The Digital Supply Chain podcast

Supply Chain technology trends - a chat with TekTok's Karin Bursa

February 01, 2021 Tom Raftery / Karin Bursa Season 1 Episode 103
The Digital Supply Chain podcast
Supply Chain technology trends - a chat with TekTok's Karin Bursa
Chapters
The Digital Supply Chain podcast
Supply Chain technology trends - a chat with TekTok's Karin Bursa
Feb 01, 2021 Season 1 Episode 103
Tom Raftery / Karin Bursa

I am a big fan of the folks over on the Supply Chain Now podcasts and livestreams. I regularly attend their livestreams, and was even honoured to be asked to be a guest on one of their episodes.

I wanted to reciprocate, so I invited the newest podcaster to their fold, Karin Bursa who runs the TekTok Supply Chain Now podcast, which as the name suggests focuses more on the tech side of supply chain, so you know we have a lot in common!

We had a fascinating and wide-ranging covering everything from trends in AI/Ml to data to blockchain (which we're both healthily sceptical about!), to education.

This was a really interesting episode of the podcast. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and as you can probably tell, I learned loads. I hope you do too - and if you do, don't forget to subscribe to Karin's podcast to hear more of her and her interviewees.

If you have any comments/suggestions or questions for the podcast - feel free to leave me a voice message over on my SpeakPipe page, head on over to the new Digital Supply Chain podcast forum, or just send it to me as a direct message on Twitter/LinkedIn. Audio messages will get played (unless you specifically ask me not to).

To learn more about how Industry 4.0 technologies can help your organisation read the 2020 global research study 'The Power of change from Industry 4.0 in manufacturing' (https://www.sap.com/cmp/dg/industry4-manufacturing/index.html)

And if you want to know more about any of SAP's Digital Supply Chain solutions, head on over to www.sap.com/digitalsupplychain and 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.

And remember, stay healthy, stay safe, stay sane!

Show Notes Transcript

I am a big fan of the folks over on the Supply Chain Now podcasts and livestreams. I regularly attend their livestreams, and was even honoured to be asked to be a guest on one of their episodes.

I wanted to reciprocate, so I invited the newest podcaster to their fold, Karin Bursa who runs the TekTok Supply Chain Now podcast, which as the name suggests focuses more on the tech side of supply chain, so you know we have a lot in common!

We had a fascinating and wide-ranging covering everything from trends in AI/Ml to data to blockchain (which we're both healthily sceptical about!), to education.

This was a really interesting episode of the podcast. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and as you can probably tell, I learned loads. I hope you do too - and if you do, don't forget to subscribe to Karin's podcast to hear more of her and her interviewees.

If you have any comments/suggestions or questions for the podcast - feel free to leave me a voice message over on my SpeakPipe page, head on over to the new Digital Supply Chain podcast forum, or just send it to me as a direct message on Twitter/LinkedIn. Audio messages will get played (unless you specifically ask me not to).

To learn more about how Industry 4.0 technologies can help your organisation read the 2020 global research study 'The Power of change from Industry 4.0 in manufacturing' (https://www.sap.com/cmp/dg/industry4-manufacturing/index.html)

And if you want to know more about any of SAP's Digital Supply Chain solutions, head on over to www.sap.com/digitalsupplychain and 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.

And remember, stay healthy, stay safe, stay sane!

Karin Bursa:

Things like machine learning or artificial intelligence, these applications in this technology is data hungry in a way that your business has never experienced before. So the more data you feed it, the better the outcome is going to be.

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 focussing on the digitisation of Supply chain. And I'm your host, Global vice president of SAP. Tom Raftery. Hi everyone. Welcome to the digital Supply chain podcast, My name is Tom Raftery with SAP. And with me on the show today, I have my special guest, Karin, Karin would you like to introduce yourself?

Karin Bursa:

Yeah, absolutely, Tom. Hey, it's great to be here with you. I am Karin Bursa and I'm the host of TekTok Digital Supply chain podcast as well. And our focus is to try to cut through the noise and help folks understand really the potential and opportunity and get a little inspiration around all things digital. So it's great to be with you.

Tom Raftery:

OK, and tell me a little bit about the podcast, Karin, because you're part of the Supply chain Now Network with Scott and Greg. How long have you been doing it? And what what is the podcast about? Who who are you talking to and what are your kind of favourite topics and what are your learnings? And lots and lots and lots of stuff know.

Karin Bursa:

How much time do you have? So, yeah, absolutely. The the TekTok and that's T E K T O K, podcast is on Supply chain now so you can find it at Apple or anywhere you get your podcast or you can check out the Supply chain Now website. But I joined...

Tom Raftery:

I'll put a link in the notes as well.

Karin Bursa:

Oh perfect. Perfect. So I join the team and launch the webcast just at the end of October and really time because it's it's such an important time as we're seeing transformations are really accelerating in the industry and and companies are embracing technology in a way they never have before or more aggressively because they understand the sense of urgency. And in this theme around digital supply chain, I've got twenty five years of supply chain experience and technology experience. So it is a perfect fit. And I was honoured to be named the twenty twenty supply chain pro to know of the year by supply and demand chain executive for twenty twenty. So the 20th one in twenty twenty and and it just all seemed to line up really well. So it's been a lot of fun. The focus, Tom, has been on exactly what you would think given your domain expertise and digital supply chain it is marrying the benefits of using technology to model what's happening in the physical supply chain as well as to evaluate multiple opportunities for the business. So whatever your business is, there are always new opportunities to be harnessed or risk to be mitigated. So that's really what the focus is.

Tom Raftery:

OK, now how did you get into Supply chain? I mean, you said you've been in at twenty five years. So what, what led you to, to jump into Supply chain.

Karin Bursa:

Yeah it was by accident. Totally, totally by accident.

Tom Raftery:

That's the way with a lot of people.

Karin Bursa:

Yeah. Yeah. So I started my career with, with what today is Accenture and I had a very, very strong finance background which meant I was really into maths and forecasting and, you know, in a number of different things. While I got assigned to a number of customers that were doing mergers and acquisitions and they happened to be in the manufacturing sector. And from their time, it's pretty straightforward. I spent a lot of time looking at divesting certain production assets and then investigating actual production facilities to look at things like line rates or activity based costing studies or alignment with sales forecasting. Well, Tom, as you know today, all of that is Supply chain. So that's how I got into it. I loved it. It was never what I planned for. But it was so fascinating and interesting. And the thing I love most is the ability to deliver tangible, hard dollar results for businesses and for the customers. The customers are happy when they get better service and the businesses are happy when they provide that service at a lower cost and a greater level of confidence.

Tom Raftery:

OK, and you've I mean, you've been on the podcast now since October. You said who are your typical kind of interviewees and what kind of topics are they talking to?

Karin Bursa:

Yeah, so it's been a fairly wide spectrum so far. We've had some chief supply chain officers, which you would expect. Talking about how their organisations are leveraging the digital aspects to really improve the physical outcomes, also some of the industry's top industry analyst, folks like Laura Cesari with Supply chain insights has has been on the on the show as well. Actually, I was a really interesting episode, but it's her back story on how she got to where she is today. So I'd love to recommend that to to some of your listeners who may know Laura. That's Laura Caesarea with Supply chain Insights and then some unexpected guests as well. There's a non-profit that's here in the Atlanta area that had to completely rethink its supply chain in the midst of covid like so many businesses, just with a fraction of the talent and assets to do it. And they made a very quick transition. So lots of interesting ways to think about technology and how it can be applied to solve a variety of business problems.

Tom Raftery:

Super, super. And from your own perspective, what what aspects of Supply chain now are you finding to be the most interesting?

Karin Bursa:

Supply chain, now the team or Supply chain, you see the. So I think in the Supply chain sector right now, especially around digital supply chain, there is a tremendous opportunity around artificial intelligence and really the desired outcomes are maybe three fold. The first is faster planning so that you can do faster and continuous planning for your business and harness new market signals, whether those posts or syndicated data, whatever that might be. You also need your cadence base, right, your weekly or your monthly or quarterly to really support your financial management. But this move to a more continuous is really exciting. And the second is around automation. Right? How can we do things quicker and more predictably across the business so that we don't just have one rock star planner and the others that may be kind of on average and then somewhere bringing up to speed? How do we level up the whole team and free them up to do some other more interesting things? And then finally, not only can we go faster, but we can go deeper. So instead of making broad decisions like broad inventory policies or broad forecasting measures, that artificial intelligence allows companies to go deeper and look at item level information or item location level information or specific channel demand or pull in the sectors as well. So I think there's huge opportunity and we've just begun to scratch the surface.

Tom Raftery:

OK, fascinating. We hear so many times people say things like, you know, data is the new currency. Our data is the new whatever. I don't want to say the one beginning with, O, because, you know, I'm not a fan of fossil fuels. So we'll stick with currency data is the new currency. How do you see the huge explosion of availability of data impacting Supply chain operations?

Karin Bursa:

Yeah, so I think you're right on point and I do think it's the currency of business. And certainly you and the as SAP team have a big point of view on this and on a lot of that data. But there are a lot of companies out there whose enterprise data, just what's inside their own ecosystem is not easy to access and get to. And that's one of the challenges because things like machine learning or artificial intelligence, these applications and this technology is data hungry in a way that your business has never experienced before. So the more data you feed it, the better the outcome is going to be. And if you want to take advantage of multiple, let's use demand planning. So multiple demand signals, certainly you want to look at history, what your business has done in the past, but you want to bring in and leverage additional demand signals like point of sale data or syndicated data or even weather data, which may influence how your consumers or customers purchase a new product as well. And so you can see Reymond Umbrella's or. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So in doing that, you want to triangulate across different time horizons where certain signals will be stronger in a short term, other signals will be a stronger indicator and a long term. So you can see how pulling all of that data together, being able to interrogate it, evaluate it, look for the actual signals in the market and refine those outcomes or refine those plans from a demand planning perspective that may then influence your other supply chain decisions. So short answer on your data. Data is important. It's critical, and a lot of artificial intelligence is actually being applied to that data curation and cleansing and clustering before it's actually used. So there's another opportunity for for AI in that area as well.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, we also see a big tendency now towards predictive maintenance using data coming from sensors on devices. Is that just just us or is it something that you're seeing as well?

Karin Bursa:

No, that's a fantastic example. So I think maintenance replenishment signals are are very much the same as well. So that's a great signal, especially for businesses maybe that do kind of milk run delivery of goods, what the quantities and timing are for products. So I think the Internet of Things or the Iot or the sensors. Signals. That's a great example of a data signal or a market signal that we haven't historically had or harnessed effectively, but is very, very powerful.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, yeah. Uh, block chain is that I tend to be very sceptical still about block chain. I can see it has a certain use cases potentially, but we're still very much in the early days of deployments of it. And in a lot of cases I tend to think that it's deployed for deploying it's sake, that whatever it can do could also be done by a database. I don't know. Do you have an opinion on that?

Karin Bursa:

I'm with you. I think I think we're very early in the stages of getting some really strong, commercialised benefits out of the effort. I, I love the the thought behind it and the traceability behind it and the registration process behind it. But imposing that, especially on mid and smaller size companies, can be very arduous. So I think there needs to be a very strong reason, compelling reason for participation and keeping up with it over time. But I think it's coming. But it's still it's still a bit challenging, I think. And most companies aren't super clear on the benefit outcome of it, just a recognition that there will be value.

Tom Raftery:

I think possibly to your point about smaller and mid-sized companies, a cloud delivered solution could be the way forward for them in that scenario so they don't have to stand it up themselves. And speaking of the whole shift to cloud as meaning, we're seeing as well, but it's kind of patchy because you've got some people that traditionally have been very unprime focus and are slower to move. And that can create that can that can be industry by industry as well. Some industries slower change in others. Again, comments on that.

Karin Bursa:

Well, yeah, I think you know that the wonderful thing I'm stumbling here, the wonderful thing about cloud is the additional services that come from your application provider or from from use of the technology. Right. Because they are helping you stay current. You're not going to get land locked in an on premise that's working just fine for your business today when your provider as SAP for you, hundreds of other providers in the market, you know, they continue to innovate. And if you're not taking advantage of that, you fall behind. So to me, the benefit of cloud is that evergreen environment and being able to be in a position, no matter if you're the world's largest company or a mid-sized company, that they have the ability to be current and harness the latest innovations gives you that upside potential. So I think people, you know, don't don't consider all of those benefits all the time. And I do expect to see adoption continue to move forward. Many of the Supply chain best of breed providers that I know and worked with, they've switched to almost one hundred percent cloud at this point in time for new engagements or new customers, but still have existing customers that are operating in those on premise worlds.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, we saw we stood up a couple of offers at the start of the pandemic for people and we set them up as cloud delivery solutions because, you know, you don't want to be tried to stand up. A new data centre in the middle of a pandemic of cloud delivered made a lot more sense, but also it's far faster to deploy it delivered solution than an on prem one. And the uptake people would, to use the expression the bit our hands off. It was incredible and it has been a huge success for us as a result. And I I'm not this isn't an as SAP boosting operation. Here are other companies in the space. Did similar things I'm sure had similar uptake. So, yeah, I to your point, I think it it allows for very fast deployment of solutions and very I'm not going to say touchless, but very easy. Easy. The other thing though, and again, this is this is almost to your point is I think it enforces more standardisation, which is a good thing because so many deployments of enterprise software suffer from over customisation, which then causes problems with. Upgrades and causes problems when you try and merge with another company or bring in someone else or know and so on and so on, and I think the the requirement to be more standard in the cloud delivered environment has to be a good thing.

Karin Bursa:

I agree. One hundred percent. I think that that discipline that gets put in place and the desire to use standard capabilities is a huge benefit. I also think as a technology provider, what companies are doing is is providing more configuration, more options that are within the solutions set and don't require add on or customisation. So I think we are getting better as far as technology service providers, as innovators and how that actually gets implemented so that we can meet their needs within within a scope of capability that gives them flexibility to differentiate in the market, but still allows them that path forward. So great point.

Tom Raftery:

The other big advantage I see is the ability to better integrate because a lot of the cloud solutions now come with a whole slew of APIs to allow you to integrate with other applications.

Karin Bursa:

I agree 100 percent. And as you mentioned just a minute ago, about data and data being necessary to fuel artificial intelligence and machine learning and some of this just fascinating technology that's being incorporated in solutions, that data connectivity is critically important and will only get more important as we continue to push forward.

Tom Raftery:

And to one of your earlier examples, getting into weather data, for example, you know, lots of lots of weather companies do provide APIs for their data. So it's trivial almost to connect that into your cloud solution if you have one.

Karin Bursa:

Absolutely. Great point.

Tom Raftery:

What about the whole idea of a self-driving supply chain?

Karin Bursa:

Ah, self-driving, you know, given that you are a bit of an automotive expert, I knew somehow self knew driving would come up in here at some point. So I think, you know, I I think that we can see a day when elements of supply chain planning in particular and some execution on priority of shipments and things along those lines will be automated. And I think what will happen is it'll elevate the human interaction. But I think we're seeing automation in a number of areas already. So we talked just a moment ago about continuous planning, the ability to bring in additional market signals and refine plans. That's happening on top of what may have been a long term plan. So you're seeing those get layered in. You're also seeing a number of companies being able now to evaluate a multitude of scenarios for their business. This is critically important around sales and operations planning or integrated business planning. Historically, companies would struggle to look at three scenarios. Right, a best case or worst case and maybe a most likely scenario just to understand what their upside opportunity might be, their downside risk might be. But today they can literally evaluate hundreds of scenarios. So if there's a risk looming on the horizon or a new opportunity maybe for expansion of the business, now we can look at hundreds and we can vary all the different variables and that can happen in an automated way. So no more drudgery looking at spreadsheets or trying to figure it out, which is human brute force. Those are getting automated and the outcomes are getting elevated. So we're seeing the beginning of automation and self-driving, but I think it'll be maybe twenty, twenty five, twenty twenty six before we can see a full process across the business. But one of the really interesting things I know you'll appreciate this is that it changes the confidence level in the plan that's delivered when you know that hundreds of scenarios have been evaluated as an executive. You feel pretty confident in the outcomes that you're making decisions with or your decision making capability, so so I think that's fascinating as well.

Tom Raftery:

Interesting, interesting. And where are we? I mean, I know you said twenty twenty five, where are we on the kind of adoption curve of this?

Karin Bursa:

So I think in in the area of artificial intelligence. Right. Which is critical to automation and the machine learning. What did we do last time? What are we going to do next time? Right. Building that intelligence into the system. The last survey I saw shared that there was about 90 percent adoption rate in artificial intelligence. But the problem was that those were small kind of process oriented and not wide scope of plans. So I think there's a lot of testing and validation that's happening that is inspiring businesses to continue to push forward. And quite honestly, I think covid is actually help to accelerate that interest in adoption as well, because these are unprecedented times. Right? History is no longer an indicator of what's going to happen in the next 12 to twenty four months. Right. Market behaviour has changed. Product portfolio offerings have been narrowed and are going deeper so that we can drive efficiency. So I think that it will move a lot faster in the next couple of years and we'll be solving broader and broader business opportunities to get us to that self-driving goal.

Tom Raftery:

OK. Does this mean that there will be thousands and thousands of unemployed supply chain planners?

Karin Bursa:

Great question. No, no. And in fact, when you look at the universities, especially universities in the United States, Supply chain roles have a very, very high placement rate. I think that these goals that's a new because when I was in university, there was no such thing as a supply chain course for me either for me that we had operations research. I mean, that's about as DPAs as it got, which is certainly a sliver of what you need from a supply chain perspective. So I think that that talent is actually going to have more opportunities and I think they're going to be doing more interesting things. Right. So instead of generating those Caden's based plans or those daily plans, they're going to be able to step back and do new business analysis and look at new opportunities or creative thinking about some of the problem solving as well. So I think as we raise the bar on what can be automated, their job satisfaction is going to go higher. There are very few super bright supply chain graduates that want to spend eight hours a day in front of something that looks like a spreadsheet, right. They want to know they're impacting the business and I think those opportunities are going to be there. Do you agree?

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, I know. Completely, completely, completely. We are coming towards the end of the podcast now, and it's been really interesting. Thank you. Is there any question I have not asked you that you think I should have any topics that we've not touched on, that you think it's important for people to be aware of?

Karin Bursa:

Well, this I think this topic that you just touched on, the topic of talent, I think is super important. So I think as a solution providers, as technology advocates, we need to continue to remind them that this talent pool that's coming in to these roles, these folks are digital natives. They embrace technology in a way their predecessors have never done. And it provides the opportunity to adopt faster, to move quicker. But it also challenges solution providers to elevate the interface and the user experience and how the the vital information for the business is conveyed in both visual and alert based capabilities. So I think it's going to be just a fascinating time in the industry as they help to push technology adoption just because they're so comfortable with it. It's in their DNA. That's how they've grown up and how they've attacked the world, whether it's from purchase decisions or social relations or whatever it is, they're interested and moving fast. And I think they fully appreciate the value of information and timeliness of information to make better decisions, whether it's where they're going to eat out tonight or longer term career decisions. So I think that that businesses need to think about that and think about how they attract that talent and retain that talent to help their supply chains operate more efficiently, more effectively and more innovatively in the. Future.

Tom Raftery:

Well, I have another question that has just occurred to me as we're on the topic of talent, so I'm going to slip it in. OK, maybe you have a good answer. Maybe you don't. But I get asked from time to time from people over LinkedIn and that who are saying, look, I want to get involved in the industry, but I don't know where to get good courses. So I. Have you any recommendations for online courses in Supply chain that people could take that would get them up to speed or up to a particular level?

Karin Bursa:

Absolutely. So there there are probably three or four recommendations I would make. The first would be to look at the materials from a ECC. So it used to be called Apex Epic's and they were based off of training and certificate certification processes. So they've got a pretty good portfolio across all areas of supply chain and those materials have been vetted and tested. And accreditation from those is very well regarded similarly by the Folks at Sea SCMP. So the Council of Supply chain Management Professionals offer certification in a number of areas as well. So I would seek out those two organisations and resources to consider. And then I would also say, look at whoever your technology provider is because they're doing many of them are doing. The leaders certainly are doing things in the area of offering certification around how to apply technology to specific supply chain functions and how you maximise the benefit of that digital platform to get the outcomes your business is looking for. So those are three great areas, I think, to investigate and look at kind of honing your skills and then look at maybe some of your local universities. So there's no substitute for getting some local experience and building your network in the area of Supply chain as well.

Tom Raftery:

Superb, superb Karin. That's been fantastic. If people want to know more about karin, or about TekTok or any of the topics we discovered today, where would you have me direct them?

Karin Bursa:

Oh, thank you so much. So first, please check out tech talk. It is new. I need you. I need you in my audience. I need your your ideas and your questions. So please be sure to, you know, to ask some questions and send those those in again. So again, that's Tector. Teekay. OK, and it can be found wherever you subscribe to your podcast. You can also check out Supply chain now dot com. And there is a whole list of programmes. Tom has been a guest on several of those from time to time. So we look forward to his contributions as well. And then please connect with me on LinkedIn. And that first name can be a little tricky. It's Charin, it's K.A., our I and the last name is Burset. B, you are Assaye, so please look forward to hearing from you.

Tom Raftery:

Superb. So there are not many Karin Bursa's on LinkedIn, so it's easy enough to find you.

Karin Bursa:

That's true. That's true.

Tom Raftery:

Alright Karin, that's been really great. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today.

Karin Bursa:

Thanks, Tom. Look forward to it next time.

Tom Raftery:

OK, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about digital supply chain to head on over to SAP dot com slash digital supply chain or or simply drop me an email to Tom Dot Raftery at SAP dot com if you'd like to show, please don't forget to subscribe to it on your podcast application of choice 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 the show. Thanks. Catch you all next time.