I interviewed James Fintain Lawler who discussed Mastering The Digitization Of The Supply Chain.
It’s great to speak with you today, James. I’m looking forward to hearing this interview with the supply chain community. The topic is mastering the digitization of the supply chain Digital by Design” is the beginning of the title, with a hashtag. Can you first provide a brief background of yourself?
Dustin, great to talk to you and the audience today. My background is: I’m the CEO of Digital Alchemist Consulting Services International. The revenue * (00:43—unclear) $300 billion U.S. We tend to support organizations on lifestyle and complex digital transformation. That includes the digitization of the supply chain. Our clients include governments both in the U.K. and in Canada, as well as some of the Fortune 100 companies. I guess that’s a little bit about our background.
Thanks. My first question is: Can you talk about what the strategic context is when you look at mastering the digitization of a supply chain?
That’s a great question, Dustin. Let me just give that strategic context. A lot of people view transforming the supply chain as a journey. I think it’s much more important than that. By sharing the views, the American inventor Douglas Everhart, who says digital revolution, is far more significant than the invention of writing or even printing.
To call the transformation of the supply chain a journey I think greatly underestimates the sight of the challenge and underestimates the sight of the opportunity. I really look at it as an oversee. An oversee is a more appropriate word, as it can be viewed as a challenging and adventurous experience in uncharted waters or uncharted space. Journey is not the right word for me; oversee is the word. It’s much more exciting, much more adventurous.
If you look at the strategic context of that, building a supply chain that is future-proof is essential; it’s got to be resilient and needs to recognize future mega trends. Those trends being the growth of smart cities—and you’re in a place, Dustin, where you’ve seen firsthand growth of smart cities, the challenge of an aging population, BRIC growth—that’s Brazil, Russia, India, and China growth. And we’ve operated in three of those four: India, Russia, and China. The challenge of * (3:24—unclear) unemployment; the prosperity gap globally; how care is evolving; and the scarcity of skilled digital resources. Those are the mega trends.
If you took that and tried to synchronize and weave the five digital forces of mobility, social media, big data, the cloud, and ion robotics interweaving and synchronizing those, it places a great challenge on organizations. What you really need to look at is radically altering the DNA of the organization. * (4:10—unclear) people look at the technology and isolation, but it’s the synchronization of things like customer experience. Do you have a clear digital strategy? Do you have a strategy to change the culture of your company? Are you going to change your governance model? Are you looking at changing your business model? Do your people have the right skills? Bringing those things together is like a digital * (4:38—unclear); very challenging. To that context when I look at digitization of the supply chain.
Can you give us some examples of where you think innovation plays a role in the digitization of the supply chain?
I’m happy to do that. I think it would be remiss of me if I didn’t also focus on—if you’ve got this strategy that takes into proportion those mega trends and the technologies, digital operation excellence in that execution is essential. It’s great to have a strategy, but excellent execution is what we’re looking for. I sometimes use the phrase “Give me one bricklayer for a thousand architects.” That means most people can design, but building, actually building something, takes excellent execution, excellent everything. If we look at innovation, I start with the end-customer experience or outcome.
A lot of research has been done on the customer experience, and there are four key elements for that customer experience. They are: responsiveness, reliability, relationship, and result. Some people refer to that as the four R’s. If you put those four R’s together—responsiveness, reliability, relationship, and result—you get an enhanced customer experience that delivers customer value. Now, as we look at innovation, a lot of people have looked at—in the supply chain they say you need a control tower. A control tower is a fixed point. In the digital world, to me, control tower is the wrong language. It needs to be a digital GPS; it’s something that moves with you throughout the value chain or pathway.
Now, the example I’m going to give on innovation, we actually put in place sensors into the product and services so that as it moved through the value chain, supported by drones and head cams, we could look at and track and monitor progress anywhere in the supply chain. It also is a great tool to facilitate visualization for the end-customer experience and * (7:36—unclear) augmented reality.
Let’s give a couple of examples. We created, with one of our clients, supply-innovation hubs. The way we took that approach was to gather * (7:53—unclear) insight as to where we thought the end-customer experience should be, where the critical suppliers were in each aspect to the value chain, and then sat down with them to identify the innovation gap both from a customer experience and from a value perspective, “value” being price and cost to both the client and to the supplier. We sat down, looked at that gap in terms of customer experience against those four criteria I referred to earlier—responsiveness, reliability, et cetera—and financial gap and said, “How are we going to close that gap?” We brought in the suppliers inside our team meetings and put a plan in place to improve that value for money and then customer experience.
I’m conscious of our time together, so I think the way I look at it and summarize is: It’s not a journey; it’s about an oversee, an adventure. It’s not about redesigning the customer experience; it’s about visualizing a compelling and exceptional customer experience. That is supported by real-life visualizations, supported by sensors, head cams, and augmented reality.
It’s not about continuous improvement, Dustin; it’s about discontinous improvement. If you looked at masters of the supply chain, they’ve actually put in place discontinous improvement. Their revenue growth average is greater than 10 percent, and their profitability is greater than 30 percent growth. Some people talk about the importance of change. It’s not about making change stick; it’s about making and embedding the right culture and values into the DNA of the organization. It’s not about innovation within your organization; it’s about leveraging the innovation inside and outside your organization. It’s not about digital by default; it’s about digital by design.
Thank you, James, for sharing today.
My pleasure, Dustin. Have a great day.
What key action item should the readers of this blog pay attention to?
Again, another good question, Dustin. It’s all about excellent execution. I would say the key actions—some of them are very obvious. Do you have a strategy that is completely visualized? Most people have a strategy, but the client or end user, unless you help them in that visualization of that strategy, of how that customer experience will be improved, strategy without visualization, to me, is empty. I would then ask: Do you have the right digital background in place, and have you synchronized it to your business? The next question I would ask: Do you have a complete end-to-end line of sight to your customer? Next one: How transparent is your governance process? Have you changed the governance process and prioritization of that process in line with the new digital world? Last but not least: Have you got plans in place to change the digital DNA culture of both your organization and that of your suppliers? Integrating them into your family. #DigitalByDesign
About James Fintain Lawler
James Fintain Lawler
President & CEO at Digital Alchemist Consulting Services International Ltd.