You’ve heard of automation “stealing” jobs – but what if it actually has the potential to attract and retain more workers? Everywhere you look across the supply chain, people are missing – but the impact is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in customer service, where some companies have lost up to 50% of reps. And in the absence of workers, those same companies are feeling the gaps in their digital transformation efforts. Could emerging automation and artificial intelligence-based technologies pick up the mundane tasks around the building – making way for employees to focus on more impactful work? In this episode, co-hosts Kevin L. Jackson and Scott Luton discuss that possibility with Dan Reeve, sales director at Esker. Tune in as they trace the recent breakdown in customer service levels – and the promise of technology to enhance both bottom lines and more meaningful professional lives – all in one fell swoop.
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Kevin L. Jackson (00:33):
Hello, everyone. This is Kevin L. Jackson, and welcome to Digital Transformers on Supply Chain Now. I’m greeting you today from Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, and right here next to me, keeping me safe is Scott Luton from the ATL. Hey, Scott, how are things today?
Scott Luton (00:52):
Kevin, always a pleasure. It’s gorgeous here in the Metro Atlanta area today. And, it’s an honor to be your wingman, as we get through this conversation here.
Kevin L. Jackson (01:02):
Yeah. Absolutely. But today is really, I like this because we’re going to talk with one of our favorite repeat guests. And, we’re going to talk about the latest business challenges and how organizational leaders are really looking around in their business process to free up their team members from doing those mundane things like going through the inbox and trying to focus on creating value. You know, I mean, every day you get hundreds of emails you’ve got blocking and tackling and just trying to get to something that’s valuable. And, we’re going to be talking to Dan Reeve, the Lead Sales for Esker US. Hey, Dan.
Dan Reeve (01:48):
Hey, how are you? Nice feedback. Good to see you both.
Scott Luton (01:51):
You too, Dan.
Kevin L. Jackson (01:52):
Nice. It’s awesome. You know, I know you’ve been doing a lot of thing with wildlife, but, Scott, well, we’re going to start this conversation today.
Scott Luton (02:01):
Well, gosh, you’re talking blocking and tackling. We could talk football. We could talk American football, but where we’re really going to start with is some travel, some recent travel adventures that Dan has been on. And, Kev, we’re going to – you’re not going to get all the answer to the question either. But, Dan, in our kind of calls between the calls as we tee up these conversations, man, not only did you send me pictures but you told me some great stories about a recent trip to Corsica. So, tell us where, first off, on a map, for some of those folks and maybe geographically challenged like I am, let us know where that is and give us a couple of highlights of your recent trip.
Dan Reeve (02:40):
Well, Corsica is located between France and Italy. So, it’s an island. It’s an hour’s flight from Leon, so they’re in the south, very popular, kind of – the islands traded hands several times over the years. The Italians invaded during the Second World War and then I think they were encouraged out of there in 1943. So, it’s interesting because when you drive around, the radio stations are dominantly Italian, but, yeah, it’s a French, I think the right word is colony. They refer to the France as the mainland, but, yeah, I think it’s a good place to go, interesting place. I’ve heard good things about it. Very nice. But I didn’t have very good time. Maybe, there’s lot of work. It was very mundane. It was a hard time.
Scott Luton (03:25):
You’re blocking and tackling all day. But, Kevin, I think we were on a livestream and I shared a snapshot or two. So, Dan, some of the images we shared earlier, it’s like you’re on top of some mountain peaks looking over some kind of bay and it was absolutely gorgeous. What were you doing?
Dan Reeve (03:42):
Hiking, and, you know, tiring my boss out because anytime you’re going to negotiate, it’s always good to take your boss out, hiking for five or six hours [inaudible], and then ask for that raise, you know. So, we were hiking. We went out and hiked for a few days before our managerial work event. I like to do that because, one, it takes me a while to get over jet lag. So, getting out there doing a little bit of exercise, get on their time zone always helps me. And, two, with, you know, the logistics of COVID, it was the first time in two-and-a-half years, I’ve traveled to Europe and we just wanted to sort of get through it. You know, you have to have an electronic digital European health pass. And then, obviously, you know, you had to get a series of tests. So, I did discover that in Europe they do the PCP tests a little bit different. You know, they put that swab through the back of your brain. Here, it’s like a little tickle. There, it’s like, whoa. You know, you’re like, oh.
Kevin L. Jackson (04:38):
Dan Reeve (04:40):
Scott Luton (04:40):
Well, the logistics of travel, of course, have changed dramatically and we’re still fighting through so that we can get back to some semblance of normality. But, hey, really quick in the pre-show –
Kevin L. Jackson (04:51):
We had a guest the other day that was stuck in Dubai for 10 days because they couldn’t leave. They were standing next to someone who apparently didn’t test properly for COVID, didn’t pass the test.
Scott Luton (05:07):
You’re right, Kevin. And, Dan, get this, as he was wrapping our livestream with us, he was three hours away from finally getting on a flight and getting liberated. So, it’s amazing.
Kevin L. Jackson (05:18):
Scott Luton (05:19):
Yes, escaping. But, you know, these governments around the world, there’s a variety of different policies. And, you know, Dan, as you’ve alluded to different approaches and methodologies to attack this pandemic. But, anyway, we will all look forward to getting back to where we can travel more freely. On that note, pre-show, Kevin and Dan, we realized we uncovered that you all have a mutual love for Singapore. Kevin, what’s one of your favorite aspects of traveling to Singapore?
Kevin L. Jackson (05:47):
I’ll tell you. Singapore is one of my favorite cities. I first enjoyed it when I was living in the Philippines and I was in the Navy. And, I would go there – and I was a pilot in the Navy and we would land at the airport and on the way to the hotel, there’s this restaurant on our left side and we would stop there every time and get – it’s either chili, chili lobster and pepper crab, or chili crab and pepper lobster, or both. But it’s awesome. If you ever go to Singapore, you got to try that out. You know, food is one of our favorite things here on Supply Chain Now.
Scott Luton (06:30):
You’re right. And, it’s a universally bonding element, which is also a good thing. All right. So, Dan, one, you get the final question here as we’re talking travel. Based on what Kevin just shared about Singapore, one of his favorite places to go, he mentioned some, what sounds like delicious food dishes. What was your favorite part about Singapore?
Dan Reeve (06:47):
I did eat the same meal. It was pretty good, but there’s that famous hotel shaped like a boat. It’s really famous. We did stay there and they’ve got, you know, they’ve got that infinity pool and I thought that was pretty cool, just the shape of the boat, but that pool up there, you know, managed to sneak in there – I think managed to sneak in there in between or the end of a long workday.
Scott Luton (07:11):
Dan Reeve (07:12):
It’s pretty cool.
Scott Luton (07:13):
Lots of work.
Dan Reeve (07:14):
It’s no, no, no fun, I’m telling you. It’s horrendous.
Scott Luton (07:18):
No adult beverages.
Kevin L. Jackson (07:18):
Their [Inaudible] is horrible. Right?
Scott Luton (07:22):
All right. So, now that we’ve had a little bit of fun and I’m looking forward to, I’m jealous of you both. Corsican and Singapore are on our top 10 bucket lists. But let’s get down to business and do some heavy lifting here. And, I want to start Dan first, and then, Kevin, we’re going to come to you. You know, we’re big believers in level setting. You know, we’re going to be talking about, you know, P2P and O2C. Stay tuned if you don’t know what those are. We’re going to uncover that. But let’s start with just level setting about some of the things we’re seeing out in the marketplace. You know, Dan, not only beyond your travels and beyond all the ways you all help organizations, also your conversations with business leaders and when you pulse all of that, what are some things you’re seeing out in the marketplace?
Dan Reeve (08:01):
Two themes then I think. When I talked to supply chain leaders, one theme is when they look at how their customer service staff are being used, or should I say they think about the customer service staff in that order acquisition, the process of receiving orders or inquiries from customers, one of the problems going on right now is – so a lot of folks are oversold. They’re oversold. Therefore, there’s a lot of pressure from the customer because the customer wants to know, well, okay, I’ve placed this order. Can you fulfill it? How long will it take? Are you going to give me that particular [inaudible] or something else? If it’s going to be back ordered, how long? And, in many cases, the customer is placing a lot more inquiries and questions before an order comes in. But the customer service staffs are already in many cases, I mean, labor is a big issue and many customer service staff [inaudible], you know, they disappeared like many of the staff we’ve seen in industries since COVID came along. And, what I mean by that is people seemed to have moved on to different roles, different jobs, and their expectations. Is it a work they’re going to do has, or they’re willing to do, has changed?
Kevin L. Jackson (09:12):
Dan Reeve (09:13):
Yeah. So, a lot of supply chain leaders are saying, “Okay, I’m going to struggle here. I’ve got more work needed to place an order.” Customers demand and expectation has gone up. We still have the Amazon-like effect. But my customer service staff and my sales staff are bogged down because they’re get all these emails, questions, inquiries, and then we need to sort of be able to recognize information to store between the CRM, ERP, email, which for many a hot box or a nightmare. This information is in all different places.
Dan Reeve (09:46):
And, what’s happening for some is that the customer is calling the VP of supply chain or even the head of sales saying, “You’re not taking care of us. Your service levels are poor. We want to have information sent back almost immediately.” And so, one of the things we do see folks doing is saying, “Okay. Can I provide the customer with automatic replacing [inaudible] recognize you’ve placed an order? We recognize you have an inquiry. Here’s some of the information you need based on ship date, your availability or what you can expect.” Pass that information back as quick as you can, almost semi-automated or automated, so that you at least placate the customer or maybe they can do something with that information. A lot of customer service reps or their leaders feel they’re in a swivel chair.
Dan Reeve (10:26):
You’ve been there, Kevin. You know, you’ve taken off on the flight deck. You’ve got folks there in the, you know, the control unit monitoring. We’ve got any sonar threats. We’ve got any air threats. And, they’re back and forth. Well, actually, maybe in the Navy, they focus on sonar or they focus on air threats. But these customer service reps –
Kevin L. Jackson (10:44):
I’m not [inaudible].
Dan Reeve (10:47):
These customer service reps, they’re doing that. Okay. I’ve got CRM. I’ve ERP. I’ve got internal systems. And, customers calling up or emailing and asking for a response. This is all difficult, not for just placing and handling orders. And, supply chain leaders want fast information about – they want the demand signal. What do people want? When do they want it?
Dan Reeve (11:08):
As folks bounced between these different systems, it’s making it very hard for them to actually get a true picture, resolve issues, fix claims issues, deductions, and at the same time service the customer because many folks are so oversold. The first thing they do when an order comes in is race to book or find materials from somewhere. So, there’s a lot of pressure. And, I’ll talk about a second thing in an issue. I think all of this is compounded by labor.
Scott Luton (11:37):
Yes. So, let’s pause there for just a second because you shared a lot there, before moving to the second one. Kevin, I’d love for you to respond and then I have a clarifying question for you. Kevin, respond to that first observation.
Kevin L. Jackson (11:54):
What I hear is that the organization is really struggling with identifying and collecting data and then turning that data into information so that you’re going to actually do effective action. So, pre-COVID, everybody was used to having data in the office or in locations, and they knew where to go. Then, when COVID hit and everybody went home, they realized that they didn’t have access to that data. And for, you know, for the first 6, 7, 8 months, people said, “Well, you know, this is going to get over. We’ll get back into the office so we won’t worry about doing anything major. We’ll get through it.” And then, people realized that there is no getting through. People now need to be able to get access to data to create information from anywhere. And, these people include your customers. So, now you have to figure out how to get that data, identify it quickly, and get it to the need as fast as possible. And, this is driving business process engineering, understanding what data is important, who needs that data, and how to change that data into information to make effective action.
Scott Luton (13:25):
Love that. You got to be able to manage and play in a transformational time, right? Things have changed dramatically on a number of different planes. I want to ask one more clarifying question for you, Dan, before you moved to your second observation, because some of what I heard is that pre-sale, all those pre-sale activities before you’re even assured that there’s going to be revenue produced from those activities. You know, ’cause, you know, sometimes the customers don’t place the order. So, some of what I heard there is how you’re seeing businesses try to optimize that time that spent before you know if the order’s going to be placed and if all that work’s going to lead to revenue. There’s a great opportunity to optimize and improve that aspect of the order to cash cycle. Would you agree?
Dan Reeve (14:11):
Yeah. It makes me think of two examples. One is a CIO, chemical industrial tape manufacturer who said to me years ago, I would like to be able to track all those situations where folks try to place an order, but we didn’t give them exactly what they wanted, because then I’d like to see, did they make mistake? Are we not carrying the right solutions? Do we need to tweak? Because they tried to order something different, we didn’t have it, or there’s something going on there. So, there’ll be value in knowing that.
Dan Reeve (14:37):
The second one is, I remember talking to a sales leader for an aviation distribution unit in the southwest. And he said to me, “Dan, for every sales order we actually book, we have three or more inquiries.” And then he said, “I realized we could increase sales if we could at least respond to those inquiries and give them a quote.” But then he said, “So there we could increase sales revenue because we’d be faster to serve, faster to answer.” But then more value would come if we could actually convert the sales orders. So, sales order comes in, can we convert that, recognize that we really got information ’cause we gave them a quote based on what we asked for previously. Well, there’s a lot of manual effort they involved in generating that, kind of create an order by pulling in all the information, the demand, all that history, all that knowledge, and if need be presented to the customer. I think this is what you want. Is this what you want? Double check. Or having taken that quote history, create an order in the ERP. Obviously, it’s got to be accurate. It’s got to be right, but it’s fast. And, it’s removing some of those steps. You know, even this week when I was talking to some of my reps about growth, how do we continue this great growth trajectory we’ve been on? Sometimes reps will point to red tape. What can you do as a sales leader to remove red tape, red tape frictional delays? And, I think these things that we’re talking about here are all about doing that to improve the customer experience.
Scott Luton (16:08):
I agreed. I’m with you, and, you know, all too often folks think of improvements and using technology to increase margins. But there’s also, to your point, that top line of revenue opportunity. You know, as I heard you described that, I think of my time with metal stamping, where we get requests for quotes all the time, right, and, you’re trying to squeeze, you’re trying to figure out what the smart business plays are to the things that weren’t as such a good fit. And, of course spend the most of your time on that smart business. Well, the thing is, you still have to get back to the customer with a good competitive quote, so they can – you know, that they get some information and can make a decision. That sounds a lot easier than it is for many organizations. So, Dan, I appreciate you bringing that up.
Scott Luton (16:50):
Let’s move to, as we continue our level setting, so much to cover so little time, let’s move to your second big observation here in terms of what you’re seeing out in the market today.
Dan Reeve (16:59):
Okay. And, you did just make me think of another point. Okay. I’m going to mention it. When I was [inaudible] this weekend and that does tend to involve lots of times sitting there reflecting, watching, you know, slow days, I’ve been listening to Stanley McChrystal’s book, Team of Teams. In that book, the main premise is that in the past we focused on efficiency, predominately. It was all about business efficiency. You know, getting a hundred units out instead of the traditional 30 units. Keith, he says, in the modern age of all this data and there’s these networks is what we have to do is bring and enable our teams and our CSRs or supply chain planners to have agility. That is what we didn’t have in [inaudible] early days. We changed that. He says, that’s what – and this is what we came to realize, it wasn’t just for the special operations command. It was business needs it too. The ability to use technology, free up our folks to be more agile to therefore go serve the customer or prevent issues or fix issues quickly. I’ll take a pause. I’m ready to go to my second point. But do you want – can I [inaudible] or should I stop?
Scott Luton (18:03):
Kevin, you want to respond to that really quick?
Kevin L. Jackson (18:06):
Well, one of the things about agility is critical in all processes, but many times we get stuck in a process and we don’t know how to get out of it and people don’t like change. And, it’s a forcing function [inaudible] you need a forcing function in order to change existing processes. So, it’s a change in mindset where agility is important but because management leadership provides that freedom to change and drive that change of thought.
Scott Luton (18:43):
So, on that note, I think we could probably stay right here for several hours of this podcast discussion. And, by the way, I’ve got to add Stanley McChrystal’s book to my list of those to read there, Dan. But let’s get into your second observation for the sake of time and then we’re going to move into some additional level setting and what we’re seeing organizations do about some of these challenges that we’ve identified. So, Dan, what’s the second observation?
Dan Reeve (19:10):
I hinted earlier. The second one is labor, labor. So, many of the supply chain leaders I speak to have said that we were already thinking about could we make the customer service role, the supply chain planner role more interesting before COVID. COVID hit, suddenly people have to be empowered and they’re able to work from home. Many folks had to stay at home to look after the children. So, we’ve been hit on a double whammy because we were already thinking or needing that we had to make the work more valuable. We purpose the positions, grow the responsibilities so those folks would stay within the organization and not depart.
Dan Reeve (19:41):
One company I’m aware of, a manufacturer in Chicago, has lost 50% of their CSRs in the last five months, 50%. And, that was – so then you’ve got this turnover going on. You’ve got these manual processes that people don’t want to do and don’t enjoy. Then, many of these companies are oversold. Customers have, again, becoming frustrated both by the situation on the macro level and their engagement with your company. Managers and directors even are having to step in and do more manual type work when traditionally they’ve been looking at, okay, how could we be more efficient or how could we be more agile, or how can we plan for the future. That actually often leads to more errors because they’re not used to doing the day-to-day work or they’re pulled away from doing the type of deep social thought value engineering work that they need to be doing. So, you’ve got this sort of cocktail, this problematic cocktail going on, where the labor is causing problems. And, I think, go back to the examples in Chicago, they said, every rate has gone up and actually our demand plan have ended up replenishing items that we ordered wrong subsequently. So, they’re back there. They’re ordering again because they’re looking at what did we buy. No, we’d actually bought that and it was a mistake and that cost us, you know, cash flow.
Scott Luton (21:00):
It’s the errors that keep on giving, the first time errors that lead to second time errors and third time errors. That’s a great – that is a great call out. Kevin, respond to that a minute because, you know, it’s bad enough. We set back and, you know, when you make the error and you make it right again, you know, you lose a little traction. But, man, Dan’s talking about how – again, it’s the errors that keep on giving. What’d you hear there?
Kevin L. Jackson (21:23):
Well, [inaudible] one of the things that we have seen is the lack of visibility in business flows and business processes because many of those, as Dan has pointed out, are manual. They’re not automated. They’re not standardized. It’s difficult to or impossible to hand off like a customer from one CSR to another CSR or to this manager who’s now sitting at the desk because they don’t have enough labor to manage the customers because it’s all manual. It’s not automated. It’s not standardized because there’s no visibility in the internal processes of the organization. This is really what’s happening today and it’s why organizations are looking to redesign their business processes, identify what data is critical to those processes that also enables the agility that you may need as things change. And mark my word, change is constant in today’s world, in today’s business. So, you can afford to have a static business process.
Scott Luton (22:41):
Kevin, excellent, good stuff there. There’s so much to uncover in, as we tried, again, free our people up, right. Free our people up. Let them –
Kevin L. Jackson (22:53):
[Inaudible] mundane activities, right?
Scott Luton (22:54):
That’s right. That is right. So, I want to continue. Level setting is so important we feel in this era where we’re moving so fast. We’re moving at the speed of a thousand gazelles. You know, I was going to say that, Dan. You know I was going to say it. So, folks, if you don’t – if that phrase doesn’t sound familiar, you’ve got to go check out some of Dan’s previous appearances.
Scott Luton (23:13):
I want to move to, you know, we love our acronyms in global business and certainly in global supply chain. Dan, we’ll get you to define a couple. And then, Kevin, I want you to also really equip our listeners with some other, to be aware for some other acronyms that they’re certainly going to hear a lot more of. Let’s start with, Dan, with P2P. What is P2P?
Dan Reeve (23:34):
So, the market typically prefers to P2P as activities involved in procure-to-pay, the activities involved in buying goods and services and maybe going through an approval. Sometimes folks will not go through an approval and get a purchase order, or maybe they have a contract in the background. But procure-to-pay typically does cover both purchase of direct and indirect goods and services. Are you buying more materials or are you buying lighting and laptops and markers, paper that will indirect spend that you need for the office that supports the factory and the distribution units? So procure-to-pay. And then, pay typically is okay, well, we need to pay the vendor. COVID has led to a big change here actually. A lot of folks have said, “Ah, we don’t want to cut checks anymore.”
Dan Reeve (24:29):
I mean, I work with a healthcare organization in Miami. Somebody stole their checks in the middle of COVID and try to cash them. All the checks that were mail bound to suppliers. So, that, one, a lot of people didn’t want to come in the office because they were obviously worried about picking up COVID and wanted to take care of their health and the health of their families understandably. Two, a lot of companies said, “Okay. We probably need to move away from posting checks for the risk of fraud.” And, three, maybe icing on the cake, if not the driver, many of the suppliers are willing to take a virtual payment, already perhaps taken virtual payment of some sort. And, you know, there’s organizations like Corepay, Master Data who are – when I say procure-to-pay, you can go even further. Pay can actually be, let’s actually pay the vendor, pay them at the speed of a thousand gazelles. Because if you pay them really quick, well, they may well be willing to take an early pay or give you an early payment discount or you can get some rebates, you know, as much as 2% against your spend. That trend has really been lit up by COVID from what leaders tell me.
Scott Luton (25:34):
I agree. And, we see a lot of it. In fact, I’d take it a step further and call to some degree these last couple of years as procurement purgatory. Especially for small businesses, they have to jump through hoop after hoop after hoop to get paid. You know, eventually that company that owes, you know, on the invoice, they develop a reputation for who are easy to work with and who that you do all the work upfront and hoping to prayer eventually you’ll collect on all of that good work. So, I really – I think this what you’re talking about really a finger on the pulse of a lot of pain out there. Let’s also talk on a similar note, O2C, order-to-cash, right. Tell us about that.
Dan Reeve (26:13):
I will. I’ve got to say, before I forget it, you made a great point there, Scott. Many companies now having to buy goods and services from many different vendors, okay, because there’s a risk in just relying on a single, sole source vendor. You know, they might – [inaudible] material might be stuck in the Gulf somewhere or on some ship, you know. And so, the reality is, it’s important and many companies are realizing the way you compete is not just through price and product alone. It’s price, product, service, and your supplier is part of the network you’ve got to take care of if you want to take care and retain or grow your customer base. So, good point.
Dan Reeve (26:49):
Order to cash is those activities involved in capturing the order through to collecting money. So, you could say, well, at first point, and this is COVID applicable, first we’re going to do more business or we’re going to bring on a new customer. So, we credit check them. We need to onboard them. We need to make sure they’re not a risk to our business. Then, they’re going to bring sending orders to us through various different formats, EDI, e-commerce, web, PDF, you name it.
Scott Luton (27:19):
Dan Reeve (27:20):
I have seen napkins. I have seen napkins from being sent through a $1 billion organization in the UK. Farmers were sending occasionally napkins for potassium. Same again, please. Same as the last month. You know, you don’t see many of those nowadays, but I thought that was great. So, order to cash, the process of bringing customers onboard, capturing that demand signal of the order, and then invoicing them accurately, chasing up that money as automated as possible, chasing those who are least, you know, those are the most or those that where you’re chasing efforts can be most effective. And then, the key thing that a lot of folks are beginning to really pay attention to is the process to apply the cash ’cause many have gone through and in some ways the growth of e-commerce and e-payments has made this more tricky, is payments often come in decoupled from the actual, the statement or the invoice that you send out.
Dan Reeve (28:18):
So, you’re like, “Well, okay, you’ve paid me hundred thousand dollars, but you’ve got 15 different invoices.” Are you paying off all of those, you know? Is this money all to be paid against the invoice or your account? And/or increasingly, okay, the short pays. I don’t know why I’ve got short pay here and I need to go and talk to customer service and shipping and logistics and finance and management to see if we’ll approve the short pay or research is valid, but I haven’t done – we’re struggling with staff already. We’ve talked about how labor is a big problem. So, this was a massive headache for companies even before COVID, as much as 4% of a company’s margin can be stolen or lost right there, short pays, deductions. Anyway, so that’s order to cash. And, I think traditionally many companies were focused, including software vendors, on solutions for the order to invoice, but we shouldn’t forget that cash process as well.
Scott Luton (29:11):
Excellent point. And, we know firsthand, we see all the time how payments are disconnected to the invoice that was sent out. And then, if there’s a short pay or an overpay or a timing issue, you know, the control function and the controller function or the AP, you name it, they’re so far downstream. They’re not sure exactly what took place and what the marry with what, so it just creates more heartburn, especially for organizations who are sending out thousands of invoices and are trying to marry up and disposition tens of thousands of transactions. So, excellent point there, Dan. Kevin, I want to bring you in here whether you want to kind of make a follow-up point on what Dan just shared or what other acronyms should we be having on our radar here these days?
Kevin L. Jackson (29:57):
Well, you know, I’m all about digital transformation and the acronyms that are critical to digital transformation are really all about enabling the organization to reduce the labor required to process information and data. You know, one of the things in manual business process is you’re leveraging a human to review the data, to decide what it’s attached to, what it referred to, and to dispose with or take action in order to leverage or use that data. But now in Digital Transformation, we are finding that a lot of our humans are being underutilized and that artificial intelligence can be used to do somebody’s mundane tasks. So, the hot acronym today is AI because AI or artificial intelligence can be associated with systems that are self-aware and capable of “rational thought” that can take this data in and interpret the data and take action on it.
Kevin L. Jackson (31:15):
I mean, we use it every day with optical character recognition and people don’t see that as AI, but it is, and it allows the machine to read documents and make decisions and take automated task. The other thing is that we’ve talked about before is business process management or engineering, BPM. And, this is where you can look at your business process and identify where you need humans and where you really don’t need humans. And, that’s typically the first step in a business transformation journey.
Kevin L. Jackson (31:52):
So, it addresses a couple of issues that Dan highlighted. First of all, the speed, it can make a process much faster. And, if you can respond to a customer faster, that customer is happier. And then, you can accelerate payments so you can improve your cash flow. But it also helps on the labor because you can reduce the labor required in your organization. And, the third is RPA or robotic process automation. So, this is software that can be used to automate all of your structured business processes. Once you do this BPM, you know how to create a standard in your process then you can apply RPA or robotic process automation to not leverage or not need that labor anymore. So, the RPA can do these tasks in less time with greater accuracy at a fraction of the cost, plus they worked 24/7 without picking electric break or feeding them. So, all of this is really part of digital transformation.
Scott Luton (33:19):
I love that. And, you know, that labor, those team members can also be reassigned. I mean, oftentimes you’re talking about folks that may know the organization very well, and we all know the tribal knowledge is leaving out the door based on pay rate differentials, based on burnout, you name it. So, gosh, if you can apply technology again to take away these mundane tasks that technology can probably do better anyway and then give these folks opportunities to really apply themselves in new ways of creating new value for organization, which also would take some of the burden off of our great H.R. folks and recruiters that are in the battles, as Dan mentioned, on the hunt for great talent. So, really, it’s a win all the way around. Right?
Kevin L. Jackson (34:01):
Absolutely. Yeah. Actually, Dan, on some of our earlier conversation, I believe this was one of your main objectives, on a strategic level is to free up team members that are involved in this P2P and O2C process. Can you give maybe a few examples of how this happened?
Dan Reeve (34:25):
Yeah. I mean, you remind me of, and I’m going to cover RPA machine learning AI briefly as I answer this. Scott, you talked about, you know, we’re in the biggest labor threat or dynamic we’ve seen for many, many years. And, you know, years ago I was in MCR Safety, a great company in Tennessee and they make safety products, and the GM said – we were there and they were deploying Esker technology for machine learning AI of order automation. They had a tool that didn’t really allow them to scale. They wanted to rip that out. And they said, we want something that if orders have been for your network already, great, that’s learning, we don’t need to do. Your AI will observe and watch uses of it as they tweak or adjust sales orders and they learn all that and it’ll do it accurately. And, it will free up our folks to go and do cross-selling, upselling, education planning. And we don’t mind. They said, hey, today one of our CSRs is moving to become a procurement officer.
Dan Reeve (35:22):
We celebrate that. The customer service manager said, “I celebrate it. You know I feel like I’ve managed to contribute to that gentleman’s career. I’m little sad to see him go, but I’m far more happy to see him stay with the new organization versus leave.” The GM – I spoke to the GM. He says, “The thing hate, Dan, is when we lose that talent. We spend so much time hiring them, training them, really trying to, you know, make them sort of enjoy the work-life here, having to spend so much time more on that.” But then to lose that person who can go into the industry. But they know so much, they could probably contribute to our business. This is even pre-COVID.
Dan Reeve (35:57):
And, it’s just simply been amplified tenfold now in COVID where, you know, the whole customer service staff or the whole procure-to-pay staffs are thinking is this type of work I want to do? How long do I do this before I get to my next sort of progression? I went to university or, you know, I’m skilled at fixing problems and issues. When can you free me up to collaborate with procurement or to go and talk to the supplier or the customer? How about how we can improve processes? So, I think one point, Kevin, is RPA has its play. Sometimes people use it on the front or the backend of Esker. When folks deploy Esker, they’ll often say we do use RPA in certain processes, but when we want to dedicate a process, a business process like order management or payables, we might do like Montreal airport did.
Dan Reeve (36:44):
They injected – in their case, they used Solonus, and shout-out to those guys. They injected that business process mining technology into their organization, looking to see if there’s any holes in the tire. It said you’ve got broken processes compared to others. You could make a lot of improvements in payables. They then went on a journey to look for AI machine learning technology for procure-to-pay, looked at a number of vendors and said [inaudible] Esker. So, I think, you know, I agree with all that you said, basically, yeah.
Scott Luton (37:18):
[Inaudible] how nice is that. That’s like a gift box with a ribbon, a nice ribbon up on top.
Kevin L. Jackson (37:22):
So, I was thinking. So, if you’re saying that people are doing that today, as we go into, hopefully post-COVID when move into 2022, what is the one thing that business leaders need to focus on? Is it RPA? Is it AI? Is it something else?
Dan Reeve (37:44):
Well, you said digital transformation. I think that’s a better term because RPA is just one set of scripts and bots. It has its place. I mean, many of my customers, the CIOs, would use RPA. I’m not naive to that, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right solution for business process automation every time. I think there’s various different technologies out there. I think that digital transformation was a bit of a buzzword, but it’s really – it’s going to stick because companies have realized not only can they be efficient and agile and grow and retain that growth now if they go through their digital transformation. It’s almost like companies were getting into it. COVID has broken the ship away from the dock and everybody realizes we have to do it. But I think part of it is not just because the customer supplier has different expectations, we have to make sure we’re serving those networks, not just the customer. But I think the staff, I think increasingly we want work that is more engaging, more interesting. And, for many, they’re not going to even join or stay very long if the work is mundane and, you know, there’s not some kind of elements of digital transformation or efficiency or the ability for them to – is another book for you, Cal Newport. It’s a black and yellow book. Cal Newport’s a famous MIT professor. He wrote books saying free up your staff because you do your most effective work when you block out time to go and write your book, where you block out time, just get away from those emails and focus on valuable conversation with the supplier and the customer. He knocked out more research papers than any MIT professor at his age in a short period of time.
Dan Reeve (39:24):
And he said, “I do it by focus. Get rid of social media, cut that off your phone. Focus, focus, focus.” And, I think the opportunity is, can I free my folks up, not just to sort of engage with customers and suppliers, but maybe even – you know, can AP going to have a chat with payables or procurement? Hey, guys, look, this is going on. And, I wonder, is this really something that possibly starts in procurement? Or is it maybe it starts in procurement but it’s really because the sales reps have set certain expectations? Or is it just because this customer is difficult? Freeing up folks to go and do this sort of inter-department conversations or mini little projects where people are challenged, but think, oh, I’m getting to develop new skills and learn about different parts of the business. I think we’re going to have to do that sort of thing for people to stay. Stay’s a new challenge, I mean.
Scott Luton (40:11):
And, stay in an engaged manner where they feel part and connected and they’re contributing and are being fulfilled. So, while we’re throwing books out there, I’ll put a book out there. I used to work for a gentleman named Ray Katia at a Cincinnati Ohio. And, he wrote a book that really resonates, very straightforward concept, focused on run, improve, and grow. Run, improve, grow. And, the whole thrust of it is you can’t spend 100% of your time running the business at any level, you know, whether you’re a frontline or whether you’re in a CEO suite, and you got to find a way of building a system, building a business that frees up that time to improve the business but also frees up that time to grow the business. And, of course, business strategy, you know, talking about growing organization, enterprise. You know, the leaders of the organization are challenged with that.
Scott Luton (41:02):
So, that’s where the ratio should be a little different perhaps. But everyone plays a part in running and improving and growing the business.
Kevin L. Jackson (41:09):
You can’t run all the time. You have to take some time.
Scott Luton (41:11):
That’s right. You got to call – Kevin, you know what? That is a million-dollar point because as simple as it is, it is a powerful point. You know, I don’t know about y’all, but some of my biggest eureka moments have come when I’ve called time out. To Dan’s point, shut down social, shutdown Zoom, shutdown email, and just dedicate some time, some focus to figuring out, okay, why are we doing this? Or why is this happening? And then, that’s kind of what you’re speaking to.
Dan Reeve (41:41):
Yeah. I mean, sometimes it’s interesting. They say three days away from email and all the rest of it that’s when your creativity will come back. And, sometimes they do find when you give – you know, give you or your people a little bit of a break or, you know, get them out of the office or get to do something and it’s slightly different, you know, that day or the day after, creativity, somebody has an idea, you know. So, I think finding those opportunities to do that, you know, I think what’s happening to – it seems that we’re having a book competition today. So, seven habits of highly effective people show up in the store. You know show up in the store.
Kevin L. Jackson (42:18):
Scott Luton (42:19):
But at the core, bringing it back, bringing it back, and, of course, we’ve got to mention Kevin’s Click to Transform bestseller. But bringing it back to the conversation here and the relevancy is leaning on effective and successful technology to help free up your team, help free up the people and get some of those hours back. But then you can apply in different aspects of the organization and that strikes me as a big part of what the potential that Esker has and a big part of what Esker delivers to companies you work with. Right, Dan?
Dan Reeve (42:52):
Yeah. I mean, people ask me, what are you doing? I said – I like to say, you know, folks will turn to us, supply chain leaders, finance leaders, customer service leaders. They’ll turn to us because they’re trying to free up their staff to be rock stars and that’s put a seven customer to supplier in particular [inaudible] in order to cash procure-to-pay.
Kevin L. Jackson (43:09):
Nice way to put it.
Scott Luton (43:11):
Yeah. It is. Kevin, what rock star would you want to be?
Kevin L. Jackson (43:18):
What rock star I want to be. You know, I’m old school. So, my – I love Earth, Wind & Fire. And, the thing I like about Earth, Wind & Fire is because they have morphed over the years. But their music, no matter how old it is, seems to resonate. So, that’s what I want to be. I want to be a rock star that no matter how old I am, I’m still resonating with the industry.
Scott Luton (43:41):
I love that. And then, I’m going to ask you how folks can connect with you in a minute, but, you know, The Rolling Stones are on their next tour. It’s amazing. I just saw a commercial for it. And, I didn’t realize that a little or maybe the big rivalry and war of words they’ve had with the Badal or I guess the lead singer of Stones, Mick Jagger, and Paul McCartney. They’re still exchanging some things. But, anyway, Dan –
Dan Reeve (44:06):
I was going to say Jagger ’cause anybody who can party like Jagger for like – the best part of ’40s, ’50s [inaudible] still be alive. And, you seems to have a – you know, you seem to – you figured a few things out, I guess.
Kevin L. Jackson (44:16):
Figure it out. Yeah.
Scott Luton (44:18):
Hey, this conversation is coming full circle. We’ve had some travel, we’ve had some food, we’ve had some sports, we’ve had some transformation, and now we’re having some rock and roll. So, two questions for you, Dan. First off, what rock and roll star would you be? And then, let’s make sure folks know how to connect with you.
Dan Reeve (44:33):
Hi, I’m torn. You know, it’s either Bano, ’cause, you know, the little travel and an influence he has. Well, I think Jagger because Jagger’s clearly had a good time and enjoying. He’s still around. You know, he’s still doing it at the highest level, so maybe Jagger.
Scott Luton (44:47):
It’s remarkable, truly remarkable. Okay. So, it’s good to have and maintain a good, healthy sense of humor as we’re fighting through some of the challenges of this time, some of the most important aspects impacting global business. So, let’s make sure – Dan, you know, we’ve enjoyed several conversations we’ve had with you and the Esker team, the work you are doing out in industry as we’re making progress through this digital transformation, or really, Kevin, as we’ve talked about it is business transformation era that we’re getting through. Right? Dan, how can folks connect with you?
Dan Reeve (45:20):
firstname.lastname@example.org. They could just hit me at the Esker website, esker.com, or my number is 608-8286-135. You’ll find me on LinkedIn as well.
Scott Luton (45:29):
Man, that’s brave. That is brave.
Kevin L. Jackson (45:33):
Brave. Yeah. Telephone number. Well, I’ll never get my telephone number.
Scott Luton (45:36):
I love it. Hey, he’s bold and fearless, Kevin. That’s what we’ve learned about Dan Reeve, and, you know, by the way, y’all put out a great podcast and other thought leadership via digital content. So, look for that out there. Before we wrap up, Kevin, we’ll make sure folks know how to connect with you as well.
Kevin L. Jackson (45:53):
Yeah. So, on Twitter, Kevin_Jackson. I’m also on LinkedIn, but the best way is through Digital Transformers, my show here on Supply Chain Now. So, I’ll tell you, this has been an awesome time and, Dan, thank you for your time and perspective. You know, we’re going to have to bring you back because we seem to be out of time, but there’s just so much we could talk about. We didn’t even get to your hunting trip. So, I guess we’ll have to get you back on the docket, so –
Scott Luton (46:32):
Okay. We’re going to make sure we double down on the wildlife component on the next show with Dan, Kevin. How’s that sound?
Kevin L. Jackson (46:38):
Dan Reeve (46:39):
That puts pressure on. That puts a pressure on. But I got to be successful next time. Yeah.
Kevin L. Jackson (46:45):
So, also, I want to type the audience for – because without you, we wouldn’t be successful. So, I like to invite everyone to check out the wide variety of industry thought leadership that we provide through supplychainnow.com. You can find Digital Transformers now and wherever you get your podcasts. So, please be sure to subscribe. And, on behalf of the entire team here at Supply Chain Now, this is Kevin Jackson and Scott Luton wishing all of our listeners a bright and transformational future. We’ll see you next time on Digital Transformers.
Scott Luton (47:27):
Thanks for being a part of our Supply Chain Now Community. Check out all of our programming at supplychainnow.com and make sure you subscribe to Supply Chain Now anywhere you listen to podcasts and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. See you next time on Supply Chain Now.
Dan Reeve is a Sales Director, approaching 22 years with Esker. Dan works to help companies free up front-line troops to be finance and customer service rockstars through the application of machine learning and AI.
Dan was fortunate to serve 10 years as a Combat Engineer in the British Army, then was attached to the Wisconsin Army National Guard. He traveled the world, served alongside Americans and many others, and learned everyone has a good idea, every Army unit thinks they are better, and what can you learn and apply so that you are indeed better prepared and more professional next time.
Dan’s career highlights include getting paid to represent the Royal Engineers in Army shooting competitions, being selected to Army Mountaineering expeditions (climbing Mountains, getting paid, seeing the world, and having a good time with the locals in Nepal, India, Scotland, Wales, France, Spain). Connect with Dan on LinkedIn.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Adrian Purtill serves as Business Development Manager at Vector Global Logistics, where he consults with importers and exporters in various industries to match their specific shipping requirements with the most effective supply chain solutions. Vector Global Logistics is an asset-free, multi-modal logistics company that provides exceptional sea freight, air freight, truck, rail, general logistic services and consulting for our clients. Our highly trained and professional team is committed to providing creative and effective solutions, always exceeding our customer’s expectations and fostering long-term relationships. With more than 20+ years of experience in both strategy consulting and logistics, Vector Global Logistics is your best choice to proactively minimize costs while having an exceptional service level.
Joshua is a student from Institute of Technology and Higher Education of Monterrey Campus Guadalajara in Communication and Digital Media. His experience ranges from Plug and Play México, DearDoc, and Nissan México creating unique social media marketing campaigns and graphics design. Joshua helps to amplify the voice of supply chain here at Supply Chain Now by assisting in graphic design, content creation, asset logistics, and more. In his free time he likes to read and write short stories as well as watch movies and television series.
Director of Communications and Executive Producer
Donna Krache is a former CNN executive producer who has won several awards in journalism and communication, including three Peabodys. She has 30 years’ experience in broadcast and digital journalism. She led the first production team at CNN to convert its show to a digital platform. She has authored many articles for CNN and other media outlets. She taught digital journalism at Georgia State University and Arizona State University. Krache holds a bachelor’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Orleans. She is a serious sports fan who loves the Braves. She is president of the Dave Krache Foundation. Named in honor of her late husband, this non-profit pays fees for kids who want to play sports but whose parents are facing economic challenges.
Vicki has a long history of rising to challenges and keeping things up and running. First, she supported her family’s multi-million dollar business as controller for 12 years, beginning at the age of 17. Then, she worked as an office manager and controller for a wholesale food broker. But her biggest feat? Serving as the chief executive officer of her household, while her entrepreneur husband travelled the world extensively. She fed, nurtured, chaperoned, and chauffeured three daughters all while running a newsletter publishing business and remaining active in her community as a Stephen’s Minister, Sunday school teacher, school volunteer, licensed realtor and POA Board president (a title she holds to this day). A force to be reckoned with in the office, you might think twice before you meet Vicki on the tennis court! When she’s not keeping the books balanced at Supply Chain Now or playing tennis matches, you can find Vicki spending time with her husband Greg, her 4 fur babies, gardening, cleaning (yes, she loves to clean!) and learning new things.
Founder, CEO, & Host
As the founder and CEO of Supply Chain Now, you might say Scott is the voice of supply chain – but he’s too much of a team player to ever claim such a title. One thing’s for sure: he’s a tried and true supply chain expert. With over 15 years of experience in the end-to-end supply chain, Scott’s insights have appeared in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and CNN. He has also been named a top industry influencer by Thinkers360, ISCEA and more.
From 2009-2011, Scott was president of APICS Atlanta, and he continues to lead initiatives that support both the local business community and global industry. A United States Air Force Veteran, Scott has also regularly led efforts to give back to his fellow veteran community since his departure from active duty in 2002.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Allison Krache Giddens has been with Win-Tech, a veteran-owned small business and aerospace precision machine shop, for 15 years, recently buying the company from her mentor and Win-Tech’s Founder, Dennis Winslow. She and her business partner, John Hudson now serve as Co-Presidents, leading the 33-year old company through the pandemic.
She holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of Georgia, a Masters in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, a Masters in Manufacturing from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Certificate of Finance from the University of Georgia. She also holds certificates in Google Analytics, event planning, and Cybersecurity Risk Management from Harvard online. Allison founded the Georgia Chapter of Women in Manufacturing and currently serves as Treasurer. She serves on the Chattahoochee Technical College Foundation Board as its Secretary, the liveSAFE Resources Board of Directors as Resource Development Co-Chair, and on the Leadership Cobb Alumni Association Board as Membership Chair and is also a member of Cobb Executive Women. She is on the Board for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Northwest Area Councils. Allison runs The Dave Krache Foundation, a non-profit that helps pay sports fees for local kids in need.
Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain Now and TECHquila Sunrise
When rapid-growth technology companies, venture capital and private equity firms are looking for advisory, they call Greg – a founder, board director, advisor and catalyst of disruptive B2B technology and supply chain. An insightful visionary, Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams in creating breakthroughs to gain market exposure and momentum – increasing overall company esteem and valuation.
Greg is a founder himself, creating Blue Ridge Solutions, a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader in cloud-native supply chain applications, and bringing to market Curo, a field service management solution. He has also held leadership roles with Servigistics (PTC) and E3 Corporation (JDA/Blue Yonder). As a principal and host at Supply Chain Now, Greg helps guide the company’s strategic direction, hosts industry leader discussions, community livestreams, and all in addition to executive producing and hosting his original YouTube channel and podcast, TEChquila Sunrise.
Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain is Boring
Talk about world-class: Chris is one of the few professionals in the world to hold CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS. He’s also the APICS coach – and our resident Supply Chain Doctor. When he’s not hosting programs with Supply Chain Now, he’s sharing supply chain knowledge on the APICS Coach Youtube channel or serving as a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistic Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) program and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education courses.
Chris earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University, an MBA with emphasis in Industrial Psychology from the University of West Florida, and is a Doctoral in Supply Chain Management candidate.
Director of Sales
Tyler Ward serves as Supply Chain Now's Director of Sales. Born and raised in Mid-Atlantic, Tyler is a proud graduate of Shippensburg University where he earned his degree in Communications. After college, he made his way to the beautiful state of Oregon, where he now lives with his wife and daughter.
With over a decade of experience in sales, Tyler has a proven track record of exceeding targets and leading high-performing teams. He credits his success to his ability to communicate effectively with customers and team members alike, as well as his strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.
When he's not closing deals, you can find Tyler on the links or cheering on his favorite football and basketball teams. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing pick-up basketball, and traveling back to Ocean City, Maryland, his favorite place!
Host of Digital Transformers
Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized Thought Leader, Industry Influencer and Founder/Author of the award winning “Cloud Musings” blog. He has also been recognized as a “Top 5G Influencer” (Onalytica 2019, Radar 2020), a “Top 50 Global Digital Transformation Thought Leader” (Thinkers 360 2019) and provides strategic consulting and integrated social media services to AT&T, Intel, Broadcom, Ericsson and other leading companies. Mr. Jackson’s commercial experience includes Vice President J.P. Morgan Chase, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and SAIC (Engility) Director Cloud Solutions. He has served on teams that have supported digital transformation projects for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US Intelligence Community. Kevin’s formal education includes a MS Computer Engineering from Naval Postgraduate School; MA National Security & Strategic Studies from Naval War College; and a BS Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy. Internationally recognizable firms that have sponsored articles authored by him include Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix and IBM. Books include “Click to Transform” (Leaders Press, 2020), “Architecting Cloud Computing Solutions” (Packt, 2018), and “Practical Cloud Security: A Cross Industry View” (Taylor & Francis, 2016). He also delivers online training through Tulane University, O’Reilly Media, LinkedIn Learning, and Pluralsight. Mr. Jackson retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994, earning specialties in Space Systems Engineering, Carrier Onboard Delivery Logistics and carrier-based Airborne Early Warning and Control. While active, he also served with the National Reconnaissance Office, Operational Support Office, providing tactical support to Navy and Marine Corps forces worldwide.
Host of Logistics with Purpose and Supply Chain Now en Español
Enrique serves as Managing Director at Vector Global Logistics and believes we all have a personal responsibility to change the world. He is hard working, relationship minded and pro-active. Enrique trusts that the key to logistics is having a good and responsible team that truly partners with the clients and does whatever is necessary to see them succeed. He is a proud sponsor of Vector’s unique results-based work environment and before venturing into logistics he worked for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). During his time at BCG, he worked in different industries such as Telecommunications, Energy, Industrial Goods, Building Materials, and Private Banking. His main focus was always on the operations, sales, and supply chain processes, with case focus on, logistics, growth strategy, and cost reduction. Prior to joining BCG, Enrique worked for Grupo Vitro, a Mexican glass manufacturer, for five years holding different positions from sales and logistics manager to supply chain project leader in charge of five warehouses in Colombia.
He has an MBA from The Wharton School of Business and a BS, in Mechanical Engineer from the Technologico de Monterrey in Mexico. Enrique’s passions are soccer and the ocean, and he also enjoys traveling, getting to know new people, and spending time with his wife and two kids, Emma and Enrique.
Host of Dial P for Procurement
Kelly is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point and MyPurchasingCenter. She has been in procurement since 2003, starting as a practitioner and then as the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris. She has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point since 2009. Kelly is also the General Manager at Art of Procurement and Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and she has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals’, ‘Procurement at a Crossroads’, and ‘Finance Unleashed’.
Host, Veteran Voices
Mary Kate Soliva is a veteran of the US Army and cofounder of the Guam Human Rights Initiative. She is currently in the Doctor of Criminal Justice program at Saint Leo University. She is passionate about combating human trafficking and has spent the last decade conducting training for military personnel and the local community.
Jeff Miller is the host of Supply Chain Now’s Supply Chain is the Business. Jeff is a digital business transformation and supply chain advisor with deep expertise in Industry 4.0, ERP, PLM, SCM, IoT, AR and related technologies. Through more than 25 years of industry and consulting experience, he has worked with many of the world’s leading product and service companies to achieve their strategic business and supply chain goals, creating durable business value for organizations at the forefront of technology and business practices. Jeff is the managing director for North America at Transition Technologies PSC, a global solution integrator, and the founder and managing principal of BTV Advisors, a firm that helps companies secure business transformation value from digital supply chain technologies and their breakthrough capabilities.
Chief Marketing Officer
Amanda is a marketing veteran and entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience across a variety of industries and organizations including Von Maur, Anthropologie, AmericasMart Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In 2016, Amanda founded and grew the Magnolia Marketing Group into a successful digital media firm, and now she develops modern marketing strategies, social campaigns, innovative operational processes, and implements creative content initiatives for Supply Chain Now. But that’s just the beginning of her supply chain impact. Amanda also served as the VP of Information Systems and Webmaster on the Board of Directors for APICS Savannah for several years, and is the face behind the scenes welcoming you to every Supply Chain Now livestream! She was also recently selected as one of the Top 100 Women in Supply Chain by Supply Chain Digest and IBM. When she’s not leading the Supply Chain Now marketing team, you can find Amanda with her and her husband Scott’s three kids, in the kitchen cooking, or reading.
Business Development Manager
Clay is passionate about two things: supply chain and the marketing that goes into it. Recently graduated with a degree in marketing at the University of Georgia, Clay got his start as a journalism major and inaugural member of the Owl’s football team at Kennesaw State University – but quickly saw tremendous opportunity in the Terry College of Business. He’s already putting his education to great use at Supply Chain Now, assisting with everything from sales and brand strategy to media production. Clay has contributed to initiatives such as our leap into video production, the guest blog series, and boosting social media presence, and after nearly two years in Supply Chain Now’s Marketing Department, Clay now heads up partnership and sales initiatives with the help of the rest of the Supply Chain Now sales team.
Trisha is new to the supply chain industry – but not to podcasting. She’s an experienced podcast manager and virtual assistant who also happens to have 20 years of experience as an elementary school teacher. It’s safe to say, she’s passionate about helping people, and she lives out that passion every day with the Supply Chain Now team, contributing to scheduling and podcast production.
Host of Dial P for Procurement
Billy Taylor is a Proven Business Excellence Practitioner and Leadership Guru with over 25 years leading operations for a Fortune 500 company, Goodyear. He is also the CEO of LinkedXL (Excellence), a Business Operating Systems Architecting Firm dedicated to implementing sustainable operating systems that drive sustainable results. Taylor’s achievements in the industry have made him a Next Generational Lean pacesetter with significant contributions.
An American business executive, Taylor has made a name for himself as an innovative and energetic industry professional with an indispensable passion for his craft of operational excellence. His journey started many years ago and has worked with renowned corporations such as The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (GT) leading multi-site operations. With over 3 decades of service leading North America operations, he is experienced in a deeply rooted process driven approach in customer service, process integrity for sustainability.
A disciple of continuous improvement, Taylor’s love for people inspires commitment to helping others achieve their full potential. He is a dynamic speaker and hosts "The Winning Link," a popular podcast centered on business and leadership excellence with the #1 rated Supply Chain Now Network. As a leadership guru, Taylor has earned several invitations to universities, international conferences, global publications, and the U.S. Army to demonstrate how to achieve and sustain effective results through cultural acceptance and employee ownership. Leveraging the wisdom of his business acumen, strong influence as a speaker and podcaster Taylor is set to release "The Winning Link" book under McGraw Hill publishing in 2022. The book is a how-to manual to help readers understand the management of business interactions while teaching them how to Deine, Align, and Execute Winning in Business.
A servant leader, Taylor, was named by The National Diversity Council as one of the Top 100 Diversity Officers in the country in 2021. He features among Oklahoma's Most Admired CEOs and maintains key leadership roles with the Executive Advisory Board for The Shingo Institute "The Nobel Prize of Operations" and The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME); two world-leading organizations for operational excellence, business development, and cultural learning. He is also an Independent Director for the M-D Building Products Board, a proud American manufacturer of quality products since 1920.
Social Media Manager
My name is Chantel King and I am the Social Media Specialist at Supply Chain Now. My job is to make sure our audience is engaged and educated on the abundant amount of information the supply chain industry has to offer.
Social Media and Communications has been my niche ever since I graduated from college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. No, I am not a West Coast girl. I was born and raised in New Jersey, but my travel experience goes way beyond the garden state. My true passion is in creating editorial and graphic content that influences others to be great in whatever industry they are in. I’ve done this by working with lifestyle, financial, and editorial companies by providing resources to enhance their businesses.
Another passion of mine is trying new things. Whether it’s food, an activity, or a sport. I would like to say that I am an adventurous Taurus that never shies away from a new quest or challenge.
Lori is currently completing a degree in marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing at the University of Georgia. When she’s not supporting the marketing efforts at Supply Chain Now, you can find her at music festivals – or working toward her dream goal of a fashion career. Lori is involved in many extracurricular activities and appreciates all the learning experiences UGA has brought her.
Sales and Marketing Coordinator
Katherine is a marketing professional and MBA candidate who strives to unite her love of people with a passion for positive experiences. Having a diverse background, which includes nonprofit work with digital marketing and start-ups, she serves as a leader who helps people live their most creative lives by cultivating community, order, collaboration, and respect. With equal parts creativity and analytics, she brings a unique skill set which fosters refining, problem solving, and connecting organizations with their true vision. In her free time, you can usually find her looking for her cup of coffee, playing with her puppy Charlie, and dreaming of her next road trip.
Ben Harris is the Director of Supply Chain Ecosystem Expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Ben comes to the Metro Atlanta Chamber after serving as Senior Manager, Market Development for Manhattan Associates. There, Ben was responsible for developing Manhattan’s sales pipeline and overall Americas supply chain marketing strategy. Ben oversaw market positioning, messaging and campaign execution to build awareness and drive new pipeline growth. Prior to joining Manhattan, Ben spent four years with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Logistics where he played a key role in establishing the Center as a go-to industry resource for information, support, partnership building, and investment development. Additionally, he became a key SME for all logistics and supply chain-focused projects. Ben began his career at Page International, Inc. where he drove continuous improvement in complex global supply chain operations for a wide variety of businesses and Fortune 500 companies. An APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), Ben holds an Executive Master’s degree in Business Administration (EMBA) and bachelor’s degree in International Business (BBA) from the Terry College at the University of Georgia.
Host, The Freight Insider
Prior to joining TeamOne Logistics, Page Siplon served as the Executive Director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, the State’s leading consulting resource for fueling logistics industry growth and global competitiveness. For over a decade, he directly assisted hundreds of companies to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities related to the movement of freight. During this time, Siplon was also appointed to concurrently serve the State of Georgia as Director of the larger Centers of Innovation Program, in which he provided executive leadership and vision for all six strategic industry-focused Centers. As a frequently requested keynote speaker, Siplon is called upon to address a range of audiences on unique aspects of technology, workforce, and logistics. This often includes topics of global and domestic logistics trends, supply chain visibility, collaboration, and strategic planning. He has also been quoted as an industry expert in publications such as Forbes, Journal of Commerce, Fortune, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, American Express, DC Velocity, Area Development Magazine, Site Selection Magazine, Inbound Logistics, Modern Material Handling, and is frequently a live special guest on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Radio Show. Siplon is an active industry participant, recognized by DC Velocity Magazine as a “2012 Logistics Rainmaker” which annually identifies the top-ten logistics professionals in the Nation; and named a “Pro to Know” by Supply & Demand Executive Magazine in 2014. Siplon was also selected by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Georgians” for 2013, 2014, and 2015. He also serves various industry leadership roles at both the State and Federal level. Governor Nathan Deal nominated Siplon to represent Georgia on a National Supply Chain Competitiveness Advisory Committee, where he was appointed to a two-year term by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and was then appointed to serve as its vice-chairman. At the State level, he was selected by then-Governor Sonny Perdue to serve as lead consultant on the Commission for New Georgia’s Freight and Logistics Task Force. In this effort, Siplon led a Private Sector Advisory Committee with invited executives from a range of private sector stakeholders including UPS, Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Georgia Pacific, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Siplon honorably served a combined 12 years in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force. During this time, he led the integration of encryption techniques and deployed cryptographic devices for tactically secure voice and data platforms in critical ground-to-air communication systems. This service included support for all branches of the Department of Defense, multiple federal security agencies, and aiding NASA with multiple Space Shuttle launches. Originally from New York, Siplon received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering with a focus on digital signal processing from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned an associate’s degree in advanced electronic systems from the Air Force College and completed multiple military leadership academies in both the Marines and Air Force. Siplon currently lives in Cumming, Georgia (north of Atlanta), with his wife Jan, and two children Thomas (19) and Lily (15).
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Kristi Porter is VP of Sales and Marketing at Vector Global Logistics, a company that is changing the world through supply chain. In her role, she oversees all marketing efforts and supports the sales team in doing what they do best. In addition to this role, she is the Chief Do-Gooder at Signify, which assists nonprofits and social impact companies through copywriting and marketing strategy consulting. She has almost 20 years of professional experience, and loves every opportunity to help people do more good.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Kevin Brown is the Director of Business Development for Vector Global Logistics. He has a dedicated interest in Major Account Management, Enterprise Sales, and Corporate Leadership. He offers 25 years of exceptional experience and superior performance in the sales of Logistics, Supply Chain, and Transportation Management. Kevin is a dynamic, high-impact, sales executive and corporate leader who has consistently exceeded corporate goals. He effectively coordinates multiple resources to solution sell large complex opportunities while focusing on corporate level contacts across the enterprise. His specialties include targeting and securing key accounts by analyzing customer’s current business processes and developing solutions to meet their corporate goals. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.
Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol
Sofia Rivas Herrera is a Mexican Industrial Engineer from Tecnologico de Monterrey class 2019. Upon graduation, she earned a scholarship to study MIT’s Graduate Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and graduated as one of the Top 3 performers of her class in 2020. She also has a multicultural background due to her international academic experiences at Singapore Management University and Kühne Logistics University in Hamburg. Sofia self-identifies as a Supply Chain enthusiast & ambassador sharing her passion for the field in her daily life.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Jose Manuel Irarrazaval es parte del equipo de Vector Global Logistics Chile. José Manuel es un gerente experimentado con experiencia en finanzas corporativas, fusiones y adquisiciones, financiamiento y reestructuración, inversión directa y financiera, tanto en Chile como en el exterior. José Manuel tiene su MBA de la Universidad de Pennsylvania- The Wharton School. Conéctese con Jose Manuel en LinkedIn.
Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol
Demo Perez started his career in 1997 in the industry by chance when a relative asked him for help for two just weeks putting together an operation for FedEx Express at the Colon Free Zone, an area where he was never been but accepted the challenge. Worked in all roles possible from a truck driver to currier to a sales representative, helped the brand introduction, market share growth and recognition in the Colon Free Zone, at the end of 1999 had the chance to meet and have a chat with Fred Smith ( FedEx CEO), joined another company in 2018 who took over the FedEx operations as Operations and sales manager, in 2004 accepted the challenge from his company to leave the FedEx operations and business to take over the operation and business of DHL Express, his major competitor and rival so couldn’t say no, by changing completely its operation model in the Free Zone. In 2005 started his first entrepreneurial journey by quitting his job and joining two friends to start a Freight Forwarding company. After 8 months was recruited back by his company LSP with the General Manager role with the challenge of growing the company and make it fully capable warehousing 3PL. By 2009 joined CSCMP and WERC and started his journey of learning and growing his international network and high-level learning. In 2012 for the first time joined a local association ( the Panama Maritime Chamber) and worked in the country’s first Logistics Strategy plan, joined and lead other associations ending as president of the Panama Logistics Council in 2017. By finishing his professional mission at LSP with a company that was 8 times the size it was when accepted the role as GM with so many jobs generated and several young professionals coached, having great financial results, took the decision to move forward and start his own business from scratch by the end of 2019. with a friend and colleague co-founded IPL Group a company that started as a boutique 3PL and now is gearing up for the post-Covid era by moving to the big leagues.
Host, Supply Chain Now
The founder of Logistics Executive Group, Kim Winter delivers 40 years of executive leadership experience spanning Executive Search & Recruitment, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Advisory, Motivational Speaking, Trade Facilitation and across the Supply Chain, Logistics, 3PL, E-commerce, Life Science, Cold Chain, FMCG, Retail, Maritime, Defence, Aviation, Resources, and Industrial sectors. Operating from the company’s global offices, he is a regular contributor of thought leadership to industry and media, is a professional Master of Ceremonies, and is frequently invited to chair international events.
He is a Board member of over a dozen companies throughout APAC, India, and the Middle East, a New Zealand citizen, he holds formal resident status in Australia and the UAE, and is the Australia & New Zealand representative for the UAE Government-owned Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), the Middle East’s largest Economic Free Zone.
A triathlete and ex-professional rugby player, Kim is a qualified (IECL Sydney) executive coach and the Founder / Chairman of the successful not for profit humanitarian organization, Oasis Africa (www. oasisafrica.org.au), which has provided freedom from poverty through education to over 8000 mainly orphaned children in East Africa’s slums. Kim holds an MBA and BA from Massey & Victoria Universities (NZ).
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Nick Roemer has had a very diverse and extensive career within design and sales over the last 15 years stretching from China, Dubai, Germany, Holland, UK, and the USA. In the last 5 years, Nick has developed a hawk's eye for sustainable tech and the human-centric marketing and sales procedures that come with it. With his far-reaching and strong network within the logistics industry, Nick has been able to open new avenues and routes to market within major industries in the USA and the UAE. Nick lives by the ethos, “Give more than you take." His professional mission is to make the logistics industry leaner, cleaner and greener.
Sales Support Intern
Alex is pursuing a Marketing degree and a Certificate in Legal Studies at the University of Georgia. As a dual citizen of both the US and UK; Alex has studied abroad at University College London and is passionate about travel and international business. Through her coursework at the Terry College of Business, Alex has gained valuable skills in digital marketing, analytics, and professional selling. She joined Supply Chain Now as a Sales Support Intern where she assists the team by prospecting and qualifying new business partners.