“As the web of complexities comes down with GST, there is a fantastic opportunity for first movers to deploy technology both at a software solution level and at a business process level,” remarks Girish Rishi, CEO & Member Board of Directors, JDA Software. During his recent visit to India, he establishes the classic combination of functional insights derived from data that will drive the technology of tomorrow. Interview excerpts…
How strategic is India to you and how do you foresee yourself in the near term market landscape?
In India, we have about 2000 people managing functions such as product development, services, finance, IT, HR, etc. India is our operational chassis where every execution worldwide on every function happens out of the runway of India operations. For JDA, India is unbelievably strategic, given two of our acquisitions, i2 Technologies and Manugistics, have strong roots here.
Giving you a sneak peek into our strong roots, we have some long-term association with manufacturing and retail clients like Tata Steel, Asian Paints and Shoppers Stop. Historically, we were primarily in the planning space; and now, our offering of a single integrated platform for all aspects of supply chain from planning to execution is unique and does not have an equal parallel anywhere in the global market.
Consumer buying trends with over a billion consumers with 300-400 odd million middle class make India a hugely attractive marketplace. With implementation of GST, many of the operational barriers will gradually be eliminated and this will create a seamless flow of goods. In this scenario, having a common seamless platform for both supply chain planning and execution will become very important. We will start pushing that agenda aggressively, while we continue with our traditional sweet spots of manufacturing and retail.
Adding to this platform, when supported by new age technologies like Cloud and Mobility, the resulting advanced software infrastructure will blend the entire business process in the most organized manner. Along with our partners such as Cognizant and Accenture, we plan to create a great chemistry that we hope to capitalize on over the next 10 years.
What are the collaborations that you have here in India and how would you leverage those to help your customers?
Firstly, we are obsessed with ensuring our customers’ success. To start with, we take a holistic view on how we deploy our software solutions efficiently, while driving down cost of ownership for our customers. With varying modalities for different domains, there are domain specific aspects to each deployment in planning and execution.
We work directly with customers and collaborate with system integrators (SIs) like Cognizant and Accenture to assist in large corporate transformation projects. But the domain specificity in any customization on top of the platforms is what we bring to the table either directly to the customer or via SIs. We also collaborate with SIs where they are implementing our solutions.
With GST coming in and with the thrust on modernizing SCM in India, how is technology going to be a key enabler for user industries? What are the key tech changes that you are incorporating in the wake of new developments?
Typically, there are local, regional and national supplier stakes in most countries. In India, you apply the factor of many with GST complexity. Technology aids in accessing data across all three layers. JDA offerings provide complete traceability and visibility of warehousing operations as well as the inventory at the warehouse. Technology is also able to access externalities around current fashions and buying trends, as well as monsoons forecasting. We leverage data science around what demand drivers will be in the summer or before Diwali or Christmas for example, and how you are able to look at past trends.
Co-relating these internalities with externalities will drive data at a local, regional and a global level. As the web of complexities comes down with GST, there is a fantastic opportunity for first movers to deploy technology both at a software solution level and at a business process level. We foresee taking a market share opportunity over the next 2-3 years. With our clientele as strong as global organizations like P&G, Pepsico, Huawei, Mattel, Lego, etc., we are confident in bringing those competencies to help companies leverage JDA solutions if they want to be the first movers.
What would you advise Indian companies, on how should they begin their transformation journey?
I would like to talk about two things. Firstly, SCM deployment. It is a journey process which JDA has seen from many great companies. Software by itself is usually a low hanging fruit. There are the key underlying aspects of - current stage of operation; future ambition; people readiness and many other factors to consider. However, one of the most crucial aspects is to ensure that the senior management remains committed to strategy and investment and allow a supply chain partner to build along with the company. This investment and strategic nature of the relationship when paired with right processes and organization for execution, will help deliver enormous multi-fold benefits.
The other important consideration is data. Companies are still not very good about bringing in data, keeping that data in a very cogent and consistent manner and using that data to get insights and bringing it back to the system. There is a level of discipline that needs to come in, in order to manage that data. You will have structured data that is part of your system.Today, structured data provides only limited insight. There is unstructured data that is lot larger, so the key lies in drawing those incredible insights from that scattered data. I think there is a real mindset change and a business process change that needs to start setting in into our customers to leverage real benefits of technology.
If you look at some of our stats, 71 of the top CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) companies in the world and 73 of the top 100 retailers use our solutions and services. There is a richness of solutions but that solution is only as good as the data that comes into the system. For companies with streamlined data, we can study and benchmark their entire supply chain operations and tell them, what improvements are needed and what tangible gains the transformation will bring in across their various business functions.
Can you give some insights on what are the variables that should be looked at to modernize distribution chains and its execution?
As we talk about our potential customers, typical questions that arise are: do they have a modern warehouse management system (WMS) execution philosophy or is work being done through manual processes? Do they have a transportation management system? If their ambition is to expand their footprint, have a more distributed environment, have larger warehouses, there is an immense loss and attrition of capital that takes place because of mismatched inventory. You can’t trace lost or non-moving inventory; and we have seen companies taking these as the first areas to address. For customers looking at a product traceability, deploying cutting edge technologies around data collection, bar coding, pallet tracking, RFID in a seamless way is the right way to go. It’s an end-to-end approach and our ecosystem of partners can help bring in those capabilities.
One of our core strengths lies in integrating WMS along with our transportation management system (TMS) to offer a single unified solution.
You joined JDA just about a few months back. What made you join JDA?
Anyone can write software today. What differentiates is the domain knowledge. Years of domain knowledge coupled with math, I totally believe, no other company can bring that capability. We can do planning, forecasting and plan your inventory as well as do the execution in the warehouse. We call that Intelligent Fulfillment. If you are running the logistics of your company, you would want to be able to see the internalities and externalities and do your forecasting and planning, but then don’t stop there. You would want to seamlessly connect it to your warehouse and ensure orders are fulfilled profitably.
We believe in the new world of the seamless supply chain and JDA uniquely brings that capability. I don’t know of any other company that has planning and execution capabilities under one roof. Because of this capability, Gartner has repeatedly ranked us as the only company in all five Gartner Magic Quadrants for supply chain and retail merchandising solutions.
Physical assets such as pallets, trucks, etc., are all getting digititalized. The digitalization of the last mile with billions of IoT sensors and mobility tools and machine learning will essentially play a big role in the software of the future. It enables tremendous visibility; and this in turn provides another area of focus for JDA. All these aspects led me to join JDA.
Given the fact that JDA is at the forefront of solutions across the entire value chain, what do you think still lacks in India for supply chain professionals to evolve? What is the bottleneck to revolutionizing supply chain here?
What I am seeing is that leading enterprises in India are moving from a cost emphasis to a value emphasis. And that needs to be more pervasive. The long term strategic partnerships and right investments will reap multi-fold benefits. The mindset has to shift away from cost-driven to value-driven holistic approach and that’s the transformation, I am confident, India will go through.
Though there are pockets of excellence, some of the larger companies here have done brilliant work in optimization, even on the shop floor side, and not just on the supply chain side. For it to become more prevalent, there needs to be an awareness of how technology can map back the value that is delivered through the system. Secondly, there has to be predictability in the infrastructure. As consumers get more demanding, companies need to more accurately meet their expectations, for which sophisticated technologies will be required.
What are the key challenges you face while developing solutions for companies? How do you overcome them?
Firstly, general availability software can be developed and then customizations become less of an issue. We are always mindful if we are satisfying an industry vertical’s requirement and are able to model the sophistication of that industry vertical in a generic fashion. We do that with very close collaboration with our current customer base and with industry experts across the globe. At the planning level, we are always working with customers. As you go to the execution level where ground realities become very important, that’s where customization is required. There are idiosyncrasies that companies follow and they don’t want to change easily.
From a product development perspective, inputs come in from our customers through the JDA Special Interest Groups (SIGs) which is a powerful base of user expertise in every industry, functional area and region of the world. We also gather input from partners, industry analysts and our own internal associates who have immense market intelligence and customer knowledge. From a delivery perspective, we typically do this ourselves and sometimes in collaboration with our customers to co-deliver. We typically build our solutions to cater to an industry, irrespective of region.
Please share with us one of the most successful yet challenging SCM projects managed by you.
In India, Asian Paints has been one of our longstanding customers. They are co-innovating with us to jointly develop a new lot-sizing algorithm to better handle multi-level lot sizes and balance its supply chain plan across plants, while increasing planner efficiency. The new algorithm built around master planning capabilities of JDA Manufacturing Planning, is being used as part of Asian Paints’ regular monthly planning cycle. The enhancement in lot sizing logic has enabled Asian Paints to better serve its customers by providing inventory at the right place, at the right time and in the right quantity. Additionally, inventory carrying costs have decreased as a result of better production and safety stock planning across its SKUs and plants.
What are the tech advancements shaping up in supply chain landscape? What are the upcoming supply chain trends to watch out for?
Supply chain is facing changes on two main fronts; one is the change in inherent technology and another is a radical re-work in business models. To elaborate, we see technology advances like big data, cloud, machine learning and IoT being used by traditional businesses to become more efficient and effective. But in a non-linear manner, we also see this technology pushing new business models in place. Building an omni-channel solution for a retailer or a CPG business is a very big challenge but this challenge completely dwarfs in comparison to building a materials handling solution for a CPG maker relying on 3D printing on an IoT-supported maintenance network.
Crucial questions on customer demand; optimum assortment depth; inventory etc. need to be re-designed from first principles. Luckily, due to the integrated solution set that we have, we are able to guide our customers around larger pitfalls that may be triggered by small changes in local context. The clear supply chain trend is adoption of omni-channel processes. This is one common need if you are in a B2B business or in a B2C business.
With data analytics and structured data, large complex problems will be solved in real-time. Omni-channel is coming up in a big way. When you leverage an omnichannel model and can customize the customer experience across all channels, be it online or brick and mortar, the overall experience must be uniform and rich. Our solutions are now equipped to provide that richness across various channels seamlessly. There aren’t too many solutions that can take inventories and optimize it across channels and provide the best outcome for your customers. It is a key focus area for us.
What are some of the trends that you are investigating to leverage within your organization?
Data science-driven supply chain is a clear trend that we are witnessing. Machine learning, IoT with bluetooth and mobility are some of the other trends taking place. We are putting future functionalities that tap into these trends into our technology moving forward. We chose Google Cloud Platform (GCP) as our platform of the future, and are one of the very few enterprise companies that have partnered with Google to put our solution on GCP. We are at the cutting edge of technology, giving us an immense amount of scale, adding richness to our solutions.
We have an innovation centre called JDA Labs, which is involved in several areas that leverage the power of machine learning, big data and robotics. Specific areas such as retail planning, machine learning, etc., enable us to understand the relative attractiveness of product attributes in an assortment. Likewise, in the areas of forecasting, JDA is combining endogenous information (sales history, product information, etc.) with exogenous data (weather, social sentiment, etc.) to arrive at more holistic forecasts. We are also working with Google Glass for exploring various options in warehousing applications.
Another key element is our partnership with Softbank Robotics to explore the applicability of robots assisting customers in their shopping. We have introduced a humanoid robot called Pepper in-store, who is able to interact with customers by synthesizing inventory information across the supply chain. Robotics meets machine learning as the robot is constantly collecting data based on its interactions and learning from it.
QUICK FACTS - With over 300 granted patents and over 400 both granted and pending, JDA has the largest patent portfolio in the field of supply chain management technology. - JDA is the only company recognized as a leader in all five Gartner Supply Chain Magic Quadrants. - It has market leadership with 4000+ global customers worldwide.