary batteries that allow these units to run for one-year or two-year, five-year time periods. That’s one of the key challenges. The other challenges are, typically, these are installed on assets that experience with a harsh environmental condition; think about containers and truck trailers. Not just environment, but, otherwise, as the containers are placed on ships or taken off ships, they get banged around, so you need units that are protected, you need units that are installed in a way that they can withstand these environmental and other harsh conditions. Those are probably two of the biggest challenges.

 

There are other challenges like making sure that you have a high probability of carrying GPS signal, a high probability of carrying a cellular signal so you can talk to a network and you can figure out where you are. That’s hard; that makes it a little more complicated. We solved some of those problems with some creative positioning of the unit on these assets, as well as using alternate technologies, like Wi-Fi.

 

Can you talk about how you overcome these challenges?

 

The first one is the usage of primary batteries and managing the duty cycle so the end customer gets useful tracking information when he needs it and, at the same time, implementing good power management that allows the unit, the tracker unit, to extract high amounts of battery life in years, because, obviously, if you need to send a guy to replace the battery every month, then that defeats the purpose.

 

One of the things we’ve done is implement fine-grain power management that really takes into account behavior of the key communication in the places that are involved—GPS, GSM, GPRS, 3G, Wi-Fi—to make sure that we find ways to have these in the places available when they absolutely have to be available, but at the same time, conserve power as much as possible. That’s one of the things that we’ve done, is to implement our management that allows us to achieve battery life that runs for two years. As far as the environmental conditions, there are two things.

 

One is designing the unit with enclosures that meet IP67, IP68 specifications that allow the unit to withstand high water submerging specs and essentially be able to be used in containers and trailers that are exposed to these elements. Second thing is to find ways to install this unit on containers and trailers and other assets that protect the unit from getting banged around as these assets get installed, get moved around. We’ve studied these assets and found places where there are best ways to install this unit, and that is one of the key problems in tracking these kinds of assets.

 

Thanks, Vijay, for sharing your views today on tracking multimodal passive assets.

 

You’re welcome. Thank you for your time as well.

 

 

About Vijay Parmar

 


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Vijay Parmar

 

President

Rezolt Corporation

 

LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed Kwame Varga who discussed Human Rights and Disabilities in the Supply Chain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s great to speak with you again, Kwame. It’s been a while since we’ve talked. We’ve done interviews in the past. Today I’m looking forward to hearing your topic on human rights and disabilities in the supply chain. Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself?

 

Hello, Dustin, thank you very much. It’s great to speak to you again as well. I’ve done supply chain work throughout Russia and central eastern Europe, western Europe, South America, and a little bit in Asia. In the past few years, I’ve kind of evolved away from supply chain in terms of the supply chain processes for the supply chain and taken that understanding into a more sort of human rights focus.

 

Much of the concept of supply chain management, supply chain understanding, and process management are actually very applicable in the human rights field. Everything really needs a process around it and the understanding of how you sort of produce cause and effect and, thus, demonstrate the needs and the capabilities to meet the needs in the human rights field really kind of come out of supply chain understanding.

 

Thank you. There are some terms here I’d like to ask you about. Can you talk about inclusion, ADA, and the UN conventions on human rights and disabilities in the supply chain environment?

 

It’s a very a good question. Much of it starts from the ADA, which is the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s very important to know that the Americans with Disabilities Act came out of civil rights legislation and the Civil Rights Act of, I think, ’64. Based on that legislation, the concept was to create a foundation that would prevent discrimination toward people who, at that point in time, sort of disabilities were looked at as physical disabilities, whether it was motor, whether it was hearing, whether it was visual. Since then, the ADA has come to encompass autism, has come to encompass PTSD, has come to encompass ADHD, so any number of learning disabilities. Currently, actually, about 50 million Americans classify under ADHD.

 

One small point—actually, it’s a very large point—is that much ADHD sort of understanding and the spirit around it is, in many ways, most of us will get old, and when we get old, we will have some sort of disability that we will have to deal with. ADHD kind of creates that sort of understanding at an earlier point in our lives that says disability is serious and many of us will have a disability that we will need to deal with, so better to look at it now and better to address it now rather than wait until we are in our sixties or seventies and then have to, in essence, alter our environment and ourselves to meet an environment that’s not suited for the disability when we can start much earlier. Inclusion, in essence, springs from this concept of what you need to do, create, build, design, and it’s inclusive design or universal design that offers the best space, understanding, and utilization for people with any range of disabilities that classifies them with the ADA. Much of ADA legislation and ADA thinking has then gone into human rights conventions because it’s, in many ways, America is somewhat at the forefront, and in some ways other countries are very much at the forefront, but it’s around the same spirit of basically saying one should not and cannot, societies cannot discriminate based on disability and/or race. That’s what inclusion is.

 

Why is this so important?

 

It’s important because it’s part of what…it’s interesting. If we take, in essence, one of the most effective presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, someone with polio and someone who spent much of his last two terms in a wheelchair, whether it was a new idea or whether it was shepherding us into World War II and out, there are significant people in history who have had disabilities. Arguably the smartest man in the world right now, Stephen Hawking, would classify under ADA. The concept of not limiting people based on a physical or mental misunderstanding is paramount to this work.

 

Again, basically, what the ADA says and what human convention’s saying are if we equip early enough, if we design early enough, if we include early enough, it will allow people to reach a potential that we can’t necessarily understand because of our limited understanding of it. I go back to when the ADA was originally written; it was based off of a civil rights legislation, based on a finite group. As our ideas of, as our technology grows, as our ideas of who we are grow with our environment and with our spaces around us, our concept of actually what is disability also grows, but then again, the concept of what is the ability that is inside of a disability is also demonstrated pretty much all the time. That’s why it’s important; we can’t prejudge someone based on an idea that we’re not really fully capable of understanding. If you include people in the understanding at the beginning, you remove barriers and you remove the ability to, in essence, discriminate. That’s why it’s important.

 

How is this carried out in practice?

 

Basically, in terms of supply chain—this is where it sort of comes into play—much of the concepts of universal design and inclusive design is about, for example, urban planning, interior design. It starts very much with architecture and engineering. In terms of building the capacity that people who are—and this is the critical mass of architects and designers and urban planners that think about ADA and think about universal design when they start a design project, when they start, in essence, planning.

 

It allows for a greater level of accessibility everywhere. One of the things that we understand is that getting students early in to the cause, early in to the understanding of how to design for, how to implement universal design and how to understand universal designs creates living space to the city spaces that are much more permanent and have much more staying power. It’s reverse just in time, meaning, okay, I’m going to have everything there right at the period of time that I need it; here, you have to get on the upstream. You have to get people in on the upstream that are able to carry this forward to reach a critical mass to where we look at the world in a different way. That’s why it’s very important.

 

Thanks for sharing today on the topic of human rights and disabilities in the supply chain.

 

My pleasure, really. Thank you for giving me the opportunity. It’s something that’s very important.

 

 

 

About Kwame Varga

 


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Kwame Varga

 

Project Coordinator

Insititute for Human Centered Design

 

LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed Hedley Rees who discussed Patient-Centric Approaches to Pharma Supply Chains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s nice to speak with you today, Hedley, and today we’re going to talk about patient-centric approaches to pharma supply chains. Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself?

 

Sure, thanks, Dustin. Well, I’m a qualified production engineer of 30 years now. I work in the pharmaceutical industry both in permanent positions and as a consultant, basically working at building and managing outsourced supply chains across the whole end-to-end pharma industry, starting with raw materials, intermediates, active ingredients, and then products to market.

 

My passion, if you like, is considering the supply chain from very early stages of development rather than leaving the aspects until much later in the development process. That’s what I have most of my clients with. I’m currently working on a project that’s funded by U.K. government on patient-centric supply chains, and hopefully I can help you understand a bit more about what I mean by that as we go through the interview.

 

What is a patient-centric approach to pharma supply chains?

 

Well, it’s the complete opposite of the current approach that’s being taken by the industry. Typically, the industry will identify a compound through molecular modeling and all sorts of different methods to identify a product with potential. But rather than starting with a patient’s need, the actual environment in which the product is going to be administered, the need for companion diagnostics, et cetera, et cetera, the whole development process passes through both preclinical and clinical development. It’s only in the later stages the pharma companies tend to take an interest in the supply chain, and by then, of course, as we know, 80 to 90 percent of cost and performance is normally built into the design-development stage, so by then it’s all but too late to really make an impact on quality, cost, and lead time in the supply chain.

 

My experience as a consultant teaches me that that continually happens, and the industry is finding it very difficult to develop products. Like the rest of the world, if you like, other sectors do, which is to start, basically, at the point of the end user, identify their value proposition, and then develop products that are aligned with that value proposition and deliver that value physically into customers’ hands. What my approach is is to organize so that the health care practitioner and the patient are very much part of the initial scoping for a new product, a new drug; they understand the epidemiology for the drug, they understand the indication, they understand the patient issues. And then a supply chain is built as simply and effectively, with minimum handovers so that that product be physically delivered to the patient.

 

As I say, this is not an approach that the industry is familiar with or even comfortable with. Albeit it is taking very much about becoming more patient-centric, the practicalities of it are immense given that over 40 years, the industry’s become very much outsourced; the whole of the distribution approach is outsourced, a large portion of the manufacturing approach is outsourced, and the industry has very little influence on actually determining what the patient gets. I hope that gives you flavor of what I’m talking about here, Dustin.

 

Can you go into a little bit more detail about why take a patient-centric approach?

 

Well, fundamentally, the whole industry is suffering from what we call a painted cliff and numbers of other issues linked to the fact that many of the drugs—in fact, most of the drugs that go through development, 249 of the 250 actually fail to get to market, and that’s a horrific attrition rate. The reasons are many; some of them are down to supply chains that eventually fail and create toxic substances on scale which were not toxic at normal scales. Also, there’s a lot of activity going on in the later stages but not in the early stages, where things could actually be influenced. If we look at further impact other than attrition, we also see that there are many me-too drugs getting to market.

 

By the time they get through the development stage, they’re basically no better than drugs that are already on the market, so we’re seeing regulators and health economics elements of government actually rejecting drugs because they didn’t meet the sort of original criteria that they were supposed to meet. My argument is: These days predictive technologies exist to be able to identify drugs which are manufacturable; to identify drugs which don’t have potential toxicity issues, safety issues; and to identify drugs that have a certain level of efficacy.

 

Over the past 40 years, there’ve been huge advances in in silico methods, which is computer modeling and prediction of drug performance, and also ex vivo methods, whereby rather than testing in patients, drugs can be tested in tissue and other means outside of the human body to really screen out the drugs that were never going to make it because, eventually, they would not be able to build a supply chain through to market. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, Dustin.

 

What about the how? Can you go into a little bit about how this is done?

 

Yes, I’m working with a company at the moment. As I say, it’s U.K.-funded and it’s a consortium of the National Health Service. We have one of the largest tracks in the U.K. engaged, so we have a leading specialist in the particular indication actually explaining how the procedures are carried out so that the manufacturer gets a very clear idea of how the product’s used, the critical success factors, the quality aspects, and you get a much better understanding of if their product actually has the potential in the market and also what characteristics they would have to have to deliver the value that the surgeon and  their practitioner is looking for, which ultimately benefits the patient.

 

That provides both to the customer and the manufacturer and we’re all familiar with—well, many of us are familiar with the voice of the customer and the importance of doing that before policy is deployed into manufacturing or organization. But along with that, we have, Cranford University are providing the innovation, the access to the theory of practice of innovation and the fact that invention is very much different to innovation, and innovation is really all about making commercial advantage of ideas and inventions. And then we have the manufacturer themselves, who really can learn from the voice of the testament and have built an integrated supply chain that constantly refers back to: Is this delivering value for our end user?

 

In the development process early stage, it’s about involving patients, health care practitioners, surgeons, physicians, marketing, procurement, supply chain. All those people who are going to be involved in the process of bringing drugs to market need to be involved at that early stage. The organization impacted that quite significantly because the whole industry has been organized basically on an R and D model, where R and D discover and develop the product and commercial then eventually get it handed over somewhere further down the line. That model has to be turned on its head before we can really see effective supply chains in pharmaceuticals biotech and life sciences.

 

Thanks, Hedley, for sharing your views on patient-centric approaches to pharma supply chains.

 

You’re very welcome, Dustin. Thank you very much for asking for my views.

 

 

 

About Hedley Rees


Below are some links to my book and some articles/podcasts all covering the patient-centric topic from various angles:

 

Book

- http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470555173.html

Articles

- http://www.pharmaphorum.com/articles/patient-centric-pharma-brave-new-world-or-same-old-empty-promises-part-three

- http://www.pharmaphorum.com/articles/the-supply-chain-patient-is-sick-is-there-a-cure-for-the-pharma-supply-chain-part-2

- http://www.pharmaqbd.com/rees_aiming_for_roots/

Podcasts

- http://www.in-pharmatechnologist.com/Regulatory-Safety/Two-stage-development-model-needed-to-cut-attrition-rates-says-expert

- http://www.in-pharmatechnologist.com/Processing/Pharma-needs-to-rethink-supply-chains-in-an-era-of-patent-expiry-and-global-outsourcing

 


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Hedley Rees

 

Managing Consultant at PharmaFlow

 

LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed James Filbird who discussed Collaboration with Seeed Studio - A Leading Hardware Supply Chain Solution Provider in China.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s good to speak with you again, James. Today I’m looking forward to hearing what you’re working on now. I know you’re

located in Shenzhen at the moment and working with some innovation and dealing with maker spaces, so I’d like to hear more

about what it’s all about. Could you please start by providing a brief background of yourself?

 

Yeah, sure. I’ve been in China now for a little over eight years, in Shenzhen. I’ve been doing business in China since 2002. When I first came here for a company that I co-founded in California, it was a product that was designed for children; it was real-world toy, it was a plush toy that had a connection to a cartoon universe, a virtual world. This was in the year 2000, where we were pioneering this concept; now there are a number of companies doing this. But that brought me to China for manufacturing our toy, and then I moved here in 2006, and I’ve been, since then, assisting American companies primarily—I have a U.K. customer as well—and helping them do business in China and setting up their supply chains, helping them prototype products, whatever their need may be.

 

In the past year I’ve been working very closely with a startup community here, with the makers. There’s a tremendous amount of entrepreneurs and engineers here in Shenzhen, and some of them are moving away from the bigger companies they work for and developing their own product, but they need help with marketing, branding, and getting their product into the Western world. That’s my focus right now, and that’s what’s got me more involved in dealing with supply chain issues.

 

You mentioned something called Seeed Studio. Can you explain what that is and the type of collaboration you’re working on?

 

Seeed Studio is very influential, perhaps the most influential company in China in their involvement in supply chain. China is like a supply chain manufacturer to the world. Seeed Studio was founded by Eric Pan, who lived in Beijing and then migrated to Shenzhen. When he first came here six years ago, he was amazed by all of the factories and the high-tech space and the community, the maker community. He became a very influential member of that community by starting working very closely with the manufacturers and the makers. He founded Seeed Studio six years ago, and he has done very well for himself and has a staff of 120 employees. I’ve been to their company a couple of times, which is about a 45-minute drive from where I live. Their specialty is helping makers develop their product, so they do prototyping.

 

They match you with the right factory to do their prototyping. But they do most of their prototyping actually in-house, and that’s hardware, software, and firmware. Once you’ve developed your prototype, then they’ll match you to the best factory based on your parameters. They’ve done so well at it that they have attracted some of the largest companies in America: Microsoft, Intel, and some other Silicon Valley companies.

 

Actually, they have asked me to help them find an office in Silicon Valley and help them establish a presence there so they can work directly with Intel and some of the other manufacturers that need help here in China, because they have developed a system that is very efficient and very effective. And because they are a Chinese company, they have an advantage in helping American companies find the best way to utilize resources that are available here.

 

Where do you hope this project will be in the near future?

 

What project is that?

 

The project you’re working on with Seeed Stuido.

 

You mean Betwine?

 

Yes. Can you explain what Betwine is?

 

Betwine is a wearable device. We’re now in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign. You could go to Kickstarter and just type in Betwine, and you’ll find the product. We have eight days left on our campaign. The product is unique in that it’s the first wearable device that allows you to directly, we call poke, communicate with other users. It’s a wearable device that can hang around your neck or wear as a wristband or, actually, you can put it most anywhere else, on a lapel or zipper pull.

 

This product is even now, and was, developed in association with Seeed Studio and then more recently with Innoconn, which is a new division of Foxconn; it’s an incubator model that takes on new projects to help them perfect their product and get it from alpha stage to beta stage and then into the mass-production stage. We’re the very first company to be run through the Innoconn incubator in coordination with Seeed Studio, so we have very good support from them, and we’ve got a very good product now because of their participation.

 

How do you see this changing the global supply chain, what you’re working on now, which seems pretty innovative and something different?

 

Well, that remains to be seen. Because of Foxconn’s knowledge base and experience in addition to Seeed Studio, they’ve come together to create a new process that is trying to implement a new way of developing the supply chain, a new way of prototyping and developing the product, and our product was the first one to be run through that system. So far, so good. We’re in the process of creating a brand.

 

We’ve sold over a thousand units; testing has gone very well, so the product seems very stable. If we’re able to continue our process of developing the product and then developing the brand, then we use that model to work with other makers who want to develop product and then, eventually, global brands. It’s going to have a very impact if we have good success with this product, not just with the Kickstarter campaign but, more importantly, the association of the partnership that Seeed Studio and Innoconn have brought to us.

 

So, are Seeed Studio and Innoconn, are they focused on mass-scale types of production? Is it focused on large production or a smaller type of production?

 

Well, obviously, Innoconn, which is a division of Foxconn, which is one of the largest manufacturers in the world—OEM manufacturers—I think they would rather, if there was a choice, they would rather see a large-scale production, but they also do small-scale. They work with you; that’s what Innoconn is all about.

 

You go to them to do the prototyping for the hardware, firmware, for the ID design, even software, and then you perfect the product through the Innoconn division. And then, of course, from there it goes to Foxconn if the product does well and they get big orders in. Foxconn would take on that business. They would probably opt for large-scale manufacturing since that’s more suited for Foxconn, but Seeed Studio, if you’re working with them, they can handle small production—1000 pieces a month to 100,000 pieces a month no problem.

 

Does Seeed Studio do anything with 3-D printing? I’ve been reading and hearing more and more about 3-D printing and the maker movement and making things on a smaller scale. Do they deal with that type of production?

 

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been to their facility, and I think they have two or three 3-D printers and they also have laser cutters and they’re doing CAD and modeling. Right in their facility, they can do modeling. They do prototyping. They have a little mini manufacturing facility. They can make ic board, PCBA, and they have chip sets. They have parts and supplies right there in-house, so they can make a simple model for you; they can do the laser cutting of the product; some molding; and, of course, the 3-D printing.

 

They’re like a little miniature prototype studio. They don’t do any production, per se; they’re more of a prototype house. From there it would go to one of their participating factories that they work with within their own supply chain, which they have probably the best supply chain of their type in all of China since they’ve been at it for six years, and there are so many factories here in Shenzhen, specifically in the high-tech space.

 

Regarding your Kickstarter project, what would be the benefit for people to contribute to the project?

 

Well, there are two things I think. Number one: They get a really cool device that’s very different from any other activity tracker because it not only tracks your own activity, but you’re able to share it to the people that are closest to you. And then there’s another feature in the device that allows you to connect directly to other people through a mobile app.

 

For example, in the mobile app, I would click a button, and then that button would be like a poke or a tap on the shoulder. That would reach someone else and remind them, “Hey, you need to get up and get some exercise,” or, “Hey, how are you doing?” It just lets you know you’re thinking about them, so it’s a very nice gesture.

 

The product allows you to stay in very close contact from out at a distance. And then secondly, you’re contributing to a project that is innovative in the sense that it’s produced by the Innoconn and Seeed Studio cooperation, which is run through the new model and would have a great impact and show them that this product and this model has a very great chance for success. It would be very encouraging for everybody.

 

Thank you, James, for sharing today about your project and sharing these insights on what’s going on in Shenzhen with the Seeed Studio and Innoconn.

 

You’re most welcome. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of your podcast and hope that there’s a benefit to those listening.

 

I’ll provide the link to your Kickstarter project as well so that anyone who’s interested could take a look at it.

 

Thank you very much.

 

 

About James Filbird

 


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James Filbird

 

Owner, JMF International Trade Group Ltd. -

China Business Consulting; Mobile Hardware

& Software Product Development


Websites

LinkedIn Profile

Betwine Kickstarter Project

Seeedstudio

I interviewed Sarah Husk who discussed Structured Innovation Communities for Supply Chains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s great to speak with you again, Sara, and I’m looking forward today to hearing your views on a new topic about structured innovation communities for supply chains. Before we start, can you give a brief background of yourself?

 

Sure. Currently, I work for a company called Imaginatik, and we are a full-service innovation provider; that means we bring people total solutions that include pieces of technology, maybe pieces of consulting to really achieve business results. I’ve been in the innovation space since about 2003 and really just started that at the Hartford Insurance Company; met up with Imaginatik and have been with Imaginatik since 2006. It’s been a really good and interesting journey for sure.

 

Thanks. Can you talk about what exactly structured innovation communities for supply chains are and who would be using them or who would form these communities?

 

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Sure, absolutely. When we think about communities in the supply chain specifically, when we think about the communities taking a setback, one of the trends we’re really seeing is, as people become more familiar with things like Facebook and Twitter and all those great programs that are out there, that’s really permeated the workplace, and it’s really started to take hold at work. When we think about the communities within the supply chain, it really goes in two different directions. First of all, we’re being asked by large organizations, “Hey, we need a way to engage with our suppliers and the people in our supply chain around innovation.” We know that we don’t know everything as a large corporation, nor do we want to; we really want to engage people in how they might be able to help us, how we might be able to do things better together, really with a win-win mentality so that it’s good for the supplier, it’s good for the large company.

 

So, that’s one thing we’re being asked to do. In the other direction, this is also an opportunity, we believe, for any type of supplier to say, “I’ve got these great things to discuss, to offer, to talk about”—maybe it’s new research, maybe it’s new technology you’re coming out with, it could be a wide variety of things—“and I really want to engage those larger companies in the discussion so that maybe we can serve our existing customers better, maybe we find new customers in that fashion.” It really could go in either direction. I guess if some met up, it would really be the supply chain members, their customers. We could start there but there’s really no limit to who could be involved in the conversation. I know you’re working in university education right now. We’ve got people who collaborate with universities and try and get some of the newest, freshest research coming out, so that’s a possibility too.

 

I know you mentioned a little bit about why, but can you say again about why form these communities?

 

That’s a great question. I think that what we’ve all seen—not just at Imaginatik but I think it’s just a trend that everybody knows and understands—our customer needs are all changing. It’s so much faster than it was before. Customers can now go out and find what they need in so many places; just doing a quick Google search or those types of things. Even in business. It’s not just the consumer; that behavior’s definitely gone over into B2B behavior as well. The technology advances that are coming are almost mind numbing, I think, for everyone how quickly technology has changed, and everybody is really looking for that competitive advantage.

 

The benefit to everybody is: As a supplier, you can bring your unique value proposition to those large companies in a faster, quicker, more collaborative way rather than just, “Hey, I have this. What do you think?” It can really be much more of a collaboration. I think that’s why the large companies are really driving that as well, to say, “If we don’t go and ask our supply chain for their newest, best ideas, their freshest thinking, boy, our competitors probably will or are doing that, and we could lose a significant competitive advantage because of that.” We really see it as a win-win for everybody, but I think it’s just, really, the changing environment, the speed at which we’re all working now, the competition across the globe; all those pieces are really, really feeding into this.

 

Can you talk about how it’s done? The title of this interview, the first word is structure. Is structure important as far as how these communities are implemented?

 

Yeah, that’s a great question, Dustin, and it really is important. What we’ve really found—and I would imagine at most companies today—people would say, “Wow, we are so good at getting things done, operations. We are focused on cost,” that kind of thing. But when it comes to innovation, collaboration, and some of those human dynamics, it gets a little messier, and it’s a little more iterative and a bit more creative, and I don’t think that everybody has a good structural map for that right now. So, yes, I would say the structure is really important, and that’s really what we try and help people with so that we can understand some key things. First of all, how can I structure this so that it’s beneficial and people will come and it’s engaging and it really leverages the knowledge of my people at my company and the knowledge of the people that are joining the community as well? It really is important to think about how we structure that, and we do it with a series of a few different things.

 

First of all, what’s important is really to align on, all right, this isn’t just let’s stand up Facebook for Business or that type of thing. It’s really: What are the strategic objectives that you want to get out of this community? Is it we’re collaborating on a specific topic? Is it we are sharing some of our best technology with others? Is it, hey, I’ve got a really tough problem that I sure can’t solve, but I’d really like your help? What is it that we want to get out of this? We always start there and then we try and figure out, okay, if that’s where you want to get to, what are the gaps that exist today? Are we missing a key component? Are we missing a person? Do you have a way to collaborate with people both online and face-to-face? Those types of things; we’re really looking at how we make sure we’ve got everybody included and we’ve got the foundational structure in place to really make this work. With most people, what we’ll do is go ahead and stand this up and we create it and we do a small-scale test and make sure that we’re on target and then we move forward with it.

 

The it is usually some type of community rhythm, so it could be that we are doing some online collaboration around a specific topic. Like, it could be we’re really thinking about all of the science, technology, engineering, and math students that are not in the universities today. How do we collaborate and bring that knowledge into companies today? It could be that we’re collaborating online on that; it could be that we’re collaborating face-to-face. A thought around face-to-face is, “Hey, I’ve got a great new technology; however, we’re not sure exactly how to use that yet.” Or, “I have a business issue and I can’t seem to solve it and we really need some fresh breakthrough thinking around that.” We start to put together that rhythm. Maybe once a year we get together at a conference or some type of—I know a lot of large companies have supplier day, that type of thing, so maybe we have some type of get-together and we’re really richly collaborating during that time.

 

And maybe before and after that, we’re teeing up some topics. It could be “Help us resolve these issues. When we get together face-to-face, we’re going to talk more deeply about that and really apply some breakthrough thinking together. And then when we leave, we’ll come back to the virtual space—the online space—and really continue to flush that out and really make those ideas that we had when we were together, really make them real.” It’s really kind of how do we have an ongoing community rhythm so that it’s not just once and done, but it’s always an ongoing conversation.

 

Do you have any recommendations for businesses in the supply chain that are considering this type of innovation community?

 

Yeah, definitely. I think that the biggest piece is really step back and think about what you want to accomplish with your online community. I think we’ve seen a lot of—and this should resonate with people—we’ve seen a lot of the Field of Dreams, the “if we build it, they will come.” I think what we know is that that’s not necessarily so, and I think people have seen that in their own organizations where they’re standing up a share point or they’re standing up a yammer or something like that, and everybody says, “This is cool but I’m really not sure how to use it. I’m not sure of the business value,” that type of thing. That’s why we really start there. It’s a good lesson learned by everyone. But, really, start with what we want to accomplish out of that, and we’ll figure out how to get there together. It really is a little bit of a journey to do that.

 

Thanks, Sara, for sharing your views today on this topic of structured innovation communities for supply chains.

 

Okay, thank you, Dustin.

 

 

 

About Sara Husk



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Sara Husk


Managing Associate

Imaginatik


LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed Thomas Tanel who discussed Logistics/Supply Chain Talent Challenge: Generational Challenges and Turnover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think about the impact of Millennials on the supply chain as jobs to fill will increase by 25%?

 

According to a recent Materials Handling Institute report, the logistics business will be looking to fill about 1.4 million jobs, or roughly 270,000 per year, by 2018.  The supply chain and logistics sector faces a major human resources challenge in the coming years.  The industry needs highly skilled individuals, trained and qualified, to address the demands of increasingly sophisticated supply chains.  With 80 million Millennials or Generation Y vs. 79 million Boomers in the U.S., the supply chain world needs to figure it out.

 

A recent ThomasNet.com Industry Marketing Barometer® (IMB) survey, said seventy-eight percent of respondents describe themselves as 45 – 65 years of age and of these more than a third are 55 – 65.  Baby boomers are aging out.  Moreover, it’s not just management that’s going gray. The people who execute those logistics functions: processing a PO, working the warehouse floor, driving those trucks, and conducting inventories---who have been working there for 30 years are aging out, too.  With Generation Y expected to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, and older employees exiting in droves, we face a logistics and supply chain ”brain drain”. As experienced workforce retires, key supply chain competencies will most likely depart along with them.

 

As companies have shifted their focus from survival in the New Normal to being more proactive, they have inadvertently overlooked the supply chain talent crisis that looms ahead.  Namely, how do you recruit, train, develop, and retain your supply chain talent, when faced with the challenge of a shrinking supply chain workforce that will reach retirement by 2015.  And worse the marketplace for talent in the field of supply chain and logistics management is very competitive with not enough replacements to fill the need.

 

If 25% of a shrinking workforce will reach retirement by 2015, how can we overcome this rapid turnover of talent and experience?

 

I would focus on Tribal knowledge.  It is loosely defined as unwritten know-how that is required to do your job. It is often referred to as knowledge “known” yet undocumented, such as information that has been verbally handed down from one generation to another generation.  In a perfect world, all supply chain processes would be fully documented and any new Millennial hire could read a system manual, or policy and procedure manual, to learn everything about their job.

 

As Baby Boomers retire a lot of tribal knowledge in logistics and the supply chain will leave with them. In many supply chain functions, a good deal of the knowledge is not written down – it exists only in the logisticians' heads.  The major objective for Millennial supply chain talent should be to download the Baby Boomers’ brains and get their knowledge documented before they walk out the door.

 

The good news is that tribal knowledge also forces your experienced Baby Boomers to tutor and coach Millennial hires---for it to pass from one generation to the other.  Storytelling can be used to guide values and priorities, promote desired behaviors, and share learning.  Using one’s life experiences can be a sure-shot success strategy for training Millennial replacements. The stories used by Baby Boomer “tribal knowledge holders” can then be used to elaborate on their experiences and skills.  The influence this could have on Millennial’s thinking or their approach to work and the value it can provide should make a difference to the supply chain organization.

 

As a Baby Boomer, I feel that our recollections of what we’ve done before usually help us to grasp the unique pattern of a current logistics or supply chain situation.  This is our pragmatic ability to absorb a vast flow of information, and to distinguish the essential current of events - the things that go together and the things that will never go together.  As experienced logistics professionals we possess a vast repertoire of supply chain events, through situational involvement, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can’t, what has worked and what hasn’t; and we, in turn, are less likely to be taken by surprise.

Having both experience and knowledge leads to wisdom. Knowing what you can and cannot do, helps to make the right choice.  Thus the lack of experience gained through trial-and-error, which Millennials will gain over time, is that “baptism by fire” experience which Baby Boomers have already accumulated.

 

How do Millennials expectations match current supply chain resource constraints?

 

Millennials can add immediate value because supply chain technology is a resource issue.  I believe firmly that technology is a force multiplier.  It can enable efficiencies that require less people. And technology is what can satisfy the millennial’s appetite for effective and “cool” ways to work. Ultimately, supply chain technology and technology enablers are what will enable the supply chain to succeed in the future.

 

Three ways to overcome these struggles for Millennials in your supply chain environment are to have a:

  • Sense of culture and community, a
  • Flatter, less-hierarchical organization, and a more
  • Social and collaborative environment

 

Therefore, a possible enrichment process would be to give these Millennials the opportunity to work creatively in your supply chain by promoting cross-functional logistics projects. Ever since the New Normal happened as a result of the great recession in 2008, we have been prompted to set up multidisciplinary teams so we can identify new methods, techniques and ways to control costs, gain visibility, and increase efficiency to raise the bar. So the Baby Boomers have to learn how to work with these novices and these Millennials need to figure out how to work with us graybeards---both generations can mutually add value as a team!

 

As described in the book Generations Inc. the Linkster generation is the one just entering the workforce now.  Like any other generation, it brings its own mindset into the workforce.

 

Who are Linksters?  They are called Linksters because no other generation has ever been so linked to each other and to the world through technology.  Their struggles in the work environment are attributed to their youth and inexperience.  So how can we help?  Orient them to the obvious.  Be specific about expectations that may seem obvious to you but may not be to them. Therefore, we should provide them with clear direction about what you expect from them.

 

 

About Thomas Tanel



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Thomas Tanel


CEO

CATTAN Services Group

LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed Tony Noe who discussed Sustainability and Diversity in the Supplier Base.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s nice to speak with you again, Tony, and today I’m looking forward to hearing your views on the topic of sustainability and diversity in your supplier base. Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself?

 

Well, I have been in procurement and supply chain for a little over 40 years. I have worked primarily in manufacturing, early years in the automotive industry; after that, some industry businesses where we provided to other businesses, and I have also worked in some consumer-product manufacturing. Since 2010, I have been working primarily as a consultant and helping companies in the service sector, both in governmental and private industry.

 

What is sustainability and what do you mean by “diversity in your supplier base”?

 

Sustainability has been kind of described as, if you think of it in terms of a raw material, if you’re buying 10 logs a month, is the renewal of the supply going to supply 10 a month from now on, or are you consuming it faster than they can grow?

 

With sustainability, you’re looking at if it’s a renewable resource. And your consumption rate, does it match the renewal of whatever that resource is or with discovery or the mining or the production?

 

In terms of a manufacturing company, it would apply to can your supplier produce enough in the same time frame you use to be able to keep up with you?

 

When I was in the automotive industry, one of the things that we frequently looked at was if the particular model, car maker that we were supplying a part to, if they went to full production, which was, theoretically, maximum ability to produce that car, could you product enough, and could your suppliers, your tier two, tier one, could they supply enough to keep up?

 

Prime example, General Motors, when we were producing a mechanical relay with 18 different models of General Motors cars. Volume was something in the neighborhood of 23 million a year we had to produce. Their projected maximum consumption was close to 47 million. When we built the production line and we checked out the suppliers who supplied the raw materials and components, they had to be able to produce at a rate continuously to be able to support a 37,000 line even though we didn’t actually have that kind of worth.

 

The industry today, there are a number of companies—Wal-Mart is a good one to use as an example—that man sustainability that you’re not using up a scarce resource, that your planned supplier product is not using some scare resource; this is not renewable and sustainable. That’s sustainable.

 

Diversity - when you’re looking at your supplier base. Is your supplier base, if you were to characterize it, would it be primarily large manufacturers, corporations, some classification of that nature, or is your supplier base made up of a variety, including minority elements, disadvantaged elements, other categorizes which the government describes as diverse suppliers? Are you looking to go with small businesses, or are you only going with big businesses? That’s kind of a litmus test for diversity supply base.

 

What about practice? Can you talk a little bit about how this is done in practice?

 

Many companies, because they have either federal contracts or large corporations buying from and demands it, are required to track their diversity and their suppliers.

 

In the same way that in business today, if your employee base is not diverse, if you’re not hiring multiple races, sexes, religions, whatever criteria happens to be on your list. Are your suppliers the same way?

 

In a federal contract you’re pretty much required to have at least made the effort if not successfully employed diverse suppliers, be they women-owned or minority-owned; there are a number of different categories that the federal government describes as diverse suppliers. But you track it based on your supplier registration, if you will. When a supplier comes to you and wants to do business with you and record all the data about that company, one of the questions at task is: How are you classified? How does the Small Business Administration classify you in terms of what you do?

 

That will usually answer the question because if the Small Business Administration has recognized them as a diverse supplier, they’ll have a specific category to fit in. You put that in the registry, and at the end of the day, you can look back and say, “I’m doing business today with” whoever it is. If you have 100 suppliers, you have 7, 10, whatever the number is, of diverse suppliers that you’re developing.

 

One of the things to me that ties diversity and sustainability together: If you’re in procurement, one of the things you always look for is competition. If you want to maintain a competitive environment out there in the workplace. One of the things we have to do is develop new suppliers, bring new people in to, especially in a category that might have very few people available.

 

You look for a supplier who has the beginnings of the capability, but you give them a little business, help to blow them up so that they can compete and get into the mix and you’re left with a diverse supply base that gives you an opportunity to develop what turns out to be a lot of the time.

 

Usually, you’re capable of serving small business that really values your business. If you’re buying some raw materials from a huge corporation and if you’re not a really big consumer, you’re maybe 1 percent of their business, so you’re not going to get a lot of attention. A small diversity supplier, someone who is a small business, and you give them the same amount of business, you could easily be 50 percent of his company, in which case, he’s going to give you a lot of attention.

 

A lot of times what makes or breaks procurement supply chain is the loyalty and the commitment on the part of the tier two suppliers to service you, and customer service becomes a very critical issue. By looking at the diversity actions available, you actually enhance your ability to improve your supply chain and, in doing so, maintain it and maintain the sustainability in the competitive environment.

 

Can you talk about where you have seen some good results?

 

There was a supplier that I dealt with during a contract working with a government contractor where they were originally a very small veteran-owned business. They had a long commitment and they really wanted to serve. Because of their unique abilities, they were able to provide us a competitive service to a, I guess, a large corporation—not lower but competitive; they were in the same range.

 

They grew to the point that they are now right on the edge of passing out of the small-business category. During that time, excellent service. We were able to work with them to help them understand the ins and outs of government contracting, and by doing so, we gained a very, very loyal supplier who went that extra mile to make sure that our services were performed very, very well. In that period of the case, those services had to be performed in Afghanistan, in the war zone.

 

They were able to find people willing to go ensure that all the services were set up properly at the forward-operating base to make sure that the services were performed properly. And they weren’t sending people; it was the owner and his partner. They were going over and making these trips to make sure it all worked. We were a major portion of their business. We got excellent, above-and-beyond service and really not at a premium price. In the long run, we created a company that now offers employment and has grown to the point where they’re self-sustaining; they can begin to compete in the busy market, and we got a benefit out of it in the meantime. It really serves both purposes, both, I guess, a bigger-picture purpose of helping develop a small business but also serves your company. In fact, you’ve got a supplier who well-performed that extra-mile service, which is what we all want for the supply chain.

 

Thank you, Tony, for sharing your views today on sustainability and diversity in the supplier base.

 

I appreciate the opportunity.

 

 

 

About Tony Noe



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Tony Noe


Strategic Sourcing/Procurement Professional and Leader


LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed Stephane Pique who discussed Managing RTI :RFID Can Unlock Your Supply Chain.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s nice to speak with you again, Stephane. Today I’m looking forward to hearing your second topic that we’ve scheduled. Today's topic is about managing RTI with the view that RFID can unlock your supply chain. Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself?

 

Sure, Dustin. My name is Stephane Pique; I am in the position of Director of the RFID Industry Solutions Groups. I have been working in RFID for over 20 years. I have worked in different companies and industries, but always related to RFID. I also work a lot with the European Commission, Government bodies and many different end customers deploying the technology.

 

Thank you. Can you talk about what RTI is and the business case behind it?

 

RTI stands for returnable transport items, and this includes any kind of assets which are used for transporting goods from one point to the other. Here we talk about bins, trays, trolleys, pallets, everything which is owned by a specific company and is used for supply chain and transportation purposes.

 

                    

The use case and the killer application behind that is the following: Most of the companies have RTIs in their ownership, in their books. Unfortunately, most of those companies have no control over how many they have and where they are. A lot of them are lost during transit. Thus, they have a lot of overstock of the specific RTIs because they want to make sure that when they need it in a specific peak time, they have enough of them available for transportation.

 

                    

A lot of those companies are still buying RTIs every year, with millions of dollars being invested. They have this specific overstock, which can be reduced by having a very efficient management of these RTIs.

 

                    

Management of these RTIs can be done by simple serialization, just giving every one a simple number and having the capability of tracking and identifying those specific RTIs through the point of transit so that everybody’s able to identify where those RTIs are, when they’re available, who’s responsible for them, have they been returned by any specific partner or other customers, etc.

 

                    

All the questions about the managing of those RTIs can be answered by serialization. In terms of identification, you could use barcoding, but the problem with barcoding is that you need a lot of manual intervention. Most of the companies are using RFID in this respect in order to optimize the process flow and track and trace those RTIs through the different processes.

 

                    

There’s a real low-hanging fruit application and business case behind managing RTIs with the use of RFID. Most of the companies can reduce their safety stock by 15 to 20 percent, and this represents a lot of money for them. The ROI is quite quick and gives the capability, also, to expense the application, because through this investment into the RTI management, you create infrastructure, and this infrastructure can then be used for other supply chain-related purposes, such as tracking goods, tracking people, or any other process optimizations.

 

Why do you think this could unlock supply chain?

 

I believe that this has the potential to unlock the supply chain because there is a clear business case behind it. It is only for the company itself, so it’s a low-hanging fruit with a fast ROI where the business case is so clear and given. If every company invests in this kind of application, by using GS1’s standards—and here, I have to say GS1 is a not-for-profit organization which is taking care of all the B2B relationships in terms of identification and communication. They are taking care of standardization of barcoding and RFID. If you’re using GS1 and realizing your RTI approach, then you have a clear protection of your investment, and you can assure that this investment into the infrastructure can be expanded to your customer and to your supplier very easily through the GS1 standards. This has the real potential to unlock the supply chain because it’s not a closed-system application; it can be then very quickly expanded to an open-system application.

 

When do you see this happening?

 

This is happening now. Fortunately, a lot of companies have identified and realized that RTI management is a real compelling business case, so major retailers, major transportation companies are already using RFID to manage their RTIs.

                 

I expect that as more companies use the GS1 standards in these kinds of applications in the coming four to five years, we will be able to really connect the different internal applications and make it an open system which is usable for the whole supply chain and partners. The more companies are investing into this low-hanging fruit by using GS1 standards, the faster we will progress into unlocking the supply chains.

 

Thank you for sharing today your views on this topic of managing RTI with the view that RFID can unlock your supply chain.

 

You’re welcome.

 

 

About Stephane Pique



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Stephane Pique


Director RFID Industry Solutions Group EA

Motorola Solutions

 

LinkedIn Profile

dustinmattison1974

RFID in Retail

Posted by dustinmattison1974 Jul 14, 2014

I interviewed Stephane Pique who discussed RFID in Retail.

 

 

 

Dustin:




Stephane:

It’s nice to speak with you today, Stephane, and today I’m looking forward to hearing your views on RFID in retail. Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself?



Sure. My name is Stephane Pique. I work for Motorola Solutions. I am in the position of Director of the RFID Industry Solutions Groups. I have been working in RFID for over 20 years. I have worked in different companies and industries, but always related to RFID. I also work a lot with the European Commission, Government bodies and  many different end customers deploying the technology.

 

In Motorola, we have over one thousand RFID customers and we are the leading supplier of RFID UHF reader hardware around the world.


Dustin:


Can you talk about what is happening in RFID in the retail industry?


 

Stephane:

 

RFID has been investigated for many, many years already in the retail environment. What has been actually seen, especially in the retail apparel business, is that because it is a higher value item it makes a lot of sense to use RFID technology for inventory purposes and for in-store operations. RFID helps them reducing the inventory time and increasing stock accuracy; also, the retailers do realize normally one or two times a year, a full-time inventory of the store and therefore due to the reduction of inventory time can conduct shorter cycle counts.

 

The time to check this inventory is quite long; it could take perhaps one or two or even three days to do it, and they have to close the store for this process.

 

So, RFID can bring apparel retailers some significant benefits:

 

Number one: They can do inventories more often. Customers are starting to do it once a week or every two weeks. This gives them better accuracy and therefore better visibility of their stock.

 

Number two: The whole process of checking inventory is reduced significantly, up to 95 percent; so the time, which they have spent through the whole inventory, can go down from some days to some hours. And the staff loves to use this technology because it is so easy and efficient to use.

 

The technology allows the retailer to conduct more often and much faster inventory and, therefore, receiving better accuracy and better visibility about its stock count. As a result, the replenishment can be more accurate, more efficient, and the most important thing is that they can reduce the out-of-stock situation on the sales floor.

 

We all know the situation where we go into a store and the store doesn’t have our size, does not has our color, and so on and so on. This is more due to the inaccurate stock situation of the retailers. They are not aware that they are missing those specific pieces on the shop floor, and RFID can help to them to increase the customer experience, satisfaction, and also resulting in to increase the turnover. But we can add even more value into the store. Some customers are starting to implement interactive changing rooms, where you can use a specific item in changing rooms to get some more information about the item or also some recommendations about styles, or complimentary accessories which fit very well to the item you have in your hand.

 

This could increase the customer experience as well. In addition to that, you could use RFID to speed up the payment processes at the point of sale.

 

Last but not least, you can use RFID  as a replacement of the Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) technology. Right now, the article surveillance is based on one bit, meaning that this technology used can only tell you if it has it has been stolen or not as it has been turned off at the point of sales.

 

Now, RFID will allow them to clearly understand what has been stolen because every item is uniquely identifiable. Retailers want to know if something is missing on their sales floor in order to quickly replenish it. These are the most common use cases driving the adoption of RFID in the retail environment. As a next step, we expect the retailer going to start putting the RFID labels at the source of manufacturing allowing them to also get a better visibility within the supply chain up to the stores.


Dustin:


How did this trend or this change happen?


 

Stephane:

 

The trend is happening now because, I would say, over 30 percent of these brands in the U.S. and Europe are seriously investigating or even already rolling out RFID; big, big brands, which are very well known.

 

But also smaller companies are starting now to do RFID because they see the benefits from it. It is reality now and I think we are benefiting a lot right now from this push, and we will see very soon also the effect of going to the supply chain and going to manufacturing. This push to the manufacturer and into the supply chain will happen, I would say, in the coming three to five years.


Dustin:


Do you have any final recommendations?


 

Stephane:

 

I can only repeat what our customers are saying. They are very happy and are experiencing a sales up lift of at least 4 percent in the stores gives a clear indication that every apparel retailer should start, if they have not already, to investigate the usage of RFID in their stores and processes  to get the most benefit out of it now. Their competitors are doing it already.

 

I recommend those retailers first to create from the big picture perspective by also including their suppliers and the whole supply chain in order to get the biggest benefit out of the technology.


Dustin:


Thank you for sharing your views today on RFID in the retail industry.

 

Stephane:

 

You’re welcome.

 


About Stephane Pique



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Stephane Pique


Director RFID Industry Solutions Group EA

Motorola Solutions

LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed David Vuylsteke who discussed Crowd-Sourced Delivery, an innovative business concept using the new sharing economy to provide delivery services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s nice to speak with you today, David. Today I’m looking forward to hearing an interesting topic. You want to talk about crowd-sourced delivery. Before we start, can you provide a brief background of yourself?

 

Right. I’m an entrepreneur. I am 42 and I have been an entrepreneur for 42 years. I started very young, a bicycle club, whatever; anywhere I could do a new business, I would do it. Basically, 20 years ago I started Salomon Light, I’m a sound engineer. I’ve been doing concerts for musicians, and I’ve been also touring all around the world. In 2001 I built a webshop, so I sold Salomon Light equipment. A few years later PiggyBee came.

 

That’s interesting. Can you define or explain what crowd-sourced delivery is?

 

I’ll tell you a story. I was coming back from South Africa. I had this super cream, and the cream was empty. I didn’t have any cream left, so I asked my wife if we knew anyone who was coming back from South Africa, maybe some family there or whatever. No, no one was coming back. I said, “Damn, there are so many people landing in airports every day. Why wouldn’t we connect people traveling with the people who need something shipped?” and that’s how it came, the idea. Shortly, we set up a platform which is called PiggyBee—you can visit it at PiggeBee.com—where we connect people, people who want to get things or ship things with people on the move, with people traveling. That’s the idea.

 

How can you do this effectively?

 

Right, it’s pretty new. We came first on the market. Some guys tried it before. When we started in 2012, the people were talking about a sharing economy, so we’re talking about the beginning of Airbnb. As we came, we saw one or two more competitors around. The business is really pretty new, and I think all this sharing economy, the people have to get interested into the sharing economy, so I would say it’s a pretty tough road for now. We just launched the Web site and said, “Okay, let’s see how it goes.” Many people have been asking for things to be shipped, and many people have been sharing their trips. Now we have to put all these people together, which is a hard job, but we’ll get to it, I hope. Maybe we will get to it, and if we don’t, one of the competitors will do a big logistics business out of it.

 

How is this different from a freight courier? I know there are some freight forwarders that sometimes have a courier service where if you’re a traveler, you can get a free flight if you carry some products on your luggage.

 

I would say the idea here is that instead of using professional people—I mean, everyone’s traveling, but if we think that everyone can transport something from someone. We’ve been doing it before; we’ve been doing it for cousins, for brothers, for family, so why, with the technology, why wouldn't we do it for people instead of companies and corporations?

 

That’s interesting. Why do you think there’s a need for this in the market?

 

Well, still to prove. Of course, we have launched other things. Of course we have to find the market to do business and to incur money so we can go out with the business, of course. Just like my own trip with my family in South Africa, we need this kind of service. We need to send stuff to the family, and we don’t want to pay so big amounts to help each other. People have confirmed the need for the service, so we’re slowly forming some kind of club. The other thing we have to find, the right formula to make it run and scale.

 

About sharing, the sharing economy and with new technology, how do you see that developing in the near future?

 

I’m a strong believer. To my business, the package business, I always say it’s not because David has a nice idea; people really use the service. People are buying more and more into sharing economy. It’s cheaper, it might be nicer. If you rent some kind of B-and-B in New York, you can find a nice apartment right in the middle of the city for a pretty decent price. I think all the people are will jump into the sharing economy. It’s not that there would be no choice. Secondly, of course, the crisis. We have a hard time to get nice, decent salaries, so more and more people are becoming freelancers. More and more people, they want to be taxi drivers with Uber; they want to be a hotel with Airbnb or they want to be a courier service with PiggyBee.

 

What’s the benefit if you want to carry someone’s things in your luggage? What’s the benefit for you?

 

Right, we’re now, of course, thinking about that, and as we launched, we said—we have no strappings, so we have no investors—we said, “Let’s just launch and see what happens.” As a traveler, you get some kind of reward. If you bring me something, I will pick you up at the airport, for example. I will offer you a drink, or maybe you will ask for some cash, and I will give you some cash to bring me something. Now, as a company, as PiggyBee, of course there are many ideas. A lot of competitors, they’re taking some commission on their courier service. Let’s say you transport something from someone and you ask $50. Well, PiggyBee will take $5 or $10, for example. We’re in the business, we’re very early to find some decent business models. That’s why, also, we’re working on sever different projects parallel to PiggyBee.

 

What would you say about working with logistics companies? Would that be a possibility?

 

Right, our business is small, competition is pretty small…no one is looking at this for now. Whenever we can scale, we have many thousands of users, I guess we can sit at the table with, let’s say, UPS, DHL, whoever, because I think it’s a good point for them to also jump into the sharing economy. I have really nothing against big corporations, because I think they can, we’ve seen that in the past. I think it’s a win-win situation for both of us.

 

This sounds exciting. I look forward to following how this develops. How do you plan on getting more people to sign up on your site?

 

Right. As we launch globally—that’s the new idea. I’m currently working on the new project, which is called PiggyBee Express. You’ll get the point; I’ll hold the explanation. With PiggyBee Express, we said, “Okay, let’s do the opposite. Let’s start locally and we will do shipping locally from local shops.” Instead of using courier services from local shops, anybody will be a driver. Instead of aiming for the global Web site, we’re trying the local Web site. I’m in Brussels; the idea would be to start in Brussels, scale, then who knows? We could go to Paris, and then we could do packages from Brussels to Paris. That’s how we see the scaling. I admit, one of my mistakes was to, I wanted to start global, but you don’t start global; you start locally. I have good expectation to go back to the global model whenever we scale with this express model.

 

That sounds great. Thanks for sharing today. What is your Web site address?

 

PiggyBee.com; that’s the global Web site. I can talk about PiggyBee.be, which is in Belgium. We will launch probably two weeks from now. PiggyBee.com for the global, PiggyBee.be for the local business.

 

And you also have Facebook and Twitter, other places to follow?

 

Of course. Lots of fans on Facebook, lots of followers on Twitters, many people from the sharing economy because that’s our business also, yeah.

 

About David Vuylsteke



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David Vuylsteke


Founder at PiggyBee | Web entrepreneur

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PiggyBee.com