One of the biggest challenges businesses face in the age of COVID-19 is maintaining supply chains. The virus makes it more difficult to mobilize workforces, so keeping supply chains intact has become increasingly complex. As the global business community deals with the virus, ASUG hosted its first virtual Supply Chain Week. Broadcast online, this collection of roundtables and presentations featuring supply chain experts and leaders discussing the impacts of COVID-19 on supply chains, how to best combat these effects, and preparing for the future.

The Effects of COVID-19 on the Supply Chain

The week began with series of fireside chats with supply chain thought leaders: Abe Eshkenazi, CEO of Association for Supply Chain Management; Tom Raftery, global VP, futurist, and innovation evangelist at SAP; and Martin Rowan, managing partner at Reveal. The three conversations, moderated by ASUG CEO Geoff Scott, focused on the impacts of COVID-19 on supply chains and what the future may hold.

“[COVID-19] is completely unprecedented,” Raftery. “This is something that no one has ever war-planned for. Transparency and logistics are all up in the air at the moment.”

Across the three conversations, each of the thought leaders discussed ways SAP customers can respond to the current situation and prepare for future disruptions. All three speakers underlined how vital it is for organizations to be both agile and transparent, especially during difficult times like the COVID-19 outbreak. Each of the speakers also touched on the increasing importance of technologies applied to help organizations build supply chains that are more responsive and transparent.

“Technology is helping us get through this,” Eshkenzai said.

Machine Learning and Supply Chain Data

A great example of using technology to improve supply chains is by combining data management with machine-learning capabilities. Ginger Gatlin, senior director of database and data management at SAP, hosted a session on technology improvements that can be applied to data and improve supply chain preparedness.

“Data management and machine learning are getting closer and closer together,” Gatlin said. “The evolution of data management across enterprise landscapes is bringing together different types of data.”

She walked attendees through some of the highlights of SAP Data Intelligence, which brings machine learning capabilities to SAP users and can connect with various products including SAP S/4HANA and SAP Analytics Cloud. Gatlin highlighted the four main pillars of SAP Data Intelligence: data pipelining and processing, data orchestration and monitoring, data governance, and executing intelligence projects. These allow users to transform data while managing it at an enterprise level.

How Customers Are Using SAP Data Intelligence

Gatlin shared some case studies of how companies are using SAP Data Intelligence during COVID-19. Examples included an automotive manufacturing plant that used machine learning and data to discover whether a certain part in production will fail and risk intelligence capabilities with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, which gives users the ability to generate risk scores for potential business partners and safeguard their sales process.

Using SAP to Enhance Supply Chains

ASUG Supply Chain Week also featured several SAP customer stories. Rudy Rios, IT director of supply chain at Monster Energy joined in a session with Heather Oebel, enterprise solutions manager at Winshuttle and David Mcauliffe, professional services consultant at Winshuttle to talk about the energy drink company’s journey with SAP. Winshuttle helped Monster with its SAP product launch.

“The SAP launch process became a bottleneck,” Rios said. “We needed to reduce launch cycle times, scale up capacity, and get more visibility.”

With help from Winshuttle, Monster changed its new product development process and workflows by developing a cohesive digital solution for new product development. The company used to rely on email to manage its product development process throughout the company. Now, it has a landing page that managers can use to begin development.

Efficiencies in Inventory

Another session focused on Minuteman International’s journey to upgrade its use of SAP technology to better decrease the amount of inventory it had on hand. The company had been an SAP customer for some time but lacked the knowledge to use its SAP investment as effectively as possible.

“We wanted to go beyond a quick fix,” said Steven Boebel, VP of finance at Minuteman. “We wanted to change our culture.”

Minuteman used Reveal’s oVo (Ongoing Value Optimization) methodology to drive this change. First, Minuteman assessed the full scope of its issues before transforming its supply chain process and then put a plan in place to sustain this transformation. Minuteman targeted four areas to address in its plan: the individual needs of employees, cross-departmental communication, effectively communicating the company’s vision, and finally the sustainability of the process. In the end, the company was able to drive its days sales of inventory (DSI) metric down to 82 days.

The final customer story featured during ASUG Supply Chain Week focused on John Hopkins Health System and the changes it made to its inventory management solution. Max Mendez discussed how John Hopkins uses analytics, material requirements planning approaches, mobile solutions, and SAP solutions to maintain its expansive system.

Supply Chain Resilience During COVID-19

A significant part of Supply Chain Week addressed how supply chains can stay agile and resilient during the current pandemic and beyond.

“There is no doubt that the world now needs operational and resilient supply chains now more than ever before,” said Martin Barkman, senior vice president and global head of solution management for digital supply chain at SAP, during a keynote on resilience in supply chains. “COVID-19 has completely changed the way supply chain leaders and managers have to think.”

To get through the current crisis, Barkman recommended that companies re-evaluate core business practices and reimagine product design, planning, manufacturing, and logistics. Part of this process includes decreasing manufacturing risk and potentially moving where a product is assembled.

“Companies need to figure out their strategy to find the lowest cost for manufacturing and finding the place to manufacture close to point of consumption,” he said. “That could mean operating in higher-cost areas.”

Most importantly, organizations need to have a plan for life beyond COVID-19. Barkman introduced a framework for companies “to survive and thrive” after the outbreak ends. The four main tenants of this framework are customer-centricity, visibility, productivity, and sustainability.

“We need to think about what’s needed today,” Barkman said. “But we need to put actions in place to get to tomorrow and beyond so we can manage the process.”

Watch the fireside chat with supply chain leaders, the Monster Energy customer story, the Minuteman customer story, and the Johns Hopkins Health customer story from ASUG Supply Chain Week on demand.

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