In this week's episode of the Digital Supply Chain podcast, I had the privilege of talking to Tobias Grabler, the COO of Topo Solutions, discussing the growth and importance of compliance and sustainability in supply chain management. During the conversation, Tobias shared his insights on why it's crucial for businesses to take a holistic approach to sustainability and the dangers of "greenwashing." He also touched on the complexities of traceability and the role it plays in reducing carbon emissions.
Tobias highlighted the significance of sustainability in today's world and how Topo is well equipped to tackle this broad topic with its comprehensive approach. He emphasized that to achieve true sustainability, businesses need to look beyond just the environmental aspect and consider the social component as well.
Throughout the podcast, Tobias provided valuable insights on the current state of supply chain management and the future of sustainability. He stressed the importance of being proactive and taking action to drive positive change in the industry.
The podcast was truly informative and engaging, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in supply chain management, sustainability, and the future of business. We covered a wide range of topics, and I learned so much from the conversation.
If you're looking to stay ahead of the curve in the world of supply chain management and sustainability, then this podcast episode is a must-listen. I encourage everyone to tune in, follow and support the podcast, and to connect with Tobias and Topo on LinkedIn or at email@example.com.Support the show
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Scope one, scope two emissions is something that most of organizations have covered quite well already, but for many organizations, the majority of the emissions are actually created in their supply chains, right? Like when, when their products get produced. And that's still quite an untouched field. And, and yeah, we are helping our customers with that too, yeahTom Raftery:
Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, wherever you are in the world. This is the Digital Supply Chain podcast, the number one podcast focusing on the digitization of supply chain, and I'm your host, Tom Raftery. Hi, everyone, welcome to the Digital Supply Chain podcast. My name is Tom Raftery. Before we start. I just wanted to remind you that if you'd like to become a supporter of this podcast, to help me continue creating informative and engaging episodes. Simply visit the podcast support page by going to www.digital supply chain podcast.com and clicking the support button. Or simply by following the support link in the show notes of this episode. You can make a small donation starting at just three euros a month. That's less than the cost of a cup of coffee. But it would really help me. With that out of the way with me on the show today, I have my special guest Tobias. Tobias, welcome to the podcast. Would you like to introduce yourself?Tobias Grabler:
Hi, Tom, thanks for having me. I really appreciate the invite. And yeah I'm, I'm happy to introduce myself. My name is Tobias Grabler, and I'm the COO of Topo Solutions and we are a, SaaS company and have a Topo, which is a, a digital platform for supply chain management. And as such, we're covering the entire journey of a, of a product from sourcing, product development, order management, production monitoring, quality management, and yeah, very hot topics, compliance and sustainability in the supply chain,Tom Raftery:
Okay, so you're covering quite a part, quite a bit of the whole supply chain, which is impressive. You are a cloud delivered solution, is that right?Tobias Grabler:
correct? Yeah. We are cloud native modern architecture.Tom Raftery:
fantastic. Fantastic. And where are you based geographically?Tobias Grabler:
We have offices in Hong Kong and in the USTom Raftery:
Okay, so, and clients.Tobias Grabler:
Clients are mainly in Europe. But now we are also expanding into the US So the office in, in, in the US is, is revenue. We did this in q3, q4 in 2022, where we opened an office in. In the US but also growing at the same time the office in Hong Kong. Moved just end of 2000 22 into a larger office space again. So yeah, we, we, we are fortunate and see quite a big growth compared to a lot of our tech companies in our industries. Right. I'm, I'm, I'm sure Tom, you, you have seen the news and the layoffs. It's, it's, yeah. Unfortunate, but yeah, that's why we are very grateful that we are in a different spot here.Tom Raftery:
Yeah. Cool, cool. Now, how long has TOPO Solutions been in operation?Tobias Grabler:
We celebrated last year, our 10 years anniversary. So we were established in 2012. Started slow though. Our founder and CEO Benjamin Eberle, he, you know, started Topo completely by himself. It's quite a different startup story. Now we would call ourselves a scale up. But yeah, it's not the typical Silicon Valley story where, you know, you have a great idea and then you collect a bunch of millions and then try to make it happen or, or not. So credits to Benjamin that he did this in a different way and Yeah, he, he, he developed it by himself for the first few years, and at the beginning we were actually, quote unquote just a platform for quality management and, and factory audits. So everything that had to happen on the go, mobile in factories. Also sometimes in a not stable internet connection, environment. So that's what, that's what we did. That's how we started out. And yeah, in, in the early years, right, there was also not the best product market fit, right? I mean, a lot of companies fought more about, you know, ERP systems or traditional PLM systems to digitize. But quality management was not on their radar to digitize, right? Everyone was still on in the better cases on Excel templates and the worst cases on paper and, you know, paper and pen. So yeah, that's why at the beginning it started a little bit slower, but then it took off and now we moved, the last four or five years, we, we transitioned into an end-to-end solution for the supply chain.Tom Raftery:
okay. And you are a low-code solution as well, correct?Tobias Grabler:
Correct Tom, yeah, that's, that's actually quite the USP of Topo. Meaning that we yeah bring power to the, to the business users again, right? Because as, as you know, developer resources and IT resources are very scarce among any organization, I would say at least that's the case for our customers, which are traditionally brands, retailers, sourcing companies,Tom Raftery:
Well less scarce now seeing as we've had all the layoffs, but probably expensiveTobias Grabler:
That is true. It's, yeah. And now maybe more and more availability is on the market, but still very, very expensive. Yeah. And, and yeah, here we take a different approach. We really empower the, the business users, they can build or maintain the tools, the applications on our platform completely without code with a drag and drop system. Pretty much they can build up their forms, how to collect data and digitize the processes. They can also yeah, work on and build up workflows in Topo. And that goes even onto the analytics part, the data analytics part, where you can also build with drag and drop dashboards, analytical reports, et cetera, et cetera. And I would say that's especially important in these times, right? Because there's so many changes happening. I mean, you know, we had covid that entirely disrupted supply chain the, the field of supply chain management. And, and now we see a lot of regulations and, and laws coming in, especially in the area of supply compliance, and sustainability. So yeah, it keeps organizations on their toes. They have to be agile and conventional software can usually not keep up, you know, with this fast pace. And yeah, we try to tackle that issue with mu much more agile platform. And, our customers can adapt to their business needs at speed.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And do you have, I mean, I know some low-code companies, for example, have templates on their site as well that people can work with. Is that something that you offer or are people completely on their own?Tobias Grabler:
Yeah, first of all, we, we also help our customers to implement entirely the solution, right? It. It's, it's a spectrum, I would say, right? We have customers where we, we implement everything for our customers. And then we have customers where we just park the, the platform on their doorstep, and then they take it and build everything by themselves. And then, a hybrid model as well, where we get them started and then eventually the, the customers take over. So also in that regards, we are quite flexible. But yes, we do also have templates, you know, for certain areas, that the customers can pick from. But we do see the customers appreciate that they can also start from an empty canvas, or we as an implementation team can start from an empty canvas and, and build tools for them in their supply chain.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And you were talking about compliance. So I'm guessing that there's a lot of, as you pointed out, new regulations coming, there's regulations coming in Germany and later in Europe this coming, well, this, this year, in fact, 2023, we're gonna start seeing some regulations coming into effect and 2024 as well around product. What, what's, what's the name of the the German regulation?Tobias Grabler:
I think in, in, in English it's called the, the German Due Diligence supply Chain Act which comes into effect, yeah. Or came into effect. So beginning of, of 2023. And yeah, that, that hits the, the largest organizations in Germany. So it's, it's a, it's a matter of how many employees they have. And, and revenue. And then 2014 there's another layer getting add to it with, you know, like smaller organizations. But in fact, what we see is that a lot more companies are affected by this law directly or indirectly at least, because all these big organizations are gonna ask their suppliers, you know, their agencies a lot of new questions, right? And.Tom Raftery:
To prove compliance.Tobias Grabler:
a exactly, and we see quite a lot of changes coming for them.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And so your, the fact that your software is so agile, cuz people can change it themselves means it won't be difficult for them to come into compliance quickly.Tobias Grabler:
Exactly. and I mean that goes for additional, changes in, in legislation, right? But also when, organizations expand their product portfolio, for example, have new product groups that, you know, require or fall under different you know, product safety rules and, and regulations. So yeah, that's, that's all also when the, the processes simply change for, for organizations, right? They wanna change the setup and then we, we help them to, to adapt that quite quickly.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And is there any particular industry that you're working with or industries or is it across the board?.Tobias Grabler:
So we are focused on consumer goods and here across the board, I would say. And, and when we work with you know, retailers, these typical supermarket chains we cover usually the, their entire product range, right from food, to non-food, hard goods, soft goods, it doesn't matter. Our Topo platform can adapt here to any kind of product group. And not just scratching on the surface, but we can go really into the nitty gritty details, right? And we do have the experience, right? It's like we can also like offer of course, out of the box solutions, right? So this is, this is definitely possible.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And what kind of problems are you solving for them typically?Tobias Grabler:
So if you speak about the entire journey, right, it starts and that came for a lot of organizations handy during covid with the sourcing part, right? Like it starts with a product idea, a buyer, a merchandiser, or a product manager, saw an interesting product that they might wanna add to their assortment for the next season. You know, they can take pictures, videos of the product and send it to some of their suitable suppliers through the platform, and then they can feed back, you know, okay, minimum order quantities, what's the price? Any kind of logistics information, what's needed. But it can also go the other way around that suppliers and, and factories proactively propose new products to their buyers, right? I mean, Topo is not a, a, a marketplace. But we usually connect the, the brand and retailer with their suppliers. And of course, they add new suppliers on the go every year or every month. But it's not like a marketplace where a retailer would go on and say, ah, you know, I'm looking for different suppliers for, for a new product, right. It's, it's actually their supply chain network that we connect to them. So that's the sourcing part. Which also goes then into, you know, the tendering or, you know, request for quotation stage. We also digitize you know, certain product development processes, sample management, right? Like, of course there's a lot of 3D technology out there, which is great. But again, for certain compliance reasons, you, you still have to get a, a physical sample, right? Especially when it comes to hard goods, electronics, you know, you have to test them. A lot of organizations test them first in-house functionality tests, safety tests, et cetera, et cetera. So this is data that we collect with Topo. When it comes to food, it's about food tasting, right? So they do like blank tastings with their employees. And rate, rate the product, you know, and benchmark against the reference sample. And, and also you have to mention Tom I don't know if you've seen a yeah such a retail organization from inside or, or sourcing organizations, they have then often, you know, massive warehouses for their samples. Right? And we also digitize that part with QR codes. So once the sample comes into the, into the warehouse, they can, you know, record some information. They print a label, a QR code label, for example. They can stick it on the, on the sample. And store it in a, in a shelf. And then another user gets a notification that the sample has arrived and then they can trigger, yeah, processes such as tasting or in-house testing, for example. Then after that, followed by order management. So of course a lot of customers have already ERP or order management systems, so we traditionally you know, connect to these systems through API or any other base to connect to these systems. It's like SAP, Microsoft Dynamics Navision, this essential products or, or Oracle products or any other, in-house built systems that organizations might have. So we, we can connect to them. But for those organizations that don't have these systems Topo can also be the, the leading order management system pretty much. And then we take it from there. Because ERP systems usually are very transactional. And, you know, in what's focus, they do a great job here, but what Topo is, is like a collaboration platform, right? So we have all the suppliers um, connected to Topco. We have third party service providers, these typical TIC Testing, Inspection, and Certification providers working on our platform. So, you know, Topo is more like outward looking and, and collaborative. And then, yeah, once the order is placed, it's about production follow ups, you know, a lot of, project management happening on an article level, right? Once the order is done, they are like the, the artwork guys, the compliance guys, the quality guys, the commercial people, right? So, a lot of collaboration also within, within a team happens. So we, we manage that. And then, yeah, quality in itself is quite a big, big topic. Any kind of, I mean, I mentioned already in-house tests, but a lot of inspections that happen in the factory. So people can go with a mobile phone or with a tablet into factories, even though the connection is not good, the internet connection, you can do it completely offline and, do the inspection with Topo directly in the factory. And yeah, a big part is compliance and sustainability. Starting with supplier onboarding supplier self-assessments, right. Certificate management. When we talk about compliance and sustainability, it's a lot about what kind of certifications does the supplier have on their facilities or on certain products? So these are usually the two dimensions, product and their factories. You can also run any kind of audit on Topo, so Topo is kind of framework agnostic, right? Because we see globally, right there, like and, and from, product group to product group there are like so many frameworks, right? So many associations that are shaping certain norms. So we, we are really like agnostic here, and can adapt to any kind of logic and, and questionnaires and, and frameworks. We also connect to, to platforms like , BSCI for example, you know, to have the, the audit data in Topo. We also do this. Now we started to connect to Sedex, for example, to get the audit data in Topo. And the added value for our users is is not just to have the, the audit data from the past in there, but you can also trigger corrective actions and collaborate with the suppliers. You can improve the suppliers, you can work together towards, some improvements and optimizations. May be, you know, on the social component, right, like to create a better space for, for factory workers, but also on the environmental side, right, to, to improve here. So that's what we are doing. And a lot of around packaging, it's a big topic especially in the European Union, right? There are also laws, so to reduce plastic wastage, right? So it's, it's all about that to get transparency into that space and is actually for retailers and brands, like how much material am I actually importing, right? And what kind of material and how can I reduce it? Circular economy is a big topic right? Like how much material can I reuse? What material is recyclable, et cetera, et cetera. It's very complex because even with within the European Union, you see a lot of different regulations from country to country. You have other critical raw materials, right? Timber is, is one of them. Right. And then a lot of, yeah, materials need to be traced. Traceability is a big, big topic in the industry, I would say. So these are things that we cover. And last but not least, also chemical management, physical tests, right? Like whenever you produce something, usually there are chemicals involved good or bad. And what we do here for our customers is, It's not just a platform where laboratories can upload files, pdf files, like the lab test report, and, and then send it over to, to the brands and retailers. Now we are more like helping our customers to collect the actual testing data on physical or chemical testing parameters and then also on material level, right. And, and through that we help them to get way more transparency into this topic. Prevent issues down the line and also optimize the testing.Tom Raftery:
that's the range that we currently cover.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And you, you mentioned sustainability a couple of times. And as part of what you were just saying there, you talked about the traceability, the plastic packaging. Are there any other aspects of sustainability that you're covering off for customers?Tobias Grabler:
Yeah, I, I haven't mentioned, I mean, carbon emissions right in the supply chain is, is a big topic, right? So this is a topic where we double down this year. Users can already collect CO2 emissions from the supply chain, but we wanna enhance that further to make it really meaningful and, and, powerful for our customers. Yeah. That's a big topic, right? I mean, climate change and carbon emissions is, in all ears. Everyone is talking about it. And, it's not easy, right, to get to this information. I mean, scope one, scope two emissions is something that most of organizations have covered quite well already, but for many organizations, the majority of the emissions are actually created in their supply chains, right? Like when, when their products get produced. And that's still quite an untouched field. And, and yeah, we are helping our customers with that too, yeah. Absolutely right. Thanks. It's a big topic.Tom Raftery:
Cool. Tobias, have you customer use cases you can speak about any big customer wins or anything like that? Success stories, for example, that you can talk about.Tobias Grabler:
Yeah, sure. I mean, we, we have quite sizable organizations in our customer portfolio, but also we are happy to work closely with, with smaller and midsize companies. Right. But like, and, and we have success stories in, in, in different areas, right. I mean, we, we work, for example, with Puma, the, the sports and apparel brand in the space of, of quality management. They, they follow like a, a three tier approach here. Like they have, their in-house users on Topo that perform inspections in the factories. They have, their factories also on Topo for factory self inspections, which is also becoming a, a bigger topic more and more now. And in, in peak seasons, you know, they're they would you know, also include third party service providers into the space, right? Like when, when they're in-house team is already at capacity they would, deploy third party service providers and, and they can then also collaborate on Topo. They go with Topo into the factories and perform the inspections. Our success stories, maybe more in the compliance space is we just implemented one of, or like the biggest European shoe retailer Deichmann, and we prepared them for the German Due Diligence Supply Chain Act. So this is, this is, this is quite big. We work with the sourcing arm of the Rewe group. It's a, it's a German retailer and if I'm not wrong, it's the second largest retailer in, Europe. So, here we are more like, have a bigger scope, you know, more like, more like end to end. Starting from the sourcing that I mentioned before. And, you know, going all the way to, yeah compliance topics, quality management, production follow ups, et cetera, et cetera.Tom Raftery:
Okay, cool. And where to next for Topo? I mean, what are your plans for the next, let's say five, 10 years to take over the world?Tobias Grabler:
Yeah, our vision is to become the most efficient and powerful supply chain platform in the, in the market. You know, easy to use and agile for our users. And yeah, for that, you know, we have to strengthen the areas and enhance, you know, features across the board pretty much, right? Like, going down into more details in, in all the areas. But we definitely see a big need and a big growth in compliance and sustainability for sure. That's, that's where the market goes. It's just such an important topic, right? For, for the entire world and for, for supply chain management. It cannot be just neglected. And I believe we have a great setup here because when we talk about sustainability, I think you have to take a very holistic approach to it. Otherwise, if you have like just single initiatives here and there, I think you can go down quite quickly into the greenwashing route, right? And, and you know, there's nothing wrong with starting somewhere, right? Every, every customer is a, is a different journey, right? And, and getting started is great, but eventually you have to tackle quite a broad area, as I mentioned, right? Like there's the social component and sustainability and the environmental component and there are a lot of topics to cover and I think we have a great setup for that. And, and also here we want to double down and as I said, the carbon emission part. Also traceability is a very complex topic. And, and we wanna look into this into more detail in the next years to come?Tom Raftery:
super, super. Tobias, we're coming towards the end of the podcast now. Is there any question that I haven't asked that you wish I had or any aspect of this we haven't covered that you think it's important for people to be aware of?Tobias Grabler:
I think we, we covered a lot of interesting parts. I would say Tom, so I'm actually from my side, I don't have much to add anymore.Tom Raftery:
Okay. Cool. Cool. So if people would like to know more about yourself, Tobias, or about Topo, or any of the things that we discussed on the podcast today, where would you have me direct them?Tobias Grabler:
They can either find me on, on LinkedIn under Tobias Gra bler or just reach out at hello @ topo.cc a nd we are happy to, to get in touch with you.Tom Raftery:
Fantastic. Super great. I'll mention those in the show notes as well in case people want to check them out. Super Tobias, that's been great. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today.Tobias Grabler:
Thank you so much, Tom. Thanks for having me. Bye.Tom Raftery:
Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about digital supply chains, simply drop me an email to TomRaftery@outlook.com If you like the show, please don't forget to click Follow on it in your podcast application of choice to be sure to get new episodes as soon as they're published Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find a show. Thanks, catch you all next time.