Supply Chain Now Episode 476

“You can no longer be only focused on the four walls of your organization; but how do you bring in all of the different demands signals: IOT, POS, etc.”

Alex Pradhan, Product Strategy Leader and Member of the Executive Leadership team at John Galt Solutions

 

Although companies have been trying to improve their demand forecasting and planning for years, it is still an inexact science. A better approach is now emerging – one that does not try to look into the future, but instead uses technology to connect demand and inventory in real time.

Alex Pradhan is the Product Strategy Leader and a Member of the Executive Leadership team at John Galt Solutions. With her background as a supply chain analyst, she is working with a number of companies who are innovating to push the boundaries of point-of-sale fulfillment and efficiency.

In this conversation, Alex comments on the following to Supply Chain Now Co-hosts Greg White and Scott Luton:

  • The opportunity represented by demand planning, replenishment planning, supply planning, production/sales and operations planning when they are powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence
  • How connected devices and sensors are being connected via the IoT to automate point-of-sale inventory replenishment
  • How consumer shopping habits are changing as a result of COVID-19, and what that means for companies that have not participated in eCommerce in the past

Intro (00:05):

It’s time for supply chain. Now broadcasting live from the supply chain capital of the country. Atlanta, Georgia heard around the world, supply chain. Now spotlights the best in all things, supply chain, the people, the technologies, the best practices and the critical issues of the day. And now here are your hosts.

Scott Luton (00:28):

Hey, good morning, Scott, Luke and Greg white with supply chain now, welcome to today’s show Greg, how are you doing? I’m doing great. How are you doing? And fantastic. And you know, this show has been in the works for awhile. We’re going to be chatting with the business leader from a company that’s helping organizations make better and faster planning decisions these days and challenging years like 2020. So Greg, you know, we’re going to be working really hard to improve our listener supply chain IQ, right, indeed. And you know, this is one of my favorite topics, so I’m really looking forward to this. It can planning beautiful planning music here today. So stay tuned more to come where you can have that made planning music. It’s a thing. Quick plan. Buy more to come on our guests in just a minute, but quick programming. Hey, if you enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to check us out wherever you get your podcasts from. You’re going to want to subscribe. So you don’t miss conversations just like this. So with no further ado, let’s welcome in our featured guests here today. Alex prod Hahn product strategy leader with John Galt solutions, Alex. Good afternoon.

Alex Pradhan (01:39):

Hi everyone. Good afternoon. Hi Scott. Hi Greg. Nice to be on the show. Thank you for having me

Scott Luton (01:44):

Great to have you here. Absolutely. We’ve really enjoyed, uh, kind of the pre show conversations. Learn more about your background and obviously the organization. And we’re excited to share that with our audience, but you know, Greg, we’re going to start, or we typically do. We’re going to dive into business and a lot about planning, but for starters, let’s get to know outs a little bit better. So Alex tell us, you know, where are you from? And, and you got to give us an anecdote or two about your upbringing. Yeah,

Alex Pradhan (02:10):

Sure. Uh, well I currently reside in Miami, Florida here in the U S but I actually, uh, grew up in Mexico city. So this is, uh, I guess a fun fact, most people don’t know. So my background, I was very fortunate to have a, um, you know, being Merced both from a cultural perspective, the language. Um, and so that’s just a little bit about myself from my background perspective. Um, I think in terms of something about my upbringing coming from Mexico city, one of the big things for myself and my family every year as annually, we would take this really big vacation to Orlando. And as part of this family vacation, just bear with me, cause I’m going somewhere with this story. It was, my mom would rent out a car and we would go through the automated carwash, uh, machine, which was, you know, at the time it was to me, absolutely fascinating. Um, to see, you know, the, the machines, you know, scrubbing the cars down the bubbles, the fans, the water. And I was just in awe as a young girl. Right. I, you know, you just don’t see those things, uh, in Mexico. And I remembered to me that just sparked my curiosity for technology, for innovation, for automation. So, um, that’s just, um, a little bit about my background.

Scott Luton (03:30):

Love it. And that is really cool. Well, you know, we’ve been in, we’ve been in some here recently where they’ve added because probably it’s so appealing, especially kids they’ve added fluorescent lighting and it adds like a disco element to the carwash. So maybe my kids will be as inspired as, as you were Alex and multicolored soap. I can’t lie. I sometimes just pay for the more expensive car wash just to get the cool colors that is right. Hey, it’s the simple things in life. Hey, one more question. Before we dive into your professional journey, a bit Alex, as you know, growing up in a great city, iconic world city, like Mexico city, what, what is, and then, and now living in Miami, what’s the one food dish that you can’t, you just can’t quite get as it was growing up. What would that be?

Alex Pradhan (04:19):

So it’s called, um, [inaudible] um, and what it is is if you can almost imagine a thick tortilla made out of green corn, that they, um, it’s very similar to PETA where they open it up and they put inside refried beans, cream, sour, cream, and cheese, and it is just, it melts in your mouth. It’s delicious. Um, so you, you really can’t find that anywhere, not, not in your local local Chipotle or taco bell, but highly suggest that if you ever make your way down there.

Scott Luton (04:52):

So, so it sounds delicious. Um, all right, so Greg, I could easily, we could, we could follow that topic down for the next couple of hours, problem hungry, but let’s, let’s dive into Alex’s background a little bit more. Yeah. Yeah. So we learned a little bit about you as a kid. So tell us a little bit about your fascinating professional history. I think people are going to be interested in kind of how you got to where you are.

Alex Pradhan (05:18):

Yeah, sure. Um, well, before joining John Galt solution, I was at Gartner, uh, as a senior principal research analyst covering supply chain planning technology. And before that, I was, uh, leading demand planning for a company called, uh, IPC it’s, uh, a purchasing cooperative, the supply chain arm for subway here in North America. Uh, and in that role, I was helping, uh, look at, for example, uh, promotions test concepts. And you limited time offers for all the stores in North America. There’s about 27,000 stores and about 63 distribution.

Scott Luton (05:56):

Wow.

Greg White (05:58):

IPC, that sounds familiar. Um, so that, that was supplies for all of the franchise ease,

Alex Pradhan (06:09):

Correct? Yep, absolutely. Yeah, it looked, we looked at all of the items, if you want to think about all of the products, be it from the raw materials, right. Tomatoes, lettuce to equipment, to promotional items like, um, kitty cups or the toys that you will buy whenever you’re buying a, I don’t want to call it a happy meal, but the equivalent of a happy meal at subway

Greg White (06:34):

Or the bags that, those amazing chocolate chip cookies come in.

Alex Pradhan (06:37):

Exactly. Yes, yes, yes.

Greg White (06:41):

Yeah. Okay, great. Um, so as you, as you’ve gone through your career, anything in particular or anyone in particular that you feel like has really kind of helped shape your worldview or given you a Eureka or pivotal moment?

Alex Pradhan (06:57):

Yeah. Um, so, so maybe I’ll start off with, uh, my, my job when I was at, uh, IPC for subway. Let me take a step back there. I think one of the things that was great working there was, it gave me the opportunity to get my hands dirty, wearing a lot of different hats in the supply chain and really understanding a lot of the interdependencies, uh, and to, and so understanding, for example, how marketing promotions would influence demand. Um, I go back to, we had a promotion at the time was called the chicken enchilada. So what it was was a margin, barbecue chicken with Fritos in a sub. And so it was supposed to be a promotion that would last about three months or so, but, um, it went gangbusters and we ended up, uh, basically depleting all of our inventory in a matter of weeks.

Alex Pradhan (07:47):

And what was really interesting was that was, um, one of the ways right that we learned. And not that we hadn’t done that before, but understanding all of the different moving parts. So now to go ahead and replenish, I need to go ahead and source the chicken, understand what are those lead times from production into the distribution center, even the raw materials say for the barbecue sauce, if there is a proprietary recipe, what are those raw materials? What is the shelf life for that in different stages of production for raw materials to semi-state to finish goods or even looking at, for example, uh, the consumption rate might be different, right? So you might have different ratio of Fritos to the chicken. So that just gave me a really good appreciation for that ripple effect that you will see an all these different moving parts in the supply chain.

Alex Pradhan (08:35):

Um, and my more recent role at Gartner. Um, I guess when I think about that you Rica moment, um, one of the things I think about in terms of the role is kind of similar to a doctor. So what I mean by that is when you go to a doctor, right, you say, Oh, you know, something hurts or I need help. Uh, so would help advise clients in terms of how to look at what are their business needs and map them to technology roadmap. Many times it would come with a question or problem. And so it would help prescribe them that solution. But it’s really not just about technology. It’s really kind of broader it’s your technology is only going to be as good as the processes you have in place. So going back to the knowledge of a doctor, um, you know, it, it’s a lifestyle choice, right? So you have to eat good, you have to exercise, and it’s not just a prescription technology, it’s just not going to be the end, all solve all. So, um, I, I would say that it’s being able to look at all of those different areas to ensure that it’s not just a conversation about technology.

Greg White (09:39):

That’s a really fantastic insight. I call that the technology paradox. People think you plug it in your world changes, right? And in truth technology is usually just a more rapid expression of however you do your business today. And, and it can, and often does take over an aspect of the business and make that more efficient, or even change the process to be more effective. But it’s not, as you said, it’s not the end all be all. You have to understand the dynamics of the, of the enterprise that surround that and be ready to adapt those as well.

Alex Pradhan (10:20):

No, you’re absolutely right. Um, I there’s that careful orchestration that you need to have between, um, many people refer to it as three main areas, but I go down to four. So you have the people, the process, the data and the technology, uh, you know, back in my role at Gartner, I would see many companies, uh, starting off on their journey or maybe midway through their journey coming out of Excel spreadsheets. And they wouldn’t necessarily focus on the foundational stuff first, which becomes really, really important. So the trying to leapfrog do maybe more advanced capabilities, but you know, you, you really need to go ahead and focus on each one of those different pillars to ensure that there’s that orchestration or that transformation of the business. Um, so then that’s something I think that’s a lot harder to do then, you know, write a check and buy technology, right?

Greg White (11:11):

I’m changing my lexicon right now because I’m certainly one of those folks that immediately talk about and go to people, process technology. But that data pillar, especially in this day and age, you can’t, you can’t leave it out. And I love that, that, um, that intentional call out there. So you, you just changed my life, Alex, did you know that you’ve just changed my identity? He’s going to have to use that as a pivotal moment at next time he gets interviewed. Um, okay. And I have to acknowledge one thing that I think I have seen people conduct this process in subway stores that I think is absolute brilliance. And I don’t know, I don’t know if subway led the way or followed their on this, but I worked near a subway and I would occasionally go get lunch early or breakfast late or whatever. What I saw that I just felt was absolutely brilliant was people like people in the construction trade, they would go in and buy their breakfast and their lunch at subway and take it away.

Greg White (12:13):

I know that sounds crazy. But if you think about it, but there’s a, there is a certain, expeditiousness a certain efficiency and, and brilliance in that for me, I just thought what a great idea to be able to buy your breakfast and lunch at a place where your lunch is still fresh when it’s time. Right. Save all those footsteps. Well, yeah. And I mean, it’s not like you can go buy a Whopper and wait for hours to eat it. Right. It’s different with a sub sandwich. So I don’t know. I know I, sometimes I sometimes fall in love with really, really simple things, Alex. So, uh, alright. So let’s talk about what you are doing say now that we’ve gone through subway and its service to the world in Gartner and it’s service to technology and retail and distribution manufacturing. Let’s talk about what you’re doing these days at, at John Galt. So your title is product strategy leader, sometimes title doesn’t exactly. Describe or completely describe what someone does. So tell us a little bit about a day in the life.

Alex Pradhan (13:21):

Yeah, yeah, sure. So, um, I’m very excited to be working at John Galt solutions with a phenomenal team, uh, to help basically solve customer’s problems. Uh, we’re, we’re a great team. We’re a lot of fun and having a really cool jobs and you’re right. Sometimes the title is what exactly do you do? So, so what I do is I work very closely with the team here at John Galt solutions, be it either, um, from the research and development side to the services side that help, um, implement all of our customers, sales and marketing, as well as our customers and work very closely with all of these different groups of people to understand, you know, what do they need, not just today, but also into the future as well and how we can respond faster to a lot of these market, uh, changes. So when I think back to, uh, you know, for example, what, what is that common denominator right across, uh, all the different team members at our company, it’s this idea of, we all love to solve problems, right? It’s um, everyone is a problem solver. So this applies, I think, to not just our customers, but also to everyone in our organization. That’s a little bit in terms of what I guess is a day in the life of, of what I do.

Greg White (14:40):

Thank you. That’s good. I mean, you’re basically helping to define what the tech or what the cumulative solution, not just the tech, but the cumulative solution needs to solve in marketplace today and that. And so tell us a couple of things. One, the question that everyone is asking, who is John Galt, I looked at him, um, but I get, I totally get and love the reference there, but tell us a little bit about the kind of solutions that John Galt provides and, and you know, what segments of the supply chain you, you play in, because I think it’s really interesting how broad or how focused your technology is, but what a broad cross section of companies that you work with.

Alex Pradhan (15:25):

Yeah. So to answer the first question in terms of me specifically, what I will do is I will look at, um, all of our different customers and work with all of the different team members to understand, uh, you know, from a product roadmap development market trends, obviously competitive trends as well, and help to continue to improve the product on an ongoing iterative fashion in terms of the company, uh, we are supply chain planning, software company, uh, that serves customers across all industries. It’s really cross industry that are really facing a complex supply chain planning challenges. Um, so when you think about, you know, what, in terms of who we are right in our heart, and all that we do is we just focus on supply chain planning. Um, so some of the ways that we do this is through our solution. So for example, if you think about demand planning or replenishment planning, uh, supply planning, going into production and sales and operations planning, all powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence. So that is one of the ways that we support our customers. And then also in terms of, you know, when we look back at our DNA, we support also we do one of our core pillars is also innovation, and I can go into a little bit more detailed, but does that help to explain a little bit about [inaudible]?

Greg White (16:44):

Yeah. Yeah. I think it gives people a good perspective on, on what you do and where you fit, but, and your solution is used by retailers and manufacturers

Alex Pradhan (16:59):

And distributors as well.

Greg White (17:01):

So every tier in the supply chain uses it and they use it to plan their finished goods and, um, sourced any source materials that, that make up those finished goods as well. Correct?

Alex Pradhan (17:15):

Yeah, that’s correct. So if you want to think about it all the way from understanding, what is that production going from production into, uh, placing any type of orders? Where should I place my inventory? What is the right cadence in terms of the replenishment, uh, getting a good enough demand plan, the linking all of this together across different planning, horizons, and then also bringing in that financial component as well. So to your point, yes, absolutely. Kind of think about it end to end being able to link, align, and collaborate and orchestrate all of your different planning activities. Um, one of the things I think I also want to mention about the company is I talked a little bit of our core pillar is innovation. Uh, we have the John Galt innovation labs, which is our R and D engine. Think of it as it’s the heart of our innovation. And it also focuses on constantly exploring new, um, new ideas, challenging the norms are always working very closely with our partners to assess, you know, what are the things that they need to think about going into the future, whether we’re doing prototyping or looking at a testing out a new concept. So there’s a lot of really interesting work that that team also does as well.

Scott Luton (18:28):

Love it. I love challenge, you know, in a year like this out, our Guinea Tom, but certainly in 2020, challenging every single norm, we’ve all been caught across industry with some different blind spots that we weren’t, you know, they’re blind spots cause we don’t know they’re there. So they really surface in many ways this year. And I think another important thing to, you know, we’re all, we’re frequently wondering, how do you use AI? How do you use machine learning? This is a great example of how, because it’s a great opportunity to learn about the tendencies or the influences of the act act tours on the product, the customers that buy it and also on the environment in which it is moved or purchased, right? Because there are all kinds of constraints and scheduling limitations and things like that that AI can help a ton with discerning under what conditions could X product be late, right?

Scott Luton (19:28):

What makes a customer buy a, uh, and you mentioned discerning one of our favorite words here, that supplies say now, uh, and so important that, um, so Alex, you know, I appreciate kind of how you’ve set the table with what the organization does and the expertise there and what you’re doing out in industry. And of course, where you spend your time. I think our listeners are really gonna learn and benefit a lot more from this kind of this next segment. As you know, we love our top three top five lists and we may not have a perfect list here today, but with this next segment, the conversation we really want to pick your brain on what are your top three lessons learned from recent months, especially from a supply chain planning perspective, please share

Alex Pradhan (20:15):

One of her top focuses is, and I think this is not, uh, um, only for us, but it’s navigating, COVID-19 kind of this new, this new world that we’re in. Um, and the, one of the things that we’re seeing a lot in terms of me, those top lessons is the importance of demand planning, um, and taking that even a step further, really being able to bring in data, uh, from, uh, outside data signals to hope, get a more accurate view of that demand shorter in. And so just something that we’re seeing, um, is becoming even more important as no longer, you know, can you be only focused on the four walls of your organization, but how do you bring in all of these different demands signals, be it IOT, whether POS, um, and so on. So let me give you an example. One of our customers recently ready eyes, they’re one of the largest manufacturers of ice in the United States.

Alex Pradhan (21:12):

Uh, they added IOT sensors to the actual store ice box. So if you ever go into like a Walmart or seven 11, and I guess you would have to peek into the ice box and see if there’s a sensor in there, but they’re able to measure how full the ice box is throughout the day and record real time inventory levels at the store level. So it’s actually really cool what they’re doing. Um, and it’s really important for their business as that lets them forecast down to not only an hourly level, but also a store level. And so what they do for example, in that case is that they’ll combine the IOT sensors, the POS data that they’re getting, and we’re building machine learning models with them to get an extremely precise view in real time of how much inventory there is in these ice boxes, which further also helps them optimize their transportation drops. So this just gives you an idea of the kind of work that we’re doing, but what we’re seeing across in different industries in terms of this idea of data demand, signals, how important it is, especially in that shorter term horizon. And when you think about all the disruption that’s happening today with stores that are opening that are closing, um, or even shifting in consumer preferences, that that’s a big impact that we’re seeing right there.

Scott Luton (22:30):

Love it. I mean, I imagine Greg all the different benefits. I mean, when I heard, when she shared the IOT, uh, being able to really have the visibility into that locations, ice box, think about all the miles you can say, but not sending a truck. If, if I, you know, if inventory’s there or think about, you know, especially in, you know, you spent the last week in Florida, those hot summers there where Alex lives, you know, if you have a cooler, it breaks down and I’m sure it probably monitors the temperature as well, so that you, you protect your product, right. Uh, so many different, uh, ways that, that, that level of visibility can help an enterprise having just loaded up on ice every day for six days. Right. I can think about the importance of that because we were going to various islands and it’s not easy to get the product there.

Scott Luton (23:26):

Sometimes the product is made there, right? Sometimes they have this massive cooler ice maker thing that you then get, create your own bag from or whatever. So yeah, it, um, I get the importance of it and I really appreciate it. It’s an easy thing. That particular thing is an easy thing for anyone to visualize. I would bet because those coolers are at the front of every convenience store and grocery store on, on the planet. And almost everyone has to have experienced the disappointment of opening that cooler and there being no ice in it. Yes. When you need it, you really need it. I mean, you’re on your way somewhere. That’s right. What a great example. And I’ll echo what Greg shared there. Everyone can relate and I love those types of examples, Alex. All right. So let’s, let’s keep driving. What else, when you, when you look back in recent months, what are some other lessons learned your, your team’s head?

Alex Pradhan (24:23):

Yeah. Um, D the other lesson learned that we’re seeing a lot is, is the idea of automation. Um, and what I mean by that is, you know, how he thinks about the world today, right. Um, decisions need to be made a lot faster. I mean, COVID, let’s use that example because we’re also familiar with it. You know, you’re having to recalculate your network, maybe weekly, some cases, even daily during the initial COVID faces. Um, and that trying to figure out, you know, where are your, where are my suppliers where kind of capacity do I have? Um, and, and, and so where I’m going with this is that companies are having to do a lot more with less. So they have less time. They have less resources, many companies unfortunately have less capital today. Um, and they still need to make decisions with a lot of confidence.

Alex Pradhan (25:13):

So this idea of how can I automate what can be automateable and, um, help to go ahead and be able to, from some companies, right? That might be something as simple as get me out of spreadsheet, hell for other companies that maybe are a little bit more advanced, right. That could be a little bit more such as, uh, you know, automating the purchase order. So let me give you a really good example where we’re working with, uh, another one of our great customers. They are in the business of distributing propane for commercial or home businesses, and they have over, I want to say about 200,000 customers. And what they’re doing is they’re bringing in automatically a telemetry readings, as well as POS data signals for the customers to help, to gauge not only inventory levels, but they’re also reordering, uh, they’re automating all of the purchase orders. And they’re doing this with only two folks, which is absolutely. I mean, imagine just being able to really, uh, you know, do all of this work automatically, really with just two people they’re supervising. And if there’s any type of outlier that might come up, but this broader theme of how can we automate what can be automateable um, is something that we’re hearing a lot more, especially given some of the things that I talked about, you know, less time, less resources, um,

Scott Luton (26:32):

Oh, love that 200,000 customers basically being supported by two, two team members. And, and, you know, Greg, one of the things that, as she was describing that as Alex was

Greg White (26:44):

Describing, that is, think of all the resources you can pull and reapply and other priorities in the business, or other problems, other fires or, or, or other opportunities for that matter. I mean, that’s a tremendous amount of efficiency. Also. I can’t help, but note the cookout theme that we seem to be moving down propane is charcoal next?

Alex Pradhan (27:08):

No, I hadn’t thought about that

Greg White (27:12):

Food. Definitely a big food theme today, but yeah, I mean, that is important because the, the theme of automating the automateable is important. We still have this issue that we had even before going into COVID or 10,000 working people a day are leaving the workforce. So, um, as we have this huge generational transition, we, we need to, and, and the incoming workforce expects us to automate what is automateable, because if it can be done by a machine, they have been brought up to have it be done by a machine. And that’s a vast difference from the way the workforce has been viewed and even the fairly recent past. So that’s an important principle.

Alex Pradhan (28:01):

Yeah. I think what you’re seeing, and, and, um, it, and you were talking about is kind of the rise of the digital native. Uh, so, you know, w we, you might consider more, um, traditional planners that grew up in a more, uh, apprenticeship type of environment where you go into the Excel spreadsheets and you understand all the moving processes versus me, this newer generations that are coming in and expect, uh, kind of that very environment to be kind of that digital native environment. So they grew up with apps. Um, I go back to my daughter and the other day she had the control remote, and she was speaking into it to be able to change the channel. And I was like, I mean, I remember growing up and you don’t have those old control remotes with a couple of knobs on the wire, right. So, absolutely. It’s just a shift in, um, how end users are interacting with technology.

Greg White (28:57):

I remember being the remote control, Hey, kit, get up and change the channel, right. And just how quickly, you know, with my three kids and watch them interact with technology and see just how quickly they learn, how to use an app or device, or what have you. And then they’re off to the races and, you know, gosh, I’m slower than most, but man, it takes me a while to figure out how to use the new remote controls that you’re referencing Alex, but, you know, it’s, um, it’s a really neat, uh, point in time that we’re all living with. And, and, um, really not unlike the industrial revolution, it has a lot to do with when,

Scott Luton (29:42):

When you were introduced to these things, right. I mean, people are used to automated production and, you know, they, or they became used to it or they retired and it’s not dissimilar with digital tools. That’s right. Good point. So just, look, me, look a little different. Yeah. It’s a natural progression. Right. I think we all like to have had it. Yeah. All right. So Alex, um, you know, as we kinda wrap up this segment where we’re getting some of your, your lessons learned from planning perspective here on supply chain, now, what else comes to mind in terms of, you know, what your team’s been experiencing?

Alex Pradhan (30:20):

You know, I think just to go back to maybe finishing those three top three things that we’re seeing, um, I would say in the last year or so this idea of getting more visibility, um, being able to get visibility into the supply chain and to, and, and we talked about visibility, you know, that looks at not only those real time insights into what’s happening in the physical supply chain and being able to, uh, look at that in the software, but also, you know, being able to, uh, do what if scenarios a lot of simulation to understand, well, what are the different trade offs as I’m looking across, uh, revenue, cost, margin, um, service levels, profitability and whatnot, and also being able to monitor your supply chain and get the analytics behind it. So we’re seeing a lot of customers saying, well, we want to get more visibility into our supply chain. And so I think that that broad, um, area translates into kind of some of the different areas that I talked about.

Scott Luton (31:21):

Yeah. Agreed. You know, uh, Greg kind of hearing Alex make that last point there. My, my mind went to what we were talking about earlier today with how the supply chain education profession, and we all talk about, we all have plenty of conversations about how the pandemic environment has, has really impacted supply chains themselves and how work gets done. But it was the first time I’d really spent time diving into, uh, how educating the practitioners that will be hitting, you know, global supply chains in the years to come the tweaks they’re making based on what they’ve been experiencing. And Alex, when you lay that out, we we’ve gotta, we’ve got to change everything basically, you know? Yeah. And it’s because, because everyone was caught off guard that visibility or lack thereof became immediately apparent. And now people know where to look and, and if not, what to look for at least to look for indicators that a problem has arisen or is arising or may arise. And that, that became elevated really, really rapidly. Right. Then that goes to the discussion we have around resilience frequently,

Greg White (32:42):

Um, and, and responsiveness. Right. You know, um, I’m noticing here that we’re not talking a whole lot about forecasting, and I really appreciate that by the way, coming from that world, I feel like forecasting is overrated. It’s overemphasized. The truth is there is no Scott, you say it so well there’s um, there is no, but essentially the message is there is no such thing as an accurate forecast. It’s just levels of inaccuracy. Hmm. Yep. Yep. And when you’re in a planning, um, and a responsiveness responsive environment, you have to focus on that responsiveness expecting that something will go wrong with the forecast. And that’s what we’re talking about here. Being able to, to intervene or preempt or see trouble coming or respond rapidly to it. And that’s where that visibility comes into play very strongly.

Alex Pradhan (33:36):

And I think to your point, Greg, you know, it’s, it’s a good starting point is getting a good demand plan, but then that signal goes into the supply side right into the replenishment into your inventory. But it’s really hard to get that visibility. It’s really a conversation about having that end to end supply chain. So being able to go from the demand into the supply, bringing in high of that financial alignment, but being able to really get a way that you can link together everything and look at the trade offs, which is absolutely critical when we think about not just today’s disruption with COVID, but there’s always going to be some type of disruption, right. Is the hurricane if, uh, uh, there is some type of a port closure. I mean, we saw it recently with the tsunami that would happen out in Asia. I think it was about a year and a half, two years ago. And then I was at the challenges that it caused with, um, you know, the high tech industry. So it’s something that I think it’s constantly going to be present. It’s just what degree are you willing? Or you should be able to start to think about reducing uncertainty and mitigating or mitigating uncertainty and reducing risks.

Greg White (34:45):

Yeah. That is the key mitigating uncertainty, because you have to plan for failure. You have to plan for the forecast to be an accurate, you have to plan for some appropriate level of risk and you have to build that into your plan. They’re my two, two of my favorite quotes about planning are one, the thing you learn, if you’ve ever taken any sort of consulting education is the first thing you do once you’ve built a plan is change it. And, and also the great philosopher, Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Right. Right. And, and that’s what you have. You have to also plan for that. What do I do when Mike Tyson punches me in the face, right? Yep. Yes. There is constant disruption and that’s, that’s a big part of the reason why supply chain is a profession.

Scott Luton (35:38):

Right. We handle the disruption, the constant disruption. Yeah. Um, so I love both of you all shared there let’s so Alex, if you’re ready, I’d like to say the conversation it’s been, it’s been global perspective already, but I’d love to take it a step further and get you, you know, kind of maybe beyond the planning realm and really when you think of global supply chain and, and, you know, you’ve, you’ve already mentioned some of the things that’s been taking place in recent years so much. Right. And we could, we could broadcast 24 seven around the corner and still, you know, just getting at the surface level topics. What else is out there? Topics wise development wise or, or, um, disruption wise, perhaps that you’re really tracking more than others right now,

Alex Pradhan (36:21):

One of the things that comes to mind is, um, e-commerce, you know, thinking about that broader disruption or the trends that we’re seeing with consumers, um, you know, consumer habits are changing really, really quick, um, and their shopping behaviors as well. And so what we’re seeing is that companies, and this is cross industry. I mean, I’m talking to companies from a typical retailers to those companies that are more B to B, they are now either looking to support e-commerce where maybe in the past they didn’t, or they’re being forced to, uh, as well. So, you know, kinds of fun fact or fun stat was in June of 2020, about 28% of all sales were online. And when I saw that, that, that kind of blew my mind because I mean, I, I am a, quite an online shopper, but to think that 30% almost of all sales are online, it’s huge.

Alex Pradhan (37:18):

It’s a big shift for a lot of companies when they look at things such as well, maybe, you know, a significant percentage of their sales are not coming online, or how do I look at my product packaging? Right? So instead of going ahead and selling, you know, only one now I got to bundle them in two, three, or how do I begin to think about, uh, protecting certain key customers like the Amazon’s of the world or, um, Coles or whoever it may be, and they’re online fulfillment channels. So e-commerce is something that’s starting to come up a lot more upside from me that broader retail category. The other thing that we’re seeing a lot is to say, do you have the product portfolio? So, um, when you think about in the past, right, it’s actually really interesting thing to see what, what is going on from a trend perspective, but in the past there were, um, when you think about the product portfolio, uh, you know, there would be thousands, hundreds of skews out there.

Alex Pradhan (38:17):

What we’re seeing now is for example, for consumer product goods, is that they’re skinning down, they’re rationalizing the number of products versus in the past, you know, it was all about personalization and food and beverage. We’re also seeing this as well, where this is impacting, you know, looking at their production lines, other transportation modes at their supplier lead times. So this, this, the shift that’s happening right now with the product portfolio is things are starting to skin or skin down a lot. Um, and this also is impacting a lot, for example, new product introduction. So in the past, how, uh, N companies would go to market is, is also shifting. So let me give you an example. I was talking to one of our customers, they do, um, they’re popular kids and adults, also fruit snacks company. And traditionally around this time of year, they might have launched a new product to support back to school, uh, or, you know, that packaging might be very different than what they have now.

Alex Pradhan (39:19):

They’re seeing a shift in that. So that causes them to change. You know, when they’re looking at, when are they going to go to market with a new product, or what are the type of products now that they should go ahead and market because of the changes in consumer behavior? Um, so, so we’re seeing that a lot. Yeah. And, and so, you know, those are two big ones that, that come up. And I think also just in general, right? When you think about the market, where it is today is in the past, let’s say 10 years ago, 15 years ago, a lot of the supply chain planning decisions might have been done much slower. Uh, there might have been maybe linear, uh, it might have been more of a linear decision, right. Um, and what we’re seeing nowadays, there’s a lot more complexity. There’s a lot more, uh, by direction of decisions. Everyone wants to look at visibility’s. So the steam of complexity keeps on coming up. And, and so that’s something that I think as we look into going into the future is how can we help companies simplify those decisions, um, using technology, helping them automate and bringing in all of this extra data, data signals that they’re getting moving parts changes with lead times, all of this complexity that’s coming out there. Now that that’s a theme just across all industries that we’re seeing

Scott Luton (40:42):

The, um, complexity off the charts. I mean, if I look I’ve looked back, you know, we’re all reminded of days gone by whether it’s a Facebook reminder that hits from three years ago or, or, you know, now that all the events have gone virtual, you know, thinking of past association events, you name it. But man, just the amount, uh, the level of complexity and the different types of challenges that exist due to, um, the pandemic, uh, dynamics and, and, and of course, a lot more in the industry continues to evolve. And, and it has been, you know, I look forward Greg and Alex, you know, 10 years, 20 years down the road, all the business cases that will be studied in, in, you know, business schools and supply chain programs based on this period we are, we’re working through right now, Greg I’m sure.

Greg White (41:34):

I’m sure complexity is, can often be found between your two ears pretty regular these days. Huh. You know, it’s funny as Alex is, as you were reflecting on that, I was thinking about, um, how many old ideas are becoming new. Again, we were talking about, uh, we were talking about store centers being built for BOPA, where they’re basically, uh, buy online pickup in store where the store is essentially a showroom and you go pick up, you, you go there solely to pick up what you’ve ordered online, or maybe to sample it in the store. And it makes me think of, um, chains like service merchandise, right? It makes me think of how e-commerce is essentially the new mail order and, um, Sears and JC Penney and things like that. And, and how I was working in retail in the, in the early days of e-commerce, how we created this sort of false wall between e-commerce and traditional store operations for a multitude of reasons we won’t go into here, but those, those false walls and those that failure to recognize and study and capitalize on history have been laid bare by this crisis.

Greg White (42:59):

And I think we can find, you know, what it makes me think is we can find a lot of expertise, a lot of opportunity, a lot of resolution in looking at some of what we’ve learned, some of the good of what we’ve learned from service merchandise or from Sears. And so selling you a home, the email, or be a mail mail order I should say, and things like that. And we, we need to recognize and apply those principles. And I don’t just mean the tactical principles of delivery or of listing it in the catalog. But I mean, the principle that includes the structures within an organization that facilitate that because they could both sell you something in a store in Chicago or out of the out of the warehouse, or even the store in Chicago and ship it to you by wagon train to California.

Greg White (43:51):

Right? So there, there are a lot of lessons there and I think we would serve ourselves well to think about what has really caused the issues with commerce these days, and to take away some of those things, some of those things that have separated, uh, traditional store commerce from e-commerce to me, I’m using the term, it’s just commerce. I know because the marketplace doesn’t recognize that. And if you’ve got something to sell, you have to acknowledge the D the delineation there, but the truth is it is just commerce. And it should be as simple as that,

Alex Pradhan (44:25):

I think the lines are getting blurred a lot. Um, so in COVID has been a catalyst to changing how consumers perhaps, or, or, or, or participating in this, but to your point, whether I click it and pick it up or get it shipped or whatever, all these different forms, but the idea of how can companies get closer to that consumer and really understanding what, what motivates them, um, to your point about we’re seeing kind of the old be new, again, you know, the resurgence, for example, a vendor managed inventory, I guess, you know, that’s another big thing we’re seeing out there right now is so many companies right now, uh, are, are, are under a lot of pressure to deliver cost savings, increased customer service, and VNI is becoming a new hot topic all over again. Um, and we’re supporting many, many of our customers as they’re implementing kind of their, their VMI.

Scott Luton (45:25):

That is, that’s another great observation. I had kind of registered that, but I hadn’t really thought through that, but you’re right. I can see where that’s becoming very, very big, but I bet in general, a bit, uh, you’re seeing heightened demand for what John got solutions brings to the table. Uh, given the, what, what kind of the dynamics both of you are speaking to, you know, not to be dramatic, but I’m not sure if there’s ever been a, uh, uh, Everett there’s ever exists, a greater need to move faster and make better, more sound decisions than, than right now. So I bet, I bet y’all are really busy making the donuts, Alex, that John got sleep,

Alex Pradhan (46:04):

We are very busy. I good busy, uh, you know, w we are growing, growing globally. Uh, we’re hiring. So, you know, especially during today’s time, you know, we are hiring, we’re a growing company, uh, and we are making those doughnuts to your point. So, yes,

Scott Luton (46:20):

Well, you know, that to be able to meet with someone, you know, I love circling back to your background to have the background that you have, where you’ve done it, you’ve sat in the chairs for large organizations. And then, and then of course, with your Gartner background and be able to benchmark and see how, not only how you did it, but all the benchmarking conversations, I bet you’re a part of. So to bring that to John Galt solutions and the conversations you’re having with clients and prospective clients, I’m sure that’s extremely valuable. So it doesn’t surprise me. They are in growth mode. Uh, with that in mind, let’s make sure that folks know our listeners know how to connect with you, and whether they’re in the market for a better, faster decisions, or if they’re in the market for a new, new career, you can folks go to connect with John.

Alex Pradhan (47:08):

They can go to our website, John galt.com. They can connect with us through LinkedIn, for anyone who’s listening. I would love to also connect with you through LinkedIn and, um, you know, see how we can help solve your supply chain planning problems. So yeah, absolutely would love to connect

Scott Luton (47:25):

Outstanding. And Greg, you know, we’re going to make it easy, right? We’re to drop that direct link in the show notes or after that one click. Right, right. As often as we can, um, well, you know, Alex, you’re also making us really hungry with what was that dish? You referenced on the front end here that

Alex Pradhan (47:44):

[inaudible],

Scott Luton (47:45):

So let’s all, uh, set aside some time on our calendar sooner, rather than later, we’ll make a trip and get authentic cuisine there in Mexico city. I’m all for that. I am too well. Uh, Greg really enjoying the conversation here. We’ve been chatting with Alex proton product strategy leader with John Galt solutions really enjoyed the perspective that she’s sharing and a lot of the best practices and observations they’ve gleaned here in recent months. Look, if any space in supply chain was brought to the forefront, if any particular solution space was brought to the forefront, it is forecasting and planning and response, the responsive, uh, application of those plans. And we’re seeing it. I mean, you know, this space is very hot. The needs are apparent and because so many, so many consumer attributes, so many consumer methodologies are changing and because so many companies have to change to adapt to that, it’s inevitable that these kinds of solutions are brought to the forefront.

Scott Luton (48:59):

And we’ve been saying this for six months. Now, if you thought you could do it on, on, um, Excel spreadsheets before you might want to consider a new career. I mean, the FA the fact is that the ability to manage your supply chain on spreadsheets and with manual processes and paperwork that has been laid bare by this, it’s just not efficient. It’s just not effective. And it’s just not rapid enough. And these kinds of solutions give you precisely that that’s right. And if you want to break out of spreadsheet, hell as Alex, put it out, completely stealing that from you. But it sounds like Alex brought on with John Galt solutions could be a great resource. So Alex really appreciate your time. Thanks so much for joining us here today. Looking forward to the live stream up next with you and maybe a, a colleague where our audience, I’m sure we’re going to have some great questions for you.

Alex Pradhan (49:59):

Thank you very much for having me on your show today. Yeah.

Scott Luton (50:01):

Thank you. Thanks so much, Alex. Again, Alex prod Hahn with John Galt solutions where she serves as product strategy leader, Greg really enjoyed this episode, uh, looking forward to, uh, the next show and, and to our audience. Hey, if you enjoyed today’s show, check us out where we get your podcasts from. Of course you can also check out supply chain now, radio.com for the full slate, the full inventory of shows featuring great thought leaders, just like Alex here with Galt on behalf of Greg white and the whole supply chain. Now team Scott Luton here, a do good give forward and be the change that’s needed. And on that note, we’ll see, next time

Would you rather watch the show in action?  Watch as Scott and Greg welcome Alex Pradhan to Supply Chain Now through our YouTube channel.

 Alex Pradhan is the Product Strategy Leader and Member of the Executive Leadership team at John Galt Solutions, a market-leader in supply chain planning technology software. In this position, Alex leads product and go-to-market strategy and product management. The software solutions of John Galt help customers create a unified continuous end-to-end supply chain plan. Alex has extensive expertise in the technology and supply chain business, and is passionate about the role that technology plays in creating resilient, high performing supply chains. In her prior role at Gartner as a Sr. Principal Research Analyst, she published an extensive body of research and co-authored multiple Gartner Magic Quadrants, Hype Cycles, Cool Vendor reports, Vendor Ratings, and Market Guides. She has been quoted in numerous global media publications and regularly presents on Supply Chain Planning topics. Alex has previously managed the supply chain for promotional, limited time offers and R&D test products for SUBWAY U.S, across a network of 63 distribution centers serving over 27K+ restaurants . Early on in her career, she held multiple roles at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines where she developed strategic relationships with suppliers such as Seattle’s Best Coffee, Fisher-Price, and Crayola, and played a key role in the exploration of onboard revenue and savings opportunities. Alex received her MBA from the University of Miami and her graduate certificate in data science from the University of California, Irvine. She lives with her family in the Miami-Ft Lauderdale area.

Greg White serves as Principal & Host at Supply Chain Now. Greg is a founder, CEO, board director and advisor in B2B technology with multiple successful exits. He recently joined Trefoil Advisory as a Partner to further their vision of stronger companies by delivering practical solutions to the highest-stakes challenges. Prior to Trefoil, Greg served as CEO at Curo, a field service management solution most notably used by Amazon to direct their fulfillment center deployment workforce. Greg is most known for founding Blue Ridge Solutions and served as President & CEO for the Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader of cloud-native supply chain applications that balance inventory with customer demand. Greg has also held leadership roles with Servigistics, and E3 Corporation, where he pioneered their cloud supply chain offering in 1998. In addition to his work at Supply Chain Now and Trefoil, rapidly-growing companies leverage Greg as an independent board director and advisor for his experience building disruptive B2B technology and supply chain companies widely recognized as industry leaders. He’s an insightful visionary who helps companies rapidly align vision, team, market, messaging, product, and intellectual property to accelerate value creation. Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams to create breakthroughs that gain market exposure and momentum, and increase company esteem and valuation. Learn more about Trefoil Advisory: www.trefoiladvisory.com

 

Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here: https://supplychainnow.com/

 

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