Organizations recognize the value of going digital with their supply chain but, in many cases, have introduced the idea as point solutions to automate specific processes or functions. This fragmented and opportunistic approach undermines full potential. How can organizations define and adopt digital in ONE holistic approach to operating supply chains across the globe?
- Jamie Bragg, Executive Vice President & Chief Supply Chain Officer, Tailored Brands, Inc.
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Sanjog: Welcome listeners, the topic for conversation is, “Evolving to ONE Digital Supply Chain.” Joining me is Jamie Bragg, the Executive Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer with Tailored Brands. Hello Jamie, thank you for joining us.
Jamie: Thanks for having me.
Sanjog: Today most organizations are recognizing the value of going digital when it comes to a supply chain, but they introduce it only as a point solution to automate specific processes or functions. This is a fragmented and opportunistic approach that may be undermining the supply chain. The discussion here is to explore how organizations can define and adopt digital in one holistic approach to operating supply chain across the globe.
Jamie, what do you see as the business challenges and triggers that have increased the need to improve supply chain and the global trade management?
Jamie: Well, I’d say that when you look at the changing consumer preferences and shopping patterns coming from Tailored Brands, a retail organization, there’s been a significant shift. It has forced us to transform our business. You need much more precise control over inventory and visibility of where your future inventory is. There’s increased demand for transparency on where products are coming from, particularly with millennial consumers.
From a Tailored Brand perspective, our MO is to put the customer first and the big shift in our business in recent years has been towards mass customization—customers being able to create their own products in our stores, a custom suit or a dress shirt and then have that manufactured to their specifications and what they’ve chosen, and then brought it to them and personalizing it. That’s very different from the business just not that long ago when you had purchase orders for thousands of units coming in, and you put them in your stores and sold them to thousands of purchase orders for one unit for a specific customer. We’ve really spent a lot of our time and effort around evolving our digital supply chain to manage through these changes in consumer preference and in the mass customization of products.
We’ve really spent a lot of our time and effort around evolving our digital supply chain to manage through these changes in consumer preference and in the mass customization of products.
Sanjog: Most supply chains are hybrid and are still using a mix of optimized paper-based systems and IT enable components. What’s preventing the organizations from going digital all the way, even knowing that will help minimize waste and bring higher profits?
Jamie: I think the first big hurdle companies have to clear is to create a master data management structure that houses all the information. Not only from their host disparate systems but also from outside vendors, service providers, anywhere that they have data that affects their supply chain. It sounds like a daunting task just on its own. You need to look across the organization and understand who owns a specific piece of the data or systems where information might be kept manually, and how you can provide a path to get that data into a host system or a master data management structure. That’s really where the hard work begins. Then you have to work cross-functionally, to be able to create a structure that everybody can agree on and contribute to. Then you will be able to have the visibility and access to the data. You’re going to really need to take that full digital journey.
Sanjog: Would you say that data is the core of the problem or are there other issues related to processes and anything else that you can point to?
Jamie: I think that once you create that master data management structure, architect and start populating it, then you’re going to naturally understand where the challenges and process are. That’s going to be the next logical step. But obviously you can’t move forward in a digital strategy without first having that structure in place. And along the way, when you work through that cross-functional journey with business peers in your organization, you’re going to understand where there might be some disconnects in process, and have to work through trying to figure out how you are going to compromise on them.
As computing speed continues to increase and supply chain driven companies move through the proof of concept stage to daily use and trust of those systems to analyze these massive amounts of data, that typical supply chain is going to evolve to a digital one.
Sanjog: I would like to envision a robust digital enabled supply chain as an automated, predictive, adaptive, and which offers real-time visibility. How far do you think we have come in that journey?
Jamie: I think the type of supply chain that you described is within a five to seven years reach for the early adopters – for people who are really investing in technology now. I think the technologies that are going to enable that reality are all in various stages of acceptance or even practical use, whether it’s Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning or Blockchain enabled platforms. Those are probably some of the most prominent. But as computing speed continues to increase and supply chain driven companies move through the proof of concept stage to daily use and trust of those systems to analyze these massive amounts of data, that typical supply chain is going to evolve to a digital one.
So, there are processes that are all working through, crawl, walk, run stages, proof of concept to being able to move beyond that, to regular use to really understanding what the power of that particular piece of technology is for the business and how you can apply it elsewhere—that’s going to be a process that will take some time. I think that there are a number of people and companies that are able to invest in that technology now and they’ll be at the forefront; they’ll be there first.
Sanjog: External parties, which would include suppliers, logistics and service providers—they all come from different business and financial conditions and even different risk profiles. If you’re trying to go ahead and build as an organization, and need a holistic, sustainable and inclusive digital supply chain strategy with a long-term approach for execution—how would you go about doing it?
Jamie: I think it all starts with knowing that you need highly collaborative relationships with your outsourced providers and business partners. It becomes part of the evaluation process for whom you choose to do business with. It’s no longer an “Us against Them” strategy. I’m responsible for sourcing at Tailored Brands. Earlier, we were constantly working with our factory bases to maximize our costs, but over the last couple years we found that taking this collaborative approach and understanding where we have a need to interact and work together, has been really helpful.
You need to share the vision that you have for your entire supply chain network with your vendor base and gain commitment from those who are willing to help to do whatever it takes to partner with you and your company on that same journey. They might have their own journey that you should be listening to just as equally to understand where you might be able to help. So long gone are those days when you are managing just your company assets in the supply chain. Today, you need to start viewing it as one ecosystem and having two way communication with all the external partners and you need to create more win-win solutions along the way that everybody benefits.
You need to share the vision that you have for your entire supply chain network with your vendor base and gain commitment from them that are willing to help to do whatever it takes to partner with you and your company on that journey.
Sanjog: Jamie, let’s talk about the processes, the people and the culture changes that are needed to get the organization ready for this holistic digitization of its supply chain.
Jamie: The nature of the work really requires the technology and connectedness of a supply chain for that to occur. You’ll see with many supply chains, organizations are looking for data management experience and expertise. Machines are not going to replace all the work over time, but the skill sets that people need to have to continue to be successful in a supply chain environment that is fully digitized, will change. Understanding your roadmap and what the new skills will look like based on what you’re planning on implementing and in what order, will give you an outlook on what skills your employees and your high potential personnel will need to be successful. They can then enable the future supply chain leaders to have a plan in place to make sure that the teams have the right training and skills in place as your organization continues to evolve.
Understanding your roadmap and what the new skills will look like based on what you’re planning on implementing and in what order, will give you an outlook on what skills your employees and your high potential personnel will need to be successful.
Sanjog: How deep and broad does global trade management technology need to be, in order to hit all the marks, to ensure compliance with global trade regulations, keep the supply chain flexible and configurable to support complex global needs and lower the cost of delivering product to market?
Jamie: I think to hit all marks that you mention and actually save money in the process, they need to be very broad and very deep because they need to include all suppliers of all items down to the individual item or shipment level. It’s an all-encompassing effort that can take a very long time to accomplish. My recommendation is that when you’re looking at heading down that path, look for a couple of surefire use cases that you know will increase efficiency, will increase visibility and potentially save you some money and to start with your proof of concepts in that area.
To learn about the different technologies that are available out there will give you an outlook on where you should go next with that technology and allow you to be able to understand what the next big implementation could be within your global trade management network.
Sanjog: What you just suggested would that take care of all these different three, four areas that I just mentioned?
Jamie: I think it’s a good start. I’d be lying to you if I said we were already down that road and already solved all these problems because we’re not. But the approach we’re taking is to be able to provide a better experience for our customers. We want to use the technologies not only to ensure our compliance and be in sync with global trade regulations, but also to ensure that we have the best visibility we can. Then we can use that information internally and also share it with our customer. I think, over time the more experience we get with that, the better outlook I would have on what that might look like to hit all the marks to your point.
Sanjog: How should organizations rank and then rollout digital pilots to ensure greatest returns, right from the start? What would it take to keep up the momentum till there are no weak links left and we can call that particular implementation or the rollout to lead to one digital supply chain?
Jamie: I think initially folks with a supply chain focus need to have a definite opinion on what they need to do first, what are the digital pilots that will give them the quickest results. Initially, it’s a cross-functional effort, you need to make sure that all aspects of your organization are in alignment with the end game. Here, at Tailored Brands, we use a tool called the Sustain-Disrupt Model, where we centrally understand the current paradigm and how we accomplish results, what are the system and processes that really pay the bills today. And, then on the disruptive side of the model, you have all the different possibilities, technologies and proof of concepts that will help you move towards that digital supply chain view.
Every organization is different, but once you’ve aligned on what the opportunities are, you want to focus on the potentially highest-impact projects that would work for the entire cross-functional organization.
You intentionally identify these practices and also have this added portfolio of opportunities that can disrupt or transform your business. These are the ideas that you can gain insight from across your functional peers on what’s the most achievable target. Sometimes you may have to see from a supply chain perspective when you know it could have high value, but you need to put it on a lower priority. This could be because resources are needed somewhere else in the company (maybe IT or somewhere else) to continue to move. Every organization is different, but once you’ve aligned on what the opportunities are, you want to focus on the potentially highest-impact projects that would work for the entire cross-functional organization. Then, once you have that compact list, you need to focus on two or three of those initiatives only, because if you do any more than that, you may not accomplish anything finally. But if you have a cross-functional alignment, you should work on two or three initiatives of transformative effort. As projects are completed, you can revisit that list, and since you already have a cross-functional awareness of that list, you may have to reprioritize it and understand what’s number one, two, and three now. But you should also know what is going to slide in when the next available opportunity for a pilot comes up.
Now that more in proof of concept become regular business practice and become a sustainable part of your portfolio. These are the things that are your new paradigm, and you still are working with these prospects on the transformative side. The process just keeps rolling from there, you know what the next opportunities are, and you continue to work for your teams through the transformation office to continue the process. You always have two or three of these projects in play as one becomes the new reality, another one slides in, based on how important it is.
Sanjog: Once again, thank you, Jamie, for sharing your thoughts and insights about how organizations can evolve to ONE digital supply chain.
Jamie: Thank you.