In this exclusive podcast, Brian Thorn, president and CEO of Logistar Solutions, reviews what he saw as the biggest trends in SAP SCM in 2013, and what SAP customers should be planning for in 2014.
Dave: Hello and welcome, this is Dave Hannon with SAPinsider. Joining me today is Brian Thorn, President and CEO of LogiStar Solutions. LogiStar is an SAP partner firm focused squarely on the supply chain execution space in North America and Latin America. Welcome, Brian.
Brian: Thanks Dave, I appreciate you having me on today.
Dave: Brian, I want to start our conversation by looking back at what you saw as the biggest trends in the logistics space in 2013 that were affecting SAP users specifically.
Brian: Yeah, it was an interesting year in 2013, some of the SAP technology really came up to speed and what we saw in the supply chain execution space is some of the applications that have been out there for a while have really started to hit their stride and specifically, you know what I mean there, is SAP Extended Warehouse Management and their transportation module, their Transportation Management module. We’ve really seen users no longer view these as kind of bleeding edge technology but leading edge technology and that’s made a pretty big difference insofar as you know, having the SAP community adopt these solutions. And there’s a number of reasons that, you know, I think companies that would want to adopt these solutions, you know specifically, you know companies are looking to try and use their supply chain as an edge in competition and certainly with the holistic view that SAP can give companies right now with these integrated solutions, meaning Extended Warehouse Management and Transportation Management. I think, you know, SAP can help many companies accomplish the goal of using their supply chain as a competitive advantage.
Dave: Ok, ok. Were there any specific issues and challenges that these technologies were addressing this year, any particular trends in the logistics execution space?
Brian: Yeah, well I think really what companies are looking to do right now and, you know, you saw if you were watching 60 Minutes the other day I think you saw Amazon with their drones trying to deliver products within 30 minutes of you getting an order. You know, it’s cool technology but the reason they’re doing that is because they want to, you know, outpace their competition. So I really do think that you know, we’ve seen companies you know, take a hard look at their business processes, the total integrations of their systems, you know again to make sure that they’re really using supply chain which, you know, for years and years and years has just been viewed as a cost center, is something that can be, again, a competitive advantage.
Dave: Ok, good, so we’re sort of turning that corner, instead of focusing on purely just reducing cost in supply chain to using it as a business driver, I think as you said, a competitive advantage.
Brian: You know, I think the smart companies are, you know, and you know, it takes a tremendous amount of resources to focus on turning this corner and I think, you know, companies that are focused on it, it’s making a difference and you know, I guess the easiest way to equate it is…I live in Toronto, I have a three-year-old daughter and Friday is pizza night, you know, and we have, you know—there’s multiple pizzerias around but the two best are, you know, very close in price, but you know, if we place an order with one, we might get the pizza within a half an hour, we might get the pizza within an hour. If I place an order with the other, I will [be] guaranteed to get that in 30 minutes. You know, well I can tell you which one I tend to place the order with, it’s the one I get it within 30 minutes because it keeps my daughter happy, it keeps me happy, and it’s consistent. So you know, therefore, you know it’s always a consistent, pleasing way to deal with business and I think more companies are starting to look at ways that they can delight their customers. And, you know what, even if that pizza place charged a buck or two more, I’d probably still deal with it. So you know, I think again it kind of points back to that competitive advantages.
Dave: Sure, sure. Ok. Looking forward to 2014, and beyond perhaps, is there a factor or an issue that you think most logistics organizations should be aware of but they aren’t at the moment, maybe that’s a specific business challenge or maybe it’s a piece of technology or something that they should be putting on their radar this year?
Brian: Yeah, I mean I think there’s all sorts of things, right, I mean and it really depends on the industry you’re in, I mean, if you’re you know, in the pharmaceutical business or life sciences business, you’re going need to look down a deep pedigree, you know I think we’re seeing worldwide trends, trend for track and trace, you know, companies are getting pretty serious about that, so I think you know those are all things that, you know, should be on the radar. But you know really, I think, you know, I think one of the things that probably a lot of companies are not aware of is the ability to really build out a holistic supply chain strategy now. And I think you know, it’s worth a look, I mean, specifically when it comes to SAP, I mean with the advent of the integrated supply chain execution platform, with Extended Warehouse Management, Transportation Management, augmented by HANA and some of the very exciting things SAP is doing with, you know, business intelligence, business reporting, and mobility, you know I think really you know again, and I hate to keep on going back to it, it really allows you know, companies running SAP who are making the investment in kind of a holistic supply chain execution platform, I believe to make better decisions and outpace their competitors.
Dave: Sure, sure. You mentioned HANA and BI, I was curious to see if there was a particular SAP technology you’re looking forward to in 2014, is there a new update or functionality within some of the products that you work with specifically that you’re looking forward to?
Brian: Sure, we’re looking forward to the continuing maturation of the SAP supply chain execution products, you know, being Transportation Management and Extended Warehouse Management we’re going to see a new release of Extended Warehouse Management and Transportation Management, I think within the next quarter, with some great functionality embedded in it. But you know, again, going back to HANA and you know, we’re really looking forward to see how HANA plays within the supply chain execution space, you know, the ability to make decisions within you know, a split second after asking for data, is you know, pretty mind-blowing when it comes to supply chain, I mean typically that’s not something you would see, you’d have to you know, wait until the end of day , you know when your shift was done, and go back and see you know what kind of products were moved, you know where your trends were in the warehouse, you know, now, you know, with HANA and some of the BI tools that SAP has, I mean literally it’s as you think it, it could be there.
Dave: Given LogiStar’s area of expertise, do you have any advice for companies that are considering implementing some of these solutions in 2014? Is there a specific benefit or implementation strategy that maybe they should be focusing on?
Brian: Yeah, well I think you know what we’ve really seen is that we see a lot of clients who, you know they implement products, specifically supply chain execution products, maybe they work with a consultant who just does what they want, ok, you know, doesn’t really guide them as to how they can best implement the products to gain business efficiencies. And I think you know, one of the trends that we’re really starting to see is, clients are no longer really satisfied with that approach. You know, if you just come in as a system integrator and say, ‘I’m just going to put the system in and you guys can figure it out later, and I’ll check that box and say I did it,’ you know that’s not good enough any longer. You know, I think clients are really looking for, for lack of a better term, advisory services, you know, help me get the software in but help me get it in in the proper manner and help me really drive efficiencies throughout my business.
Dave: Ok, ok. Lastly, are there any other areas of logistics you think SAP uses we’ll be focused on in the coming year?
Brian: Yes, I do, again, it goes back to kind of having this holistic suite, you know when you look at, you know, the entire SAP supply chain management and execution platform, you know I think SAP has just, you know, done wonderful things in that particular area. I think SAP realizes this is very important, and certainly again, to go back to some of the newer technologies, being HANA and the SAP mobility platform, you know I think SAP is going to be rolling out some new technologies and some new ideas and new concepts that I think, you know, customers are really going to find exciting and I think you know, could really make a difference in their business.
Dave: Brian Thorn, President and CEO of LogiStar Solutions, thank you very much for joining us today.
Brian: Thanks, Dave.