Rethinking Supply Chains in APAC

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Industry Leaders

Rethinking Supply Chains in APAC

“I am very excited about our journey towards end-to-end synchronization of our supply chain – connecting our suppliers, their suppliers, our manufacturing and distribution operations with our customers’ operations and understanding the consumers’ needs. All this connected through data and analytics, can one day, lead us to higher levels of prediction and therefore faster and efficient reactions to customer and consumer needs. It is a big dream, but we are starting to see it happening, perhaps this is going to be the most relevant legacy my generation of supply chain leaders will leave,” highlights Rodrigo de Moraes Rodrigues, Vice President – Logistics, Budweiser APAC, during an exclusive interview… 

You have a vast experience in managing supply chains of dynamic yet complex territories such as India & China. Which APAC territory do you find the most exciting to work with and the most challenging to work with?

Each country is different, with a combination of challenges and excitement and I cannot single out just one. All countries I have worked in my life provided me an amazing time and rich experience from both personal and professional aspects. It is a true privilege living in APAC for most of the past 15 years and I am very grateful for having this opportunity.

Rodrigo de Moraes Rodrigues


How has the Business and Supply Chain changed over the course of your career? What are the most transformative changes you have witnessed in this domain?

Before talking about what has changed, I would like to tell what hasn’t changed and I believe will never change – the basics of supply chain management remains the priority and by focusing on improving it will continue to drive most of the value in supply chain – in other words, having the best people in your team, making sure the processes are managed at excellence level, always opening gaps with 100% mindset that we shall be able to perform at the best regardless which metric we are looking at is the key for a successful supply chain. However, indeed dramatic changes have happened in the last years. In APAC, I would say that the most remarkable ones are the quality of young talents – high level of education and rich personal experience are bringing broader possibilities for us to keep improving.

Another change that has to do with the quality of the people is what I call the democratization of the analytics – more and more data are becoming available, and tools are becoming more user-friendly. This, combined with better quality of talents, creates the perfect environment for what some people call digitization, which is a buzzword that, in my view, means empowering large percentage of your teams, especially frontline with more information readily available to make better decisions.

What’s the secret sauce of managing complex supply chains?

There is no secret, it is a lot of hard work, focusing on the basics of supply chain management and keep opening the gaps to further improve. But if we need to pick one priority, I will say focus on your planning – the success of your supply chain depends on the quality of the plan you put together – better accuracy, multiple scenarios, understanding of your constraints, triggers and early alerts to make sure we predict disruptions are all part of it.

What are some of the lessons you learned in your career that you would like to share for others to learn from?

Several mistakes or failures over the years I wish I could make sure other people don’t repeat but it is hard to put here, maybe I need to write a book someday. But I will try to summarize on what I call the top 5 priorities of supply chain :

  • People – Make sure you have the best team and take very good care of them; nothing can be achieved without highly motivated and top performing talents.
  • Customers/Consumers – A supply chain exists to serve a customer or a consumer in the case of beer and we must make sure that we are delivering happiness to our consumers, and you can describe it in many metrics such as cost, quality, availability, etc., but in the end, they need to be happy and we need to know when they are not and fix it.
  • Excellence – Focus on the basics, spend as much time as needed to get the processes right and inspire your team to keep opening the gaps to make it even better.
  • Synchronize End-to-End Efficiency – As the name says, supply chain is a “chain”, meaning that moving one piece of it will affect multiple other parts in different forms, therefore we need to look for efficiencies that make sense for the chain, not just for a part of it, there is no room for siloed thinking in modern supply chains. Communication, collaboration, transparency and trust are key to achieve that.
  • Embrace Technology – The world is evolving, and supply chain managers must embrace and lead this evolution. Make sure we go to the end and empower our teams with technology. If our frontline is not using technology fluently on a regular basis and not embracing it as part of their life, we are not doing our job and we don’t deserve the best people, that is how it all connects.

What has been one of the most challenging tasks managed by you in your professional journey so far?

No doubt safety, the most important and still the most challenging because there is no end to it, there is no guarantee that 100% of our people are safe 100% of the time and it really keeps me awake at night. If one accident happens, no matter how small it is, is my fault, I take it personally.

We would like to know from you the technological innovations happening in this industry. What are the tech developments that you are the most excited about embracing?

I am very excited about our journey towards end-to-end synchronization of our supply chain – connecting our suppliers, their suppliers, our manufacturing and distribution operations with our customers’ operations and understanding the consumers’ needs. All this connected through data and analytics, can one day, lead us to higher levels of prediction and therefore faster and efficient reactions to customer and consumer needs. It is a big dream, but we are starting to see it happening, perhaps this is going to be the most relevant legacy my generation of supply chain leaders will leave.

What would be your advice to young logisticians to excel in their respective roles? Have you witnessed any peculiar traits of supply chain professionals across the geographies you have managed supply chains? What’s your take on the young Indian SCM professionals?

I once read a book called Grit and it somehow simplifies a lot about what is the life in supply chain – in summary, it says that everybody has a set of talents and when you put effort to develop those talents, it becomes your skills, when you put effort on your work, performing your skills, it will turn into achievements, ultimately a set of achievements will turn into success. Those are not my words but summarizes a lot my principles of hard work and resilience, doing what you love and are good at is what will make the difference at the end. I don’t believe in stereotypes, for me, regardless of the country, gender or cultural background, there are always great people out there that fit in a high-performance supply chain team. If you ask me specifically to comment on young India SCM professionals, I can say that over the years, I met many very ambitious, highly educated and hard working young talents in India, as I mentioned, there are always great people, no matter where you are in the world, you just need to connect with them.

What are the parameters on the basis of which companies should select their supply chain partners? How can they you keep them updated with changing market dynamics?

If by partners you are talking about suppliers and vendors, I think the most important factor is transparency. Without transparency, there is no trust and without trust, there is no business. After that it becomes a business case where you will evaluate several factors such as cost, quality, location, technology, etc., and balance the best fit.

What’s your take on sustainability? How can companies embrace green measures in supply chain be it transportation or packaging?

Great supply chain leaders shall lead sustainability. No one will do it for you, and you don’t do it just for your company, it is your social duty you owe due to the privilege you have in life to lead a supply chain business. We need to influence and make an impact through our supply chain on our planet, our society and it is really important. It is part of the basics of our supply chain management I always talk about. It shall start by small actions such as proper maintenance, proper recycling, etc. Small actions, at the end, will become habits from our team and those habits will become who we are. On top of the basics, when I say we shall lead, I mean, we shall invest and expand the use of green technology, such as EV trucks or solar energy in manufacturing and promote circular packaging in our business such as recycle content packs or returnable containers. We shall be proactive in partnering with companies that have same principles in sustainability and drive the development of green technologies that meet the needs of our business, customers, consumers.

What are the critical aspects that will help improve supply chain in India and across China?

Talking more about external factors, supply chain in both countries at the end will benefit from the same aspects but due to the different stages of economic development, I would say that in India probably the most relevant would be infrastructure development – roads, ports, railways and waterways. In China, the standard of infrastructure is already quite high and the challenge now is becoming labour cost, therefore advances in technology, more obviously automation will bring the next lead on the supply chain efficiency in the country.

What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you going after a hard day at work?

The energy of the people around me, helping to inspire people, being at work or at home to continue to do their best and achieve their dreams and my dreams are a great reason to be awake and working hard.

What’s the one best advice you have ever received?

It was from a former boss – “Make sure you surround yourself by great people”. Great people can achieve amazing things and if you are among them, you can also achieve your dreams.

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