On today's episode of the Digital Supply Chain podcast I welcomed back Neil Patel of MSCG and one of his customers, Sam Carter, GDT's Director of Warehouse and Logistics.
We had a fascinating conversation about how Warehousing has changed in the last year, and where things are headed, best practices in warehousing, and some out of the box thinking (using facilities tours to turn your warehouse operations into a profit centre!).
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Whatever your system is, it really impacts your physical process. So you really have to make the two match. And then when someone comes in and just looking at it and saying, Wow, this is amazing, you know, that's, that's, that's my vision and my passion. I really, really enjoy that.Tom Raftery:
Good morning, good afternoon or good evening were everywhere 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, 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 two special guests, Neil, who has been on the show in the past. So he's Welcome back, Neil and also Sam. So gentlemen, would you like to introduce yourselves and Neil first?Neil Patel:
Yes, sir. Tom, I'm excited to be back. I think this is a great show. Great for our industry and happy you're doing this. For the folks that remember me or don't My name is Neil Patel, managing partner, I'm responsible for all of our supply chain execution business, and my supply chain group. Every day, I focus on our customer success. And I'll bring it in new opportunities.Tom Raftery:
Super. Thank you, Neil and Sam.Sam Carter:
Hi, good morning. So Sam Carter with a global general data tech GDT. I'm the director of warehouse and logistics and been in warehouse and logistics over 2020 plus years, across aerospace now into technology and really excited to be here.Tom Raftery:
superbe So Sam, warehouse and logistics. It's been a you said you've been in 20 years or so the last year has got to be the weirdest year you've ever seen in warehouse and logistics. Am I right?Sam Carter:
For sure. Yeah, definitely not the normal for warehouse and logistics, really a huge emphasis on safety right now with COVID. And the things we're putting in place to help our employees and their families.Tom Raftery:
Okay, what kind of things?Sam Carter:
So, yeah, before, we never really had to worry too much about the, you know, just the six foot social distancing. And, and, you know, people that are essential or non essential, obviously, in most companies, most people are now non essential. So they're, you know, they're working from home, they're doing zoom calls, and, and dealing with all those other issues of, you know, pets and kids at home as well. But from our logistics, you got so many move the boxes. So we're really working hard with our teams, and you know, to help them understand the importance of the work that we're doing, setting up safety calls. So every morning, we have a check in, and just to see how everybody's done before we would do that in person, right? We would get everybody on the floor and do a check. And now we're just we're doing utilizing the technology ourselves on zoom. Hey, how you doing what's going on today. And it's really not just about that person, but about their family too. Because if something's going on with their family, we want to know about it because it could impact not only them, but potentially us. And then you know, once you know somebody gets to work, make sure that we do the proper screening, you know, do the quick temperature check, make sure they have no symptoms, allow them to come to work, wear their mask, use the hand sanitizer, you know, if you're going to wash your hands, here's the proper way to wash your hands, make sure that you know you're keeping yourself safe and other safe. And if you have anything, you know, let us know before you get to work so we can kind of limit exposure. So a lot right now around that. And then in trying to keep track of all that as well.Tom Raftery:
Interesting, interesting. I recorded a podcast recently with one of my colleagues where he was talking about robots for warehouses in particular, and the uptake of those that has, you know, that has been that has increased as a consequence of this. Is that something you're seeing as well?Sam Carter:
Yeah. So there's a lot of things that I think companies are looking harder at now that they weren't before. You know, before you can really just kind of throw people at it, you know, if you needed an uptick in business, you could go to the temp agency and get additional people, that's a lot harder now, because you have to clear COVID protocols. So anything where you can do a process improvement, improve something, invest in your technology, data, data mining tools to show you where you can do that investment the best. As well as robotic process automation, where if I'm doing a task every day, and every day, I've got to push this button after this happens you literally can automate that right? And it makes sense as well as the having the physical robots doing some of the work whether it's a water spider taking something from one location to another, you know, maybe you're staging something receiving to put away or you're staging from picking over two to shipping those absolutely makes sense, you know, as long as you can make the economics work.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And Neil, what about yourself? What do you seeing?Neil Patel:
Well, yeah, let me just start by addressing the big topic Sam brought up, everybody in the world gets to work from home, except health care workers and those who need to move the boxes. I mean, that is critical. You'll be surprised how many people I speak to to say, during this pandemic, my organization has traveled at least one person the entire time, because we are supporting warehouses that need to go in. And some of our customers are supporting life saving equipment. During the pandemic, we had a customer that was supporting life saving equipment for ventilators. And they had to go to work. And if there are customers that were not there, besides them, supporting them through their journey with SAP and E, Wm, then they were not the right partner, and we want to be the right partner were there so so safety protocols are huge. Obviously, we saw that impact to our team members going on site to support our customers, a lot of our customers are, again, agreeing to do remote projects. So we're we are seeing that as well, of course, but that need to be there to physically be around employees who are on site is critical. And you have guys like Sam, who I've known for many years, who I believe is he is a guy who trusts his people and wants them to be successful. Obviously, it's family first, but they need to be there to do their job. And we want to be there alongside guys like Sam. And then, you know, Joe, so Sam and I work together on a lot of different projects. There's so many things going through my mind that I want to bring up and talk about, but you brought up robots, man this week, Sam, and I've been talking about robots. Even before the pandemic, we said, How do we prototype robots inside of his warehouse? And it was a sort of I would say he I don't know if he was Nostradamus are what but thinking? How do we start doing some of this? So I know he's thinking about that. We work with a partner that does robotics, man, they're, they're so busy, they don't even have time for me these days. So I know it's picking up. And we, you know, we there's a we got an hour to 45 minutes to talk, we'll get into some of the other things that Sam brought up around temp agencies and people. But I can't get back to you the next topic, but that's my thoughts on some of them.Sam Carter:
One more thing to add there. As you know, obviously, Neil and I have been kicking this around. And what's important for I think companies Is it because it's so hard when you when you look at everything that you need to, to look at, you know, automating whether it's robotic process automation, actual physical robots, improvement in your data and your metrics, right? How are you really performing to your metrics? And can you benchmark that across industries, your industry and other industries? And, and as well as looking at your technology that you have? Well, you know, we're on SAP raising Ew, M. And, you know, that's where Neil and I go back a long, long way. And what interests me and a partner like Neil, is, Hey, can you help me in these other areas? Do you have a partnership with somebody that does sophisticated metrics and benchmarks? Do you have some data mining? partnerships and tools? What are they? What other advanced analytics that you have that we can take advantage of In addition, Hey, are you guys partnering? Because, you know, we're using the technology platform of SAP and if they're already doing a lot of that work for us, we want to know about it because we can take advantage of it.Neil Patel:
Okay, super. And I'll say this Sam is one of the guys I love work with him because he's he's like me thinking ahead is one of the you know, that's a gem in the in the industry in terms of wanting his warehouse to be best in class, not just follow the the day to day and I think a lot of warehouse leaders, what can we learn from Sam, a lot of companies would benefit from his, his type of forward thinking,Tom Raftery:
interesting. Let me just circle back to the physical robots for a second because this this shirt, the podcast I did with my colleague, he was talking about this open source product that they're after developing, that allows robots to be instantiated in EWM in minutes, and to be supported, you know, throughout their lifetime and and to be able to be managed, as well. And as I said, it can take place in minutes rather than he said, the typical procedure up to nine weeks or even longer to get robots into into EWM. So is that I don't know, I'm, I'm taking his word for it. But does that sound like and as I said, it's an open source product is up on GitHub can be downloaded right now. It does that sound like something that would be attractive?Sam Carter:
Yes. I definitely. David, there had to be more research there to confirm what you write, right. Again, when you're talking about the physical robots, there's a couple things you have to take into context is are they going to be in a segregated area away from people, or you're going to have them a part of your process with people and that because if you can do the segregation, right, that's, that's pretty easy. You can you can probably do it, you're saying probably pretty quickly. But where you get, the more benefit bang for your buck is if they can actually be a part of your process with the people. And and we've gone to a couple of different robot providers, and actually went out to one in San Jose to look at the lab and, and actually was working around the robots. And, you know, they would steer clear or stop, if you got in the way, while still performing their functions of moving product from A to B, going to either, you know, helping the picking process or helping the put away, you know, receiving whatever it is. And that that really interested me, because now it's a part of what you do. And it's just another resource you can add when you need it. Having them fully segregated, they're only doing that work. Right. And you still need, you still have all that dwell time, travel time for your people. Some of the things from a lean perspective, you're truly you're really trying to drive out. Yeah, so yes, I,Tom Raftery:
it was cobots that he was talking about, okay, yeah. So working with people, and, you know, can be from any vendor, it can be from anything, and can work with people. In fact, in one instance, where it was rolled out for a German company called back play it, they attached lasers onto the robots so that the lasers were projecting light onto the floor so that people would be aware of when they were coming around corners and things like that. So that's perfect. I had to make a joke about the fact that was robots with lasers. And I thought that's aSam Carter:
Yeah, that's greatness. Yeah. Good.Neil Patel:
Practically, robots are great. But though the rollout in minutes, I wouldn't question that. Here's the deal in the US in our market. And Sam talked about this earlier, labor force and temporary staff. That's just the nature of our business here in the US. And during COVID. Getting those Polk folks to show up more than one day is even been a challenge for a lot of our customers. So introducing new technology inside of your business, there's organizational change, or warehouse Change Manager, as we call it. and that type of thing doesn't take minutes, especially if you want to do with net new, you're already running the robots, and you're just adding one. If you want to implement robots new, there's no chance that's happening in minutes. Mark my words on that? Sure. And I'll tell you one other thing about the agvs are our robots, things that work autonomously, we were just at a customer and they said, Hey, Neil, we had these four agvs out there, you see what they're doing. And then I said, Neil, but let me tell you this, when we need to get our productivity, do we go faster by hand, those agvs go one speed. And that's what they do, you have probably a spike in orders. Because by the way, these are a hardwood flooring, you know, Home Goods type company, and, and with COVID, they've just been through the roof because people are doing a lot of work at home. And they sometimes need to pull the agvs in and go by hand because they just couldn't go faster. So there's there's also that concept of Yeah, you can replace the people. But can you repeat, you can't always replace the people. So you need the mix.Tom Raftery:
Yeah, and and also the type of work you have, if if you have a very steady forecast, and you know exactly what's coming in and exactly what's going on, it makes a lot of sense. But if it's very cyclical, and one day you can be here and one day you can be here, that makes it really hard. And so you know, especially to ramp up some of the transactions like Neil is saying, sometimes you actually need some of those bodies. But that goes back to having better data, write better forecasts better planning.Tom Raftery:
Okay, cool. Neil, you were saying that you're supporting some of your customers going through this in specifically, what kind of support do they need going through this?Neil Patel:
Right? So I have to tell a funny story. So if you think about the belly of the snake, and when you look at a pipeline from a business, right, here's my pipeline, it's a belly that's moving along, what we're going to consume what we're not going to consume. What obviously all in a lot of businesses were impacted during COVID one way or another we were impacted in the sense that Yeah, we had this pipeline of work, we knew it was there and especially in our warehousing business. And what happened was when COVID hit guys like Sam had not say stop but they had to say come on hold while we sort out how we keep people save how we keep our business operating that's key right these women fat samro families it's all impact so Neil, we we know we need you but hang tight for a minute while we sort this out. What I saw was that belly the snake kept growing because just like this is the supply chain podcast. Obviously supply chain is key right now and folks are laser focused on warehousing is not only and I said this in my post I wrote it's not only sexy Amazon made warehousing sexy, but now it's integral. Yeah, we need this as part of our business. That is a key part of our supply chain and it's got to operate and run. So our pipeline just kept growing and I'm like, oh man, as I look at it, so this is our business is about to explode and what soon as 2021 hit, you could just see everyone is laser focused on either implement Some net new implementations of SAP, continuous improvements will make us better. We need this to be better, we need to social distance, we need to think about automation. And then and then also just go live support, we are ready to go live. And we want this to be successful. We know we have a lot of folks that are working in during COVID times, and we need you guys to help us to make sure this goes well. So that's the type of support is ensure that this operation is going to work and that we can keep our people safe, they are able to go home and support their families, and that our systems are going to work as desired and really optimized. That's key. If it's not returning on the investment then and right now. It's not helping you it's got to be better. Everybody's looking for better these days. Yeah,Tom Raftery:
yeah. Yeah, I mean, I've heard it from many people, maybe, maybe Sam, you could comment on this as well. It used to be that supply chain was viewed as a cost center. But now under COVID, it has been put front and center. Now it's become a strategic differentiator,Sam Carter:
not 100%, your supply chain and getting product from point A to point B is absolutely critical. You see that even with the vaccinations, right, some of those have to be in dry ice, and a lot of planning that goes into that. And to make sure it gets from here to there. And when it gets to you, the customer, you can use it, what we're seeing as well as, you know, what can we do to help our customers and our suppliers, right, make that link better? And is there's additional service offerings that we can take on to help, then we're looking at that as well. It's not just bring the product and store it. Right? When can we actually do any of the build process or assembly? packaging? kidding? So so we're saying, hey, if you supplier are having issues with some of these things? What can we do to help, you know, take on some of that role and continue to make sure that there's, you know, no bumps in the supply chain getting our customers taken care of?Tom Raftery:
Okay. And I mean, Neil was talking there about some of the support that he was giving his customers, what kind of support was he giving you?Sam Carter:
Oh, yeah. So, obviously, like Neil had mentioned, we try to stay ahead of the curve, and be thinking like, hey, Neil, what do we what are we going to do if this happens, so we've been doing a lot of feature, if this happens, we need to be able to pivot in this way. And so from first we just upgraded some of our RF devices, and Neil was and teams kind of instrumental in helping us make sure we got the right vendor accounts, the right support, because obviously, the RF has to work with our AWS environment. So it's absolutely critical from an SAP perspective, we get the right technology, and the right services, right. So we went through that process and make sure we got the right vendor. And in addition, looking at, you know, data, what data can do for us differently in our environment? And, and almost like creating a lifecycle, maturity map of where we are, because, like you said, you know, do you can you use robotics? And can you plug them in, maybe, depending on where you are in that maturity cycle, right, right. But if you're here, if you're still on the crawl piece of it, well, you got to figure out how to get to walk run pretty quickly. And that's where kneeland team come into very, because like, Hey, I'm here, I need to get to here because my future and my strategic vision tells me I need to do this. That's where he becomes critical. Because he can bring those resources in and say, Okay, here's what we need to do to get you to hear, right? He has that technical capability that I need in order to close that gap. Right.Neil Patel:
That's how we call let me just say this we eat. So it's warehousing and distribution. That's the you better be doing that. And then sa ps4 hana, AWS, that's that foundational layer. And then all the things that Sam wants to get to that note, and I learned this, I'm stealing Sam's learn here, at Northstar of warehousing, you know, what is that? And there's like 810 other things in the middle there to get you there best in class, and that Northstar is always shifting. That's why Yeah, you know, when when you have a guy like Sam, who wants a partner, and MSG and us, x, that's game changing, when you have customers who say, Hey, we just want to bring you guys and do the work and get out. I mean that, hey, we'll take that work to. But let me tell you, for real strategic thinkers, that's not how they operate. And that's, that's one of the big differences. That's why Sam and I have just gotten along so well, and why we continue to work together, you know, not only his colleagues, but even as friends now. So it's been great. Tom, I wanted to add one other thing. We have a customer who's actually distributing vaccines for COVID. And Tim brought that up and one of the ways we're supporting them is they literally bought a new warehouse and they're like, we need to do warehousing help us so we're not only helping them and they had a warehousing company, they they brought in a third party contractor to support them with warehouse processes, but brought us in also to keep them honest From an SAP perspective, and drive the sap direction with the warehouse process perspective, and now we're implementing ew M for them in a very rapid timeline to be able to support distribution of vaccine. So that I mean adds a really cool story.Tom Raftery:
Yeah, brilliant, brilliant. Sam, if I were able to give a magic wand to Neil today, so that he could wave it over your warehousing, distribution business, what would you What would you have him change?Sam Carter:
Well, I think it's all about added functionality. So we're already gone s for HANA. So we have some of that foundational stuff done? Well, what I'd like to do is set up like a center of excellence. So I know it's hard to do right now with you know, people aren't really doing tours, maybe city tours all the time, right. And customers come through and really show off what you do. And, again, you know, my strategic vision is, I want them to come look at the warehouse and say, This is so awesome. Why would anybody Why would I need anybody else to do this kind of stuff for me, whether it's robotics, physical presence of the robots actually performing needed tasks, you know, here, material handling moving stuff from point A to point B to help out. And then a lot of the behind the scenes stuff around? Do we have the right? Are we investing our dollars doing the right things, and that's where I think data mining is absolutely critical, on tools that actually go into your system and SAP and say, Look, this is where you're having most of your issues, the biggest bang for your buck is going and going investing in fixing this thing, whether it's a robotic process automation, whatever it is, and that, and a lot of that's hidden, it's just hidden costs. And typically, today, the squeaky wheel gets degrees. And that's real, that's really true, right? If somebody has an issue, they're going to raise their hand. And because they're being impacted, you try to go fix that. But if you actually go and looked at the whole system, and in an entirety, and then said, Look, this is really where your biggest issue is, and it helps so much more, and you say in your ROI so much more. That is That, to me is really, really beneficial. So you've got the physical presence, you got the the systematic data mining, and you do the right investments, and then you then you go to actually do your, your process improvements across your physical process and your system process because at the end of the day, whatever your system is, it really impacts your physical process. So you really have to make the to match. So along those lines, but and then when someone comes in and just looking at it and saying, Wow, this is amazing, you know that that's, that's, that's my vision and my passion, I really, really enjoyed that.Neil Patel:
I gotta interrupt, because Dude, I'm gonna give a little bit of Sam secret sauce, are we in a previous I mean, this guy turned his warehouse from a call center to a profit center, literally advertising in the warehouse, large banners of some of their other vendors. And you know, when they do their tours, people are paying for that space. Phenomenal. I mean, the concept blew my mind. And I loved it, that this whole thing, he's talking about bringing people on the tours and making them want to do business with him, because his warehouse is running in a way that, you know, they don't typically see it's, it's out of control. And I love it. And I try to bring that idea to others. But, you know, again, he's a forward thinker, that that some of the things that helps, and then I'll just give him one other thing that we worked on, you know, where we're, you know, just very laser focused, Dr. stock was taken over 24 hours, I think, multiple days, Neil, we need to solve this problem. We went after it. And you know, that goes multiple days, two hours, that's the type of stuff that we that we can help support. And we have done it for Sam in the past.Tom Raftery:
Yeah, Sam, we're halfway through, I guess, the pandemic at this point. Because you know, it's going to take another six, nine months, at least before we knock on wood. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Hopefully, yeah. Anyway, we won't go down that path. What What will the warehousing future look like? What will post covered warehousing look like? Will it go back to the way it was? will it stay the way it is now? Would it progress? What, what what do you think?Sam Carter:
Well, like anything, I think it's probably a combination of both. I think people are really seeing the value of non essential people working from home. And as long as you know, there's really not an impact. We're gonna they're gonna continue utilizing those tools like zoom and WebEx, you know, etc. And, and we're gonna continue looking at investment and warehousing logistics or any essential operations and, and do we have the right amount of people, right, supporting that process and that customer as well as you know, do we have the right technology stack and it's really a stack, it's doing the things that you need to do to take care of your customer as people get vaccination And we get the herd immunity and, and things are getting better. It'll be you know, some of it will be a little bit easier getting people. But I don't think people are going to forget the importance of this because what happens in the next pandemic, what happens in the next snowstorm, we just live in Texas, we just went through that snowstorm everything kind of shut down. And if and if you have that backup, and you've got things going, you know, happening in your system automatically. It's a win win. And, and, and if I had my vision for the future, I definitely see a lot more of that. And Matter of fact, I think if you're not doing that, and it's gonna be very hard to compete.Tom Raftery:
Okay. supurb. Neil, yourself,Neil Patel:
man, Sam is just right on as usual. I mean, this has got to be strategic. I will say it again. You can't just look at this as a novelty or a Yeah, you know, we see Amazon can ship something to you in a day, same day. This, this is the lifeline of your business at some point. And things are, you know, we're not, we're not seeing less pandemics less snowstorms, that something is changing. And we need if you if you want to compete, you have to be able to react, and probably be thinking ahead. That's where I think I'm really lucky in this position that we're in where we're laser focused on supply chain and warehousing and distribution, strategic planning and forecasting. Our company, this is what we do every day, we literally I wake up and think about warehousing. That's what I do every day of the week. I'm hoping that out that the customers we're not working with are there folks that are out there, if they are not thinking about this, they call guys like us to help them come in, they're really trying to realize value. Because SAP can provide it You've just got to know how to unlock it and use it and be that foundational layer. One of the big differences of warehousing when you think about SAP and all the modules it focuses on software is just one component to warehousing that's, that's a big component, I call it a foundational layer. And when you can, when we're just implementing software ain't going to do it for you. It's devices, it's change management, it's then that next layer of Process automation, robotics automation, what are you doing to differentiate and make sure that you can continue to run that facility? And, and safely right people matter? If you're not thinking about your people, then that's not you're not really, you know, I think SAP is big sustainability, green taking care of your people. How do you keep all those concepts in your mind as well, while doing the right thing for your business? That's, that's important.Sam Carter:
And you got to have the analytics behind it. You just got it. That's one of those things that before, depending on what industry you're in, it was a hit and miss. But going forward is is absolutely critical. The analytics to understand where you are, how you're competing in your industry, and how do you compete outside your industries? Because if you don't understand that, you're just not on good path.Tom Raftery:
Fair point. Fair point,Neil Patel:
I gotta say one thing, Sam brings that up. For me, that's like utopia. We walk in so many customers, they don't even know what's going on in their warehouse, their warehouse manager goes to lunch, they get a call from Sam, he might be I have no idea how many picks we had, we're really driving in that focus around, what are your using SAP Fiori? What are my analytics, even just for my day? Where am I at today? Can I can I hit my numbers that I thought I was going to be able to need to do and are my people, you know, completing tasks at that level and having that visibility mobile anywhere you are Sam can be you know, in his office or at the warehouse and still know how he's doing.Sam Carter:
And that's where these technology providers have got to differentiate themselves to offer more tools like that, because that is what we need in order to succeed. Sure,Tom Raftery:
sure. Sure. Sure. Gentlemen, we're coming towards the end of the podcast. Now, is there anything I haven't asked that you kind of wish I had any topic we've not talked about that you think it's important for people to be aware of?Sam Carter:
The only other thing I think I hadn't talked about is along with your process improvements in automation, really looking at your physical space and doing as you can to improve capacity. So, you know, depending on what your your skews are or your service offering, can you go from wine aisle, the very narrow aisle? You know, can you maximize the cube better of your of your space, at the same time, not impacting your level of throughput, whether you're doing put away or picking you want to keep that transactional throughput up. So constantly thinking about that as well the physical space and how that supports the process.Tom Raftery:
Okay, Neil,Neil Patel:
you know what, Tom? We covered a lot of topics if you throw Sam or I another question, we will be just as passionate that response I think I think this from for a podcast. I think we covered a lot of topics. I thoroughly enjoyed this.Sam Carter:
This is great.Tom Raftery:
Super, super. Okay, folks, if people want to know more about yourself, Neil or Sam, or your organization's or anything we talked about today, where would you have me direct them send you go first?Sam Carter:
Okay, yeah. So I have a LinkedIn account, Samuel Carter. At out there and talks a lot about this stuff about general data tech GDT, the company I worked for, and obviously, you see all the past stuff that I've done. So yeah, you could definitely reach out to me on LinkedIn. And if you have any questions or want to learn more about it,Tom Raftery:
Superb Neil.Neil Patel:
Yes. So saying you can find me Neil Patel, my supply chain group on LinkedIn, we always look for good conversations and folks that are looking for help. Obviously, our website is my supply chain group calm. And you can follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.Tom Raftery:
Super, super. Gentlemen, that's been really great. Thanks a million for coming on the show today.Sam Carter:
Thanks TomTom 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, head on over to sa p.com slash digital supply chain or, or simply drop me an email to Tom firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to show, please don't forget to subscribe to it and 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.