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Trip Report: Digital Supply Chain Conference 2015

By Phil Gibbs  November 4, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Digital Supply Chain Conference at the British Museum in London. The venue was very impressive, as were the sessions guided by some of the brightest minds working in the supply chain industry today. I was pleased to attend to oversee the “Setting up a Successful Supply Chain Design Center of Excellence” workshop (a topic you can learn more about here), but was also able to take in several sessions and case studies at the event, which was hosted by the publication, Business Reporter.

Ian Truesdale, Managing Director for strategy group and LLamasoft premier partner, Accenture, presented “Front Foot Supply Chains”, where he stated that companies need to become more agile and improve their reaction time in the digital age.  He said that digital is disruptive to supply chains, and the speed of disruptions is increasing.  He also predicted the death of the linear supply chain as complexity increases. My key takeaway from this session was that companies shouldn’t fly blind in terms of their supply chain operations, and need smarter analytics in the digital age.

Manish Shakalya, Head of Integrated Business Planning – Chocolates, for Mondelez Asia-Pacific, took us through the implementation of their integrated business planning process, providing a perspective of developments in planning going as far back as the 1970s. He emphasized the need to develop trust between all the parties involved in the process, and to get senior leadership’s support.  He mentioned that large implementations like this can often hit a dip through resistance to change and functional silos, so board level commitment is required.

Vladimir Krasojevic, Customer Service Excellence Director for Carlsberg gave some insights on cutting supply chain costs, mentioning the importance of knowing the cost-to-serve customers. He also mentioned an interesting approach to the reporting of on-shelf availability, based on store visits and social media.

Jonathan Pilbro, Vice President Fashion Retail for DHL gave insight to their work in multi-channel fashion logistics. He described the move to digital as being the biggest structural shift since the arrival of supermarkets. DHL had to adapt facilities as volume switched from bricks to clicks, converting the House of Fraser national distribution center to fulfil customer orders as well as replenish stores.  Interestingly, he predicted the growth of crowd-sourcing applications for final mile deliveries, with the development of Uber-style operations.

Bruce Harryman, Head of Network Planning for John Lewis took us through their fifteen-year journey from being a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer to an omni-channel leader. Their old supply chain was built around manual operations with little singles-picking and was lacking in store-friendly replenishment. Over the past five years they have built 2.1 million square feet of warehousing, near LLamasoft’s European headquarters in Milton Keynes, carrying out customer order fulfilment and store-friendly replenishment using automation. He had an interesting observation: logistics has moved from being an internally focused function to become a customer facing activity.  It also was good to hear him observe that Argos, a LLamasoft customer, was making strides in same day customer fulfilment.

The day was filled with interesting sessions hitting on many of the hot-topics that supply chain and logistics professionals face today. To learn more about supply chain events near you, visit our Events page.