Delivering Value with Supply Chain

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Electricals & Electronics

Delivering Value with Supply Chain

“Planning for the future of the supply chain is like making a map of a huge, ever-changing ocean, where each wave could change the way an organization works. We’re on the verge of some big changes in the way things are going to be in the future. For example, Blockchain isn’t just a buzzword in the finance industry; it also offers a level of traceability in the supply chain that has never been seen before, making sure that products are real and trustworthy. Imagine a world where drones not only take pictures of beautiful scenes but also bring packages right to your doorstep. With the power of predictive analytics, companies won’t just respond to customer needs; they’ll also predict them, making sure they’re always one step ahead. But even with all these advancements in technology, the supply chain and operations management will still have the same main goal – to Provide VALUE,” asserts Dhritiman Chakraborty, Director Operations, Ingram Micro India Ltd…

During your stint in business supply chain management over the past two decades, how have you seen the distribution and procurement landscape transforming over the years?

Dhritiman Chakraborty

The Distribution and Procurement world has changed a lot in the past two decades. When I started in the pharmaceutical industry, everything was separate, and processes were mostly carried out in siloes. Now, in my IT Distribution job, things are more connected and modern using technology in supply chain management.

Today, these areas are clear and flexible, and organizations are also mindful of environmental impact. Clarity means everyone knows what's happening, which is good for trust and communication. Being flexible is important because the market and people's needs are constantly changing at a fast pace. And being mindful of the environment means we're thinking about our planet and being responsible in every decision we take around the Supply Chain.

A lot of these changes come from new technology. Further, as people want things faster, we use more technology, and at the same time, care about the environment. Over the years, Distribution, logistics management system and Procurement have adapted to these changing needs. We're now focused on meeting these modern needs in a professional way.

What used to be the challenges earlier and what are the challenging scenarios now that you deal with while managing supply chain ops?

In the early stages of my career in supply chain management, the challenges were primarily operational. I frequently dealt with the intricacies of daily transactions involving logistics service providers and internal stakeholders. Tracking shipment delivery status and ensuring they reached their destinations on time was a routine concern. The central focus back then was to develop a process that was efficient, to build trustworthy networks, and to consistently deliver without hiccups.

Fast forward to today, the supply chain realm has expanded and with it, the supply chain challenges have become multifaceted. As supply chains stretch across borders, their complexity has grown exponentially. Now, it isn't just about tracking shipments but ensuring that the entire system can adapt swiftly. Unexpected disruptions, whether due to geopolitical factors, natural disasters, or global pandemics, have become the new norm.

Managing these sudden changes, while still ensuring that goods flow smoothly, is a significant challenge which requires innovation in supply chain management. Additionally, businesses are evolving at a pace never seen before. Aligning the supply chain with rapidly changing business models, therefore, is another significant challenge we face. The landscape has shifted from merely operational concerns to a blend of adaptability, foresight, and strategic alignment with broader business goals.

You have had a successful career progression in varied industry verticals starting from FMCG to Pharma to Chemicals. What striking differences have you witnessed in supply chain trends in such starkly different sectors?

Navigating through different industry sectors such as FMCG, Pharma, and Chemicals has given me a comprehensive perspective on the supply chain trends of each. Here's what I've observed:

In the FMCG sector, everything moves at a lightning-fast pace. The  market demands quick turnarounds. It's about managing vast quantities of products and ensuring they get to shelves rapidly to meet consumer needs. Speed and volume are of the essence here.

Switching to Pharma, the pace may vary, but the stakes are incredibly high. This sector is governed by stringent regulations, ensuring that products meet health and safety standards. Supply chain challenges such as Traceability, ensuring every product's origin and distribution can be tracked, is a crucial element.

Then we have the Chemicals industry, which comes with its own set of challenges. The focus here is on safety. Given the nature of the products, adherence to strict safety guidelines is not just important; it's imperative.

While each industry presents distinct challenges, some fundamentals never change. Regardless of the sector, the goals are always efficiency, trustworthiness, and delivering value to both the customer and the organization. Success, in my experience, hinges on the capacity to swiftly adapt and modify strategies, bring in logistics innovationsaccording to the specific requirements of each industry.

You have strongly voiced your opinion on the impact of internal change to resistance on supply chain performance. Can you enlighten us on the same…

Certainly, the topic of how internal change resistance impacts supply chain performance is close to my heart. At the core of any successful supply chain operation is the organization's internal culture. It's a fundamental building block that determines how efficiently and effectively logistics and operations management processes run. However, what many might overlook is the resistance to change inherent in most organizations. This resistance, often fuelled by fear of the unknown or comfort with current processes, can significantly impede progress. 

From my experiences, especially in businesses that underwent Mergers & Acquisitions, the effects of such resistance become glaringly evident. These scenarios typically require the supply chain to navigate substantial disruptions. When faced with these challenges, an organization's adaptability, and willingness to evolve can make or break the situation.

Therefore, it's imperative to foster a workplace culture rooted in continuous learning and agility. This doesn't merely mean introducing new tools or processes. It's about engaging every employee in the transformation journey. When individuals feel involved and understand the reasons for change, the transition not only becomes smoother but also results in more lasting and effective improvements. It's about creating an ecosystem where change is welcomed and viewed as an opportunity rather than a threat.

What’s your take on the ensuing supply chain digitalization wave? Are companies able to embrace it fully or are there still challenges that need to be addressed?

Digitalization is not solely a temporary industry trend that will fade over time. Rather, it represents a monumental shift in the way that enterprises operate. In today's competitive environment, tools such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are no longer luxuries but rather necessities that businesses must employ  in order to remain competitive.

Indeed, many organizations have recognized this and are rapidly implementing digital strategies into their supply chains. However, not everything is sailing smoothly. Their difficulties are numerous. Many enterprises, for instance, have legacy systems that are incompatible with new technologies. Integrating these ageing systems with cutting-edge tools can be a challenging endeavor.

In addition, as technology advances, there is an increasing need to upskill the workforce. Employees must be trained and outfitted with the skills necessary to effectively navigate and administer these digital tools. Another important issue is cybersecurity. Increasing reliance on digital platforms increases the risk of cyberattacks. It is essential that comprehensive security measures are in place. Even though digitalization offers numerous benefits and opportunities, embracing it is not without its difficulties. Adapting to this digital surge, however, is not merely a strategic decision; it is a necessity for future success.

Please share with us how automation and digitalization are reshaping the distribution industry…

I would be happy to talk more about how automation and digitalization have changed the distribution business. The way we think about transportation is changing because of both automation and digitalization. At the most basic level, these changes are making it easier for warehouse workers to do their jobs. Automated systems, for example, can do repetitive jobs faster and more accurately than people can, which cuts down on mistakes and boosts productivity.

From my job at Ingram Micro India, I have been able to see directly how powerful and useful, real-time data analytics can be. These tools can sort through huge amounts of data quickly and provide meaningful interpretation for making better business decisions. The way people make decisions is no longer just based on what they feel would be right but rather on a true assessment of scenarios based on real time data analytics.

Inventory control, which has always been a difficult part of distribution, is getting easier. With the help of real-time analytics, it's now possible to better predict how demand will change, which helps make sure that the right amount of stock is always on hand.

Also, these digital tools are making it easier for businesses to customize the customer path. We can now better understand what our customers want and need, which lets us customize their experiences, make them happier, and, in the end, make them more loyal.

Automation and digitalization aren't just making the distribution business better; they're also changing it to be more customer-focused and efficient.

What are the key tenets of customer centric supply chain? How can companies work towards developing the same?

Businesses that want to do well in today's market need to know what a customer-centric supply chain looks like. A customer-centered supply chain is built on three main pillars: Flexibility, Openness, and Personalization.

Agility & Flexibility: This means that the supply chain can respond quickly to changes. Whether it's a change in what the market wants or something that comes up out of the blue, a supply chain that focuses on the customer must be flexible enough to react and adapt in real time.

Transparency: Customers want to know what's going on these days. They want to know where their goods come from, how they are made, and when they will be shipped. Giving this information builds confidence and trust.

Personalization: It is about knowing what a person wants and anticipating what they might want, sometimes even before they do. This makes sure that the goods and services offered are close to what each person wants and expects.

A few important tactics can help companies build this kind of supply chain. First, it's important to build in feedback loops from customers. Asking for and acting on customer feedback on a regular basis can help you find ways to improve. Second, using data analytics can give companies a lot of information about how customers act and what they like, which helps them predict demand correctly and tailor their products. 

Lastly, the supply chain should be built around new ideas. The environment is always changing, and businesses need to be the first to adopt new technologies and strategies if they want to stay relevant and customer focused.’

Sustainability is taking centerstage across business operations. How can supply chain work towards developing an eco-expanse?

Sustainability is becoming a big part of how businesses run, so it's very important that it's built into their supply chains. So, how can supply chains build a more environmentally friendly reach?

First of all, sustainability isn't just a buzzword; it's a big change in how businesses think about how they affect the world. Since the supply chain is an important part of any business, it could make a big difference in this change. One way to do this is to adopt the ideas of a circular economy. In the traditional linear model, goods are thrown away after they are used. In a circular economy, on the other hand, the focus is on reuse, repair, and recycling, which extend the life of the product and reduce waste.

Getting rid of waste is another important idea. This is true not only for products but also for the energy, water, and materials that are used in the supply chain. Efforts like streamlining production processes to use less raw materials and planning transportation routes to use less fuel can go a long way.

When it comes to energy, the use of  green sources is getting more and more attention. For example, warehouses can switch to solar or wind power, wherever it is feasible for business to do so. This cuts down on carbon emissions and often has long-term financial benefits as well, even though in the short term, it may look like a lot of investment. Also, the packaging materials we use can have a big impact on our world. Supply chains can have a much smaller effect on the environment if they choose packing options that are good for the environment.

Lastly, collaborative distribution models, in which various businesses share distribution resources, can lead to fewer vehicles on the road and lower emissions. In the end, the supply chain can be a leader in the movement toward a more sustainable business environment if it is properly worked out and planned ahead.

What are your views on the government’s enabling policy framework towards enhancing logistics and warehousing efficiency?

The government's policy framework has a big effect on the logistics and storage industries, and I have a few things to say about this. A lot of time, the infrastructure that powers logistics and warehousing operations is what makes them work well. Infrastructure growth can be driven by governments, which have the power and resources to do multiple things, such as building better roads and ports and setting up advanced communication networks.

These improvements to infrastructure will make logistics processes run more smoothly, faster, and more reliably. The good news is that recently we have seen very good progress in this area. The government is truly taking up some serious initiatives to develop the infrastructure for the betterment of the logistics industry, covering both physical and digital infrastructure.

In the world we live in now, sustainability is a major issue. Government policies that reward green and environmentally friendly practices can help logistics and warehousing businesses become more sustainable. In this area as well, it is really encouraging to see the Government of India’s net zero target by 2070 through various policy decisions like bringing zero-emission trucks (ZETs), which include battery electric trucks (BETs) and fuel cell electric trucks (FCETs).

Cross-border trade rules are also very important. Simplifying these rules can speed up international logistics by a lot, making operations run more smoothly and saving money.

But for programs to really work, people need to work together on them. A relationship between the industry's most important players and the government makes sure that policies are based on facts and can solve the industry's biggest problems. It is good to see today that various Industry bodies in India are coming together and contributing towards Logistics policy decisions in collaboration with government authorities.

In this regard, the National Logistics Policy (NLP), launched in September 2022, is a monumental step from government towards improving India’s Logistics industry. One of the primary objectives of the National Logistics Policy (NLP) is to bring down the logistics cost from 14% to 8% of the GDP, aligning it with global benchmarks such as the USA, which already operates at an 8% logistics cost.

What’s your advice to new age supply chain professionals in honing their skills and taking part in supply chain extravaganza waiting to unfold?

The future of the supply chain looks bright, and people who are just starting out in the field have a lot to look forward to. First of all, the supply chain is dynamic.

Given how quickly things change, one of the best things an aspirant can do is be willing to keep learning. Stay up to date by attending classes and webinars. This makes sure you're always on the cutting edge of changes in your field. Continuous learning goes hand in hand with being able to change. It's a valuable skill to be able to change plans or strategies based on new knowledge or problems. It makes problem-solving and making plans more flexible.

Technology is, of course, changing the world. Learning about data analytics, artificial intelligence, and other cutting-edge tools will give you skills that are in high demand. These tools don't just improve how things work; they also give information and predictions that can be used to guide business plans.

But in all this talk about technology, don't forget about the people. Some jobs are being done by machines and algorithms, but human interactions, relationships, and networks are still the most important parts of a successful business. Find mentors and take advantage of chances to be coached. They give you advice and insights from people who have been in your situation before.

Last but not least, don't undervalue soft skills. Communication, working as a team, and being able to lead will always be important. As a supply chain worker, these skills make sure that you are not only good at the technical side of things but also great at managing and leading teams to success.

How do you foresee the expanse of supply chain shaping from hereon and becoming a Value enhancer for organizations? What are the upcoming trends that we are yet to witness?

Planning for the future of the supply chain is like making a map of a huge, ever-changing ocean, where each wave could change the way, an organization works.

People have usually thought of the supply chain as just a way to get things done, which is important but not necessarily a game changer. I think that's about to change, though. The supply chain will go from being in the background to being the most important part of a business's strategy. This change will be driven by a mix of technology, environmentally friendly practices, and a constant focus on the end customer.

We're on the verge of some big changes in the way things are going to be in the future. For example, Blockchain isn't just a buzzword in the finance industry; it also offers a level of traceability in the supply chain that has never been seen before, making sure that products are real and trustworthy. Imagine a world where drones not only take pictures of beautiful scenes but also bring packages right to your doorstep. With the power of predictive analytics, companies won't just respond to customer needs; they'll also predict them, making sure they're always one step ahead.

But even with all these advancements in technology, the supply chain will still have the same main goal: to provide value. As these innovations become part of the fabric of supply chain operations, we'll see not only more efficient operations but also an environment where innovation thrives and brings real value to companies. The future of the supply chain is not just about moving things; it is also about going forward with a plan and a goal.

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