Digital Supply Chain

Harnessing AI to Revolutionise Procurement: A Conversation with Arkestro's Edmund Zagorin

July 31, 2023 Tom Raftery / Edmund Zagorin Season 1 Episode 339
Digital Supply Chain
Harnessing AI to Revolutionise Procurement: A Conversation with Arkestro's Edmund Zagorin
Digital Supply Chain +
Become a supporter of the show!
Starting at $3/month
Support
Show Notes Transcript

Hey folks, Tom Raftery here with another insightful episode of the Digital Supply Chain podcast. This time, I had the pleasure of chatting with Edmund Zagorin, the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Arkestro.

Edmund has a unique perspective on the intersection of AI, procurement, and supply chain processes, and this chat was packed with fascinating insights. We explored the dynamic role of AI in transforming the procurement landscape and how it's helping to streamline operations and facilitate strategic decision-making in supply chains.

One of the key themes we delved into was the importance of aligning your company's digitization strategy with its unique business challenges - something Edmund believes Arkestro has nailed with their clients, including giants like Koch Industries.

As we find ourselves in a world where personal interactions and travel are significantly reduced due to the pandemic, Edmund urges us to consider if we're fostering the same connections with our suppliers as before. He convincingly argues that now is the perfect time to harness the power of AI to rethink and invigorate supplier relationships.

If you've ever wondered whether digital transformation and AI are just hype or if they really have a transformative role in today's complex business environment, this episode is a must-listen. It's not just about technology, but about how we can use it to seize opportunities in a rapidly changing world. Don't miss out!

Remember to visit Arkestro on the web and LinkedIn to find out more about the work they're doing in revolutionising procurement.

That's it for this episode, folks. Until next time, as Edmund said, keep seizing the day!

Support the show


Podcast supporters
I'd like to sincerely thank this podcast's generous supporters:

  • Lorcan Sheehan
  • Krishna Kumar
  • Christophe Kottelat
  • Olivier Brusle
  • Robert Conway
  • Alexandra Katopodis
  • Alicia Farag
  • Joël VANDI
  • Luis Olavarria

And remember you too can Support the Podcast - it is really easy and hugely important as it will enable me to continue to create more excellent Digital Supply Chain episodes like this one.

Podcast Sponsorship Opportunities:
If you/your organisation is interested in sponsoring this podcast - I have several options available. Let's talk!

Finally
If you have any comments/suggestions or questions for the podcast - feel free to just send me a direct message on Twitter/LinkedIn.

If you liked this show, please don't forget to rate and/or review it. It makes a big difference to help new people discover it.

Thanks for listening.

Edmund Zagorin:

There's a recent study that said like 95% of manufacturers plan to ask their suppliers for price decreases after, several years of price increases. Even though they want that, what they really want is continuity of supply, great supplier relationships and great supplier performance, because operationally that just matters more in most contexts than just the base cost or the price.

Tom 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 and with me on the show today, I have my special guest Edmund. Edmund, welcome to the podcast. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Edmund Zagorin:

Hey, thanks, Tom. Great to be here. My name is Edmund Zagorin, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Arkestro. Arkestro is a predictive procurement orchestration platform, simulate procurement events to give people an idea of what's coming down the pipe and then reverse engineer great procurement processes from there. My background is actually in strategic sourcing, data analysis and machine learning and specifically in helping strategic sourcing teams, often in a manufacturing context, figure out which supplier has the best, not just price, but holistic offer for every single item that, would be in a bill of materials or in a, a sourcing event.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, very good. Very good. We'll come back to that. I'm curious what a holistic offering is. So we'll, we'll pin that a second and come back to it. But before we get to that, tell me a little bit about the genesis of Arkestro, you know, what was it that made you wake up one morning and think I know what I'll do, I'll found Arkestro. What, what was that Damascene moment?

Edmund Zagorin:

Yeah, you know, I think it's for people that have worked in this field, the process of awarding business, a lot of this work is done in Excel. A lot of this work is done through a process that involves long meetings with stakeholders, gathering feedback, and kind of piecing together. What is a combination of a best business decision, but also a best decision for the relationship with the supplier. And for me, the aha moment having used a lot of the different software and different solutions that are out there was this realization that it was not going to be possible to accelerate the process or improve the data quality in the process, without helping the supplier. Like a lot of these systems were designed with wizards and interfaces to build procurement projects or to build procurement activities in instead of being on paper in the, in the digital world. But a lot of the work that takes place from a business process standpoint is done by the supplier and it's on the supplier's side of the process, side of the application, side of the table. And so, I actually, you know, when I was doing this work, got a call from a vice president of procurement, at a big German chemical company called BASF. And, this guy, Martin Beck really was curious about rethinking, how procurement, worked for one of their categories, a spare parts category. And this was a process that involved, very familiar for folks that have worked in procurement or, elements of this crossover in the supply chain. You have a demand plan, a list of items that you want to want to source. Your goal is to get to a contract that typically involves multiple suppliers and they would send out the spreadsheet to their, relevant preferred suppliers and maybe a couple other ones to, to gin up some additional competition and, and, and get some, sense of what the market looks like. The suppliers would fill it out, send it back, and then, it would be a, a month's long process of creating pivot tables, not just based on price, but based on order quantity, lead time, and a number of other characteristics of the offer to generate a list of preferred suppliers for each item, and then that would have to get approved by engineering and get approved by, a couple other stakeholders in the process. End to end, this consumed four FTEs time over a very long, period. And, despite the fact that it is strategic sourcing, the impact on, the business was not always realized in terms of, improved costs or really improved value. In part because the process for the suppliers took so, so long for them to complete, that, you know, by the time they got it back, maybe there was limited window to negotiate. People were in a hurry. And so on. And so in rethinking this process, we used a predictive model and a little bit of machine learning to simulate that entire eight month process end to end in a matter of seconds, generate a suggested offer for each of the suppliers. We sent that offer to the suppliers. They modified it and returned it in, just a few days. The process ran in two weeks, and, it generated, 590, 000 euros in hard cost savings and a 3. 6 billion euro baseline net of, around 16. 5% savings. And this, outcome was, done without any supplier logging into an application. And it was done, without, you know, training, onboarding, that, that type of thing. And so, if you think about digital transformation in the supply chain space, one of the persistent challenges is supplier adoption of new systems and tools. Another is change management around the process. And so what, what in unpacking this with the BASF team, what we really learned from listening to customers and really engaging with the category managers and the procurement directors on this process was that, creating these essentially, pre approved targets, which by the way, a lot of advanced procurement teams do in direct materials, which should be costing. and so on today, it made the quote analysis process essentially instantaneous because you already have an idea that what you're proposing to the supplier is acceptable to you, you know, if not, why would you be proposing it? But you're still creating competitive context for additional value to be, created. And so if you think about it, and this is the last thing I'll just add for listeners who are familiar with procurement and particularly familiar with the difference between RFPs, RFQs, and auctions is that suppliers actually are not crazy about RFPs, especially if they're not preferred existing suppliers because you get one, you get one shot, you really get one shot to get it right. It's very stressful. Suppliers selling in that context is asking a lot of questions, which can be sometimes be irritating to the procurement team, or irritating to the stakeholders, but the suppliers need to do it in order to make a good offer in order to understand what the customer is looking for, what value, what, elements other than price they, they, they want to get, and then auctions are really kind of unlimited race to the bottom, type bidding events. They can produce a lot of value but there, there also can be actually quite stressful, not just in terms of eroding value, but, they're, they're actually kind of, emotionally stressful and researchers have looked into this and there's a phenomenon called auction fever, which can cause suppliers to offer things that It didn't necessarily mean to, in kind of the heat of the race. And so at Arkestro, what we did is we said, based on this experience, working with BASF, learning from their team, is there some way to get the best of both worlds? Something that where a supplier gets multiple opportunities to offer, they have a really clear idea of what the customer is looking for from a, you know, lead time quality, you know, it's all pre filled out for them. And it creates that competitive context that allows, procurement and their stakeholders to get competitive, market optimal pricing from their preferred, suppliers and, and understand, if other supply sources would be preferable.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. And so what is it that you have come up with as a result of, you know, working with BASF across this? Is, is it a, is it a product that you're going to market with for other organizations now as well?

Edmund Zagorin:

Absolutely, yeah. So, Arkestro... Just to give you a little, background on us as a company, we started six years ago, really began scaling out, the product, not just globally, but, also in terms of the category, spend categories and industries, that we, that we serve. So our, our bread and butter started in, strategic sourcing, primarily for, MRO spare parts, and then materials for manufacturing. And, what we've done over the years is we've not just built a true enterprise grade AI infrastructure platform that's an embedded platform so it can live inside of Ariba, live inside of Coupa live inside of other you know even demand planning platforms and ERPs like Oracle, SAP and so on, but we have, begun, we have begun scaling up the platform in a variety of different industries. Chemical manufacturing is where we started, but, you know, automotive, we have a number of like large global retailers that use the platform. We have companies that manufacture equipment, that, manufacture, all kinds of, food and beverage. I, I, you know, call out, we recently announced a major partnership with Koch Industries which is, a very large portfolio of manufacturing companies that, includes, companies like Koch Engineered Solutions, Georgia Pacific Molex, and so on. We we serve companies like Bell Brands that makes, like, the little red wax cheese, if, you know that one and we still do a lot in process manufacturing, chemical industry, what all of these companies share is a process where in many cases before Arkestro, even with a procure to pay system or a really sophisticated digital supply chain system, the number one way of collecting a quote from their suppliers to agree upon. The price to move a supply chain forward is Excel, Excel and email.

Tom Raftery:

Right. And now it's not.

Edmund Zagorin:

Well, and in, in certain cases, I should say that Arkestro is so hand in glove with an existing process that for the supplier, it might be very similar to an email with an Excel attachment, but the difference is, and this is really the key thing. that rather than having to enter in the data, the data is filled out for the supplier with contextual feedback. In email through a predictive model driven by machine learning.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. Okay. You, you talk a bit about what's called. Anchor bias. Can you explain what that is for people who haven't heard you use the term or haven't come across the term?

Edmund Zagorin:

Yeah, absolutely. So I think anchor bias really exists for most people that are just consumers in the world in two main ways. One is when you go to the supermarket, you experience this phenomenon of psychological pricing, and this is shows up mostly in like prices that end in the number nine. And so anytime you see like 9 99, 19 99, that is called psychological pricing. It's ubiquitous in not just retail, but also now e-commerce. And it works because of the anchor bias. So like our minds anchor, they are hyper-efficient and as a result, make systematic mistakes and, and biases. And one of those mistakes is like the first number that we see is the number that we remember. So, if we see 6. 99, we'll be like, oh yeah, that's six bucks and change. Instead of being like, ah, that's actually 7. it's funny because the anchoring effect in that sense works. Even if cognitively at kind of a second order level, we know that we're being messed with a little bit. But it's still has a effect on our decisions when we when we make comparisons. The other kind of dimension of the anchor bias is simply that because, again, we're hyper efficient, another way of saying is we're a little bit cognitively lazy in the way that we just kind of grok the world, is that if we are presented with a recommendation or something is there to begin with, we often use that as the starting point for how we understand what success looks like, and this is happens across the business world where you know, for example, in a marketing marketing email newsletters it used to be that you'd have to, to not just check a box, but like fill out a bunch of stuff to get a newsletter. A lot of brands, if they have a newsletter, they really want you to, to get it or to, to grow their list. They'll check the box for you when you're checking out. And, and that practice in user experience design is known as a smart default. Now, when we were starting the company our CTO Ben Lakin was actually an engineering leader and then a product leader at a company called SurveyMonkey. And SurveyMonkey Is you know, the leader in digital survey tools, you can create a survey and send it to your friends or use it in your psychology class or, or any number of things. And so Ben had had this formative experience with smart defaults and what they can do to survey completion. And I was, you know, working in procurement, doing you know, procurement doing data analysis and, and doing some data science and machine learning for strategic sourcing teams. And I was complaining to Ben, I was like, you know, it takes so long for these suppliers to get back to us with, with the information that we need to move the process forward. Sometimes we're waiting for just one supplier at the, at the end of the process. You know, I wish that there was, there was a solution for this and Ben was like, Oh, well, you know, smart defaults is a great way when it comes to surveys that you can really it can be a game changer for completion rates, which is a really important KPI when you, when you manage a big surveys, how many people are filling it out and completing it. And so that was a big part of when we were, when we were in the early days, experimenting with the BASF team. That this idea became really powerful. Now this actually ties to something in negotiation, which is this idea that the person that puts out the first offer will anchor the expectations of all of the people in the negotiation about where the negotiation will end up provided that the anchor is credible, perceived as credible, and provided that there's some data to back it up. And provided that it is in negotiation theory, we would say within the ZOPA, the zone of possible agreement. And so provided that the anchor meets those criteria, it will influence the outcome as predictably and reliably as putting 99 99 in your price, which again is, you know, all of the studies on this have shown that it's effective. Otherwise, why would retailers do it? And so counterintuitively to what many procurement and supply chain professionals have been taught, putting out this first offer, pre filling out your suppliers you know, quotes or, or RFQ responses for them not only makes it a lot faster for the suppliers, but it creates a game theoretic advantage that results in fundamentally improved costs across the board.

Tom Raftery:

Explain that bit for me the, the, gaming aspect of it. How does that work?

Edmund Zagorin:

Well, so if you think about it like imagine so one of the fundamental game theory constructs is known as the prisoner's dilemma

Tom Raftery:

Mm

Edmund Zagorin:

And in the prisoner's dilemma, you can imagine. I don't know if you watch like police procedurals. I'm a huge law and order fan it's just something I started watching as a kid and have have kept up with it but you see this all the time, you know, they've they have two suspects. They're not sure who did it But they go in and they say, I have your, you know, your co conspirator, your buddy in the next room and we've made, you know, we've made them a deal that they're going to do like basically no prison time. You know, if they, if they rat you out, so it's a race to see like who is going to flip on the other one. And we're going to make you the same deal, and we're going to set a timer, and the deal expires at the end of the time, right? Now I want to call out that anyone who thinks that applying that adversarial level of relationship to the supply chain, that's absolutely nuts. However, there are lessons in that game theoretic construct for digital supply chain teams and for procurement teams. In fact, to an extent, the, the basic R F P contains grains of this same exact game. So RFPs are game theoretic at their very base, because what they do is, as a supplier, I am being forced to guess what other people are going to offer and make an offer that's better than that. And so in the same way, that the prisoner has to make an agreement that's faster than their, you know, co conspirator if, if they, if they want to avoid prison time. You know, I, as the supplier, I have to make an offer that I believe is more competitive than other suppliers that are involved in the same game theoretic construct of the RFP.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. Okay. And talk to me about target pricing then for, for these kind of situations.

Edmund Zagorin:

Well, so, target pricing, if you think about it classically, A should be cost is used typically as kind of a back end thing by the procurement or supply chain team, you're saying, Hey, we need to stand up a supply chain. We need to know, you know, Hey, we need to get our demand, right? We need to understand our demand. We need to understand, you know, our, you know, supply sources. What is the history with them? Have we worked with them before? What's their performance record? What's their on time in full? And we need to understand not just the pricing, but what the price evolution is going to look like. You don't want to award business and then they have to price change and change and change. You ideally, right, finance wants some predictability in pricing and costs and some repeatability in procurement processes and understanding of what the best management practices look like. So if you think about a target price, classically, it's sometimes called a should cost or should be cost. And these are used by finance and procurement and in some cases operations as well to measure success of a procurement activities performance when it comes to the supply chain. And so in some cases for direct materials for very long tail processes, like, you know, building a car you'll get the information out of the PLM system or product life cycle management system that will then flip into a demand table or a bill of materials, depending on what system or what industry you're in. And then you'll say, great, I know what I want to buy, but who am I going to buy it from and at what price and on what commercial terms. And that's often where procurement gets involved and they will create these targets using should cost or should be costing. or other tools. And they'll say, Hey, finance, like, does it make sense that we'll have this and finance will be like, okay, here's what the margin on this product is going to be. Because on the other side, they've done some research around pricing to understand like what the, you know, willingness to pay of the market for the finished product is. So they say, okay, great. This, this works for us. Let's go out. We'll try and get some, some benefit here, some benefit there. We'll look at different supply options. We'll look at different you know, and the product team will meet very regularly throughout this process until you know, they're ready to go to market. And so, and of course, even, even through them. So a target price in this context is simply a way of measuring success financially of the procurement activities that go on throughout this cycle. Now in Arkestro, we use this in a little bit of a different context because, you know, you know, if you've ever seen the movie Dr. Strangelove, there's that part where at the end where they, you know, they said, you know, why did you build the doomsday machine and not tell anyone? If you had this technology, you have to tell the world, you know. And so our philosophy is like, Hey, if you know what you want from a pricing perspective and you have preferred suppliers in mind, it's actually hugely advantageous to share your desired outcome. Or, or an anchor to that, not always the final desired outcome, but at very least an anchor to that with your preferred suppliers and, and potentially some other suppliers in the mix. Why? One, it makes the process move a lot faster, which means that you have more time to negotiate and procurement gets involved earlier, which has huge other advantages to it. Second, is that it actually creates trust with the supplier, because rather than treating them as an adversary where you're withholding information, And forcing them to guess what you want. You're actually giving them some clues and treating them as a true partner. And I think what a lot of, especially over the past few years with COVID. You know, people have moved from this request for proposal to request for partnership. People really want long term deep partnerships with their supplier partners. And then third is that, you know, look at the data, look at the data on this, right? Study after study shows that putting out the first offer in a negotiation is economically advantageous, financially beneficial from a purely business ROI perspective. It's a no brainer. And so like there's one study summarized in the 2007 book Essentials of Negotiation by Lewicki et al from Galinski and Musweiler, that says that over half of the difference in offers in simulated negotiations over the, the studies that they've done can be explained by who, literally just who went first. And so that's, that's a shocking amount of money to be leaving on the table. If it's something where you're holding the target price back, you're not doing it. And it also of course means the number of cycles and activities that you can run is much, much less. than if you helped the supplier get through the process by pre populating the desired response for them.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, but you used initially the word holistic, so pricing isn't obviously the only factor that's taken into consideration. What would be some other ones?

Edmund Zagorin:

Well, I think actually that the most important factor is paradoxically the one that is often the hardest to measure and it's the supplier relationship. And so I'll tell you something that a mentor of mine shared with me early in the company building process. A guy named Damien Bile, who is a professor at University of Michigan where I went. He's a professor at the business school. And he studies actually total cost of ownership. And he studies it in the context of procurement and supply chain and, and, and especially complex supply chain supply chains and industrial and manufacturing context where the relationship and the total cost of ownership and really the suppliers performance with on time and full and timely communication matter much, much more than the price. And where procurement wants to deliver cost savings, especially by the way, right now, there's a recent study that said like 95% of manufacturers plan to ask their suppliers for price decreases after, you know, several years of price increases. Even though they want that, what they really want is continuity of supply, great supplier relationships and great supplier performance, because operationally that just matters more in most contexts than just the base cost or the price. And so procurement has been in this conflict between finance and operations kind of caught between the two. Damien said this thing to me that I'll never forget. He said, no one today can agree on exactly the right way to measure total cost of ownership for every category of spend or every category of supply. But every serious executive leader agrees that if you don't at least try to measure it, you've gone horribly wrong because you're, you're just going with the lowest price at that point, which can lead to all kinds of, of, of perverse outcomes and unintended consequences. And so that is something in Arkestro that we've really worked hard to model is this concept of holistic preference. That includes things like lead time, quality, but actually is able to mathematically and quantitatively represent the preferredness of a supplier at the item level. So that any complex BOM you can know based on your previous supplier performance history and your previous history of transactions and quotes who the best likely selected supplier is for that item and you can do that before you even send out the RFQ

Tom Raftery:

Nice, nice, interesting. Edmund, do you have any, you know, cool customer wins that you can speak to?

Edmund Zagorin:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, we I mentioned Koch Industries. They just put out a great release that kind of details some of the ways that that they approached thinking through Arkestro and using Arkestro to think through their, their supply chain. I'll, I'll say a little bit about that. But I also want to call out a customer that's been with us for a very, very long time. So always nice to have the new with, with the old, you know, keep, you know, make new friends, but keep the old. And that's Dover Chemical. And Dover Chemical is not it's not like the biggest company in the world, but it's a, it's a very robust process manufacturing chemical company great people, great products. And they have really thought seriously about how their company should interact with their suppliers, should interact especially getting parts for their manufacturing locations on an ongoing basis. And when they started, they were you know, mostly like email and spreadsheets you know, calling, calling over the phone kind of chasing parts, like, like running down different tasks. The procurement team who's absolutely fantastic and, and worked with them for, for, for a long time now. They were interested in going the full digital journey. And to say, how can we get an end to end loop where something comes out of our ERP system and they use Microsoft Dynamics as their, their back end ERP. And where as soon as someone knows they need to get a part, or there's a piece of equipment where they need to get pricing for, they can put it in and with procurement really kind of supervising but building in a lot of, you know, logic that makes this very, very seamless. It can get checked against market indices, it can get checked against demand and inventory. It can go out to suppliers to get an agreed upon price. That price can be checked against again, numerous different sources. And remember with Arkestro, the quote is pregenerated. So the suggestion is generated by a machine learning model that is shown to the suppliers. It makes it very easy for the suppliers in email, boom, one click. To to get back if they want to modify and tinker around they can go into the application. And they of course can provide additional information about the spec, propose alternatives all of that good stuff, is is available to them if if they want to do that or if they or out of stock of a particular item and, and need to work with that. And then it comes back in again, the, the outcome is graded, the competitiveness is assessed, the saving you know, in, in the event that there's a cost impact that's then shared with finance for validation and approval. And then the whole thing goes back into the ERP to generate a purchase order. And then update all of the master data. And that end to end connection, that loop means that today Dover Chemical is it close to 98% might even be a little bit over 98% end to end digital visibility for these transactions. I mean, they can see them in real time as they're happening, and with predictive models, they have a sense of where it will end up before it even begins. And it's reduced the cycle time for these processes dramatically as well as providing year over year, sustainable cost impact that is really often the result of actually just being able to run more procurement activities rather than like specifically hammering a couple more points out of, you know, this supplier, that supplier. The other win I'll talk about, so that's, that's kind of on the, Hey, you're very mature. Like, You've, you've been thinking through digital supply chain for a minute. And you realize that like, you know, it doesn't matter how good the software is, if the supplier has to fill out a giant spreadsheet, it's just still going to take them a really long time. So pre populating desired outcome is the only answer. That's, that's really what Arkestro does for, for these customers as, as an AI company, right? The AI is what fills in the data for the suppliers. And then we have some software that that helps manage that process and integrate with existing existing solutions. On the Koch Industry side, I want to call out a very excellent process for a big company with lots of stakeholders involved to bring together a group of people around digital supply chain, see the opportunity and then work together through a process of validating that Arkestro delivered in the ways that they wanted and expected for the categories that mattered to them. And this is really important. So, and this is the one piece of advice I'd give you know, any digital supply chain team that's thinking about, you know, what tools should we use? What should our roadmap be? Should we begin with data? Should we begin with org charts? Should we hire the right people and then get the tools and then this or that, whatever you're thinking about, this is the one piece of advice I would, I would give everyone or challenge maybe; think about your spend and your business first. Think about what business problem you are trying to solve, because out here in the world of A. I. and in the world of digital transformation, it is not one size fits all if you really want to hit a home run. And so the solutions that are amazing for manufacturing companies that produce equipment or physical products or goods that have bills of material and do by the way have a lot of indirect procurement indirect material, services, logistics, packaging, all of that stuff, right? That's going to be very different from a company whose primary digitization challenge is getting services contracts in order or getting like an intake process set up. That prioritization is going to be different based on industry based on the business that you're in. And so what, what Koch industries, I think really nailed as a customer from, from a win standpoint is they said, here are our business problems. Here's the opportunity. Here's how much impact we would like to see. And we are going to construct an evaluation process that isn't based on hypotheticals or like you know, we give you some data, you tell us some stuff. No, they wanted to use it in production with their suppliers. They wanted to get feedback from their suppliers, feedback from their category managers. And that process not only delivered just in that initial evaluation phase exceptional business impact from a, from a finance and operations standpoint, it created opportunities to see how you could optimize based on non price criteria. Like you can run a procurement activity that's optimized based on on time and full delivery at different manufacturing locations. The world is your oyster, right? Once you have this process, you can pick the dimensions that matter most and you can continuously pull that data in automatically with no human data entry and, and have that continuously re rank the suppliers associated with, with these events. And that process resulted in a tremendous partnership that we at Arkestro are super proud of and we're super excited about what the COPE team is accomplishing with the platform.

Tom Raftery:

Cool, cool. Okay, Edmund, we're coming towards the end of the podcast. Is there any question I haven't asked that you wish I had or any aspect of this we haven't touched on that you think it's important for people to be aware of?

Edmund Zagorin:

Well, you know, I would say that there's one question that I don't think a lot of people ask, but I kind of feel it sometimes. Especially, you know, in this world where we have AI in the headlines, you know, we have supply chain in the headlines which is, you know, we've, we've heard a lot about digital transformation over the past, you know, 20, 30 years. People are saying, Hey, let's dive into AI with, with both feet. Let's reimagine our processes. And, isn't this all just hype? You know, isn't this is this just another wave of digital you know, at the end of the day, isn't isn't the real magic about having like great people, great culture. And if I just focus on that, and get like for, for smaller things, like haven't I gotten most of the way there and I would say that five years ago, that, that might have been enough, especially if you had a good ERP system and a team that knew how to use it and you had people that had been in seat for, you know, a couple decades and had visited all those strategic suppliers and sat down with them and done the factory visits and, and, and, and all of that. And I would rather than, than kind of respond to that question directly, I would, I would ask. Just a curiosity question for people that might feel sympathetic to that mentality, which is, are we living in a world where your team is able to have the same connection with all of your suppliers in the way that they were before COVID? That they're able to make those trips, have those dinners, sit across the table, build those relationships at the same level. And... we can debate whether or not digital technology is solely an enabler or whether in certain cases it can actually help us make decisions by providing us data at the right time or giving us insight into a process. But I think the one thing that no one really can contest is that there are fewer people doing fewer trips to meet with suppliers, to meet with people in the way that, I mean, it used to be, if you were a supply chain manager, you'd spend like all your time on the road, like these epic road warriors flying to, you know, Asia and LATAM and like all, all of these different geographies and meeting with the suppliers, building the relationships and having the cell phone number of the key people. And I would, I would challenge any digital supply chain leader out there and say, that is not happening today. There is not the same appetite among the profession to spend that much time on the road away from family and friends. I think that in the, you know, we, yes, we can use zoom to a great degree, but it's harder to build relationships at that deep level that way. And so I would say that if you're not using this moment with AI to rethink a transformative dimension of the supplier relationship, there's a serious risk that in a world where people are more remote and less connected, that things will go sideways. And that's really where I think this is a unique opportunity. You know, there's a lot of. There's I forget who once said this. I think it might be actually falsely attributed to to Churchill. Never waste a good crisis, you know, supply chain's got a lot of them. And like, you have this incredible tool in artificial intelligence that's baked into a lot of different solutions. Arkestro is one of them especially for, for manufacturing, but there are a bunch of great ones out there. I would encourage everyone to just get out there, get in learning mode, and see if there there's some leverage you can get from from new technology as the world is changing, as the workforce is changing and fundamentally as, as our core supplier relationships are going through some change.

Tom Raftery:

Cool, cool. Edmund, if people would like to know more about yourself or any of the things we discussed on the podcast today, where would you have me direct them?

Edmund Zagorin:

You can find Arkestro on the web at Arkestro. com. We also have a very active LinkedIn page, where you can view some of our content, some of our case studies. You can hear from our customers, meet some of our team. And in closing, I would just say, whether you're at a company that's been around for a hundred years or a hundred days, If your industry is complex, regulated has all kinds of reasons that it's, you know, struggles to go through massive change. This is an opportunity for people to rise to the top as change agents and really invigorate their organizations. And I know speaking with chief supply chain officers, chief procurement officers, chief financial officers, and the boards of some very large companies, the appetite for that change is abundant. So I would, I would just say in closing to everyone, seize the day. There's no, no, no time to wait.

Tom Raftery:

Cool, cool. Edmund, that's been fascinating. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today.

Edmund Zagorin:

Hey, Tom, thanks so much for having me.

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.