The strong emergence of new age technology solutions is also impacting the sphere of supply chain operations where new avenues are coming up to gain efficiency. According to Pradeep Agarwal, Senior Director (ERP Cloud), Oracle India, enterprises need to be careful in picking up the right pieces as per their core need of optimal benefits across the value chain. In an exclusive conversation with Ritwik Sinha, he also shares the highlights of some of the leading solution which Oracle is offering to the supply chain industry…
Let me begin with a simple point. What are the key technologies available today which businesses can use to modernise their supply chains?
Supply chain modernization knocks down business siloes and increases supply chain transparency to ensure operations are agile and open for collaboration. Modernization also helps the organisations identify customer needs and drive better experiences. It’s all about creating a seamless innovation ecosystem, fueled by data and focused on the customer. There are a growing range of emerging technologies that will help drive supply chain modernization. These include IoT devices to gather data from across manufacturing, supply chain operations and even post-sales through the products themselves. This data needs to be combined with other corporate and third-party data and then turned into meaningful insights through advanced analytics. Today, analysis is frequently augmented by AI to reduce time-to-insight and find hidden patterns that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
However, the key enabling technology is the cloud as the platform with Software-as-a-Service for supply chain operations as the core, which makes it easier for companies to interact with a global supply chain in an economical way. The cloud enables the seamless and secure integration of corporate, customer and supply chain data for analysis by any approved business or supply chain partner.
There are several emerging technologies – often called disruptive – like AI, Blockchain, and IoT etc. Do you see these technologies merging to create value? Or should firms evaluate these technologies on a standalone basis and at a later stage try and integrate them?
Today, firms should have a roadmap in terms of the progress of technology – in terms of how they will use these technologies in a matured manner over a period. They should not expect that from day one they would use all these technologies in the best possible manner. This is not a practical expectation. It is our objective to help customers adopt technology as optimally as possible. One thing we have observed is – the effort required by customers to integrate various pieces together, for them to start seeing a solution that business stakeholders can use, is high. One way to resolve this is to offer pre-packaged or pre-integrated applications to the customer. Let us take a simple example of IoT and AI for a manufacturing firm. There are manufacturing applications where they do the planning. Then there is a maintenance application, where the maintenance workflows of the assets or machines are managed. If you introduce an IoT application which is a separately hanging tool, however good it may look, it will not find any real business benefit for the enterprise. But if the manufacturing work order from the manufacturing application is automatically synced with IoT production/factory monitoring application, with the IoT application giving real time visibility in terms of business metrics and KPIs and also prediction and forecast based on advanced analytics embedded in it, and then linked to the maintenance applications automatically there is an efficiency gain immediately. When customers get such integrated solutions, they find it easy to adopt. That is the key. Firms should look at the business outcomes enabled by these technologies as the most important criteria.
What are the opportunities and risks that AI, IOT and Blockchain poses for Indian industry?
There are a number of opportunities. Many firms in India have a large amount of data – from their PLCs and SCADA systems collected over more than 20 years. The problem is – they are not using that data. in a contextual manner. The idea is not to analyze data for the sake of it, but to derive some useful insights from it. Just by using these new technologies to analyze the existing data, they can identify ways to optimize their existing business processes. Using these technologies, firms can enhance their customer experience. Being able to provide product-as-a-service is another huge opportunity in the waiting. Blockchain applications will address the challenges faced in multi-tier visibility, non-disputable root—cause analysis, compliance and provide opportunities for avoiding counterfeiting, providing farm-to-fork visibility to end consumers etc.
As for the cautionary flags – firms should resist the temptation to go overboard with technology. For example, analytics is a journey. If we look at analytics and IoT together, firms need the ability to connect machines and applications and start injecting data. This is the connect phase. Once the data is collected in a confident manner, it will solve some of the problems in terms of realtime visibility, and business metrics. Once the data is available, firms can start building the analytical layer on that – like predictive algorithms, anomaly detection algorithms. Using this, firms can wire their forecasts into their business applications. One thing firms should be cautious about is ignoring the quality of data they are sourcing and build algorithms too early or in a haphazard manner. Most importantly, we should not rule out human intervention. Human intervention can be completely ruled out is a fallacy. The solutions have to be able to accommodate the feedback from the domain experts or technical experts in perfecting the analytics as they progress. It should have the ability to integrate the feedback and improve the analytics.
How would you explain your current solution portfolio for players in the supply chain industry?
Oracle’s end to end supply chain solutions are in congruence with the requirements of 21st century market realities. Oracle SCM Cloud supports our customer’s journey to digital transformation by offering the broadest and deepest range of capabilities to modernize their operations. Oracle SCM cloud encompasses multiple capabilities across platforms to meet the new age demands of the supply chain management which includes – product innovation, strategic material sourcing, outsourced manufacturing, integrated logistics, omni-channel fulfillment, and integrated demand and supply planning, which makes us the most comprehensive SCM suite in the cloud. Oracle Logistics cloud ensures compliance and reduces logistics costs for more customer-centric fulfillment with Oracle’s integrated warehouse, transportation, and global trade management. Procurement Cloud is used to streamline the customer’s source-to-pay process through automation and social collaboration, while controlling costs and achieving higher margins. Supply Chain Collaboration and Visibility Cloud is used to detect, analyze, and resolve disruptions within the enterprise, as well as with the key trading partners while Intelligently automating end-to-end processes to make the entire supply chain more efficient and responsive. Orchestration of order to cash process and proactively resolve exceptions can be done with the help of Order Management Cloud. Apart from these there are many other solutions critically crafted to meet specific needs of the supply chain trail.