Tackling Disruption Through Supply Chain Engagement – LogiSYM November/December 2019
An interview with Joseph Lim, APAC Sales Director of BluJay Solutions
In this issue, we are interviewing Mr. Joseph Lim, Asia Pacific Sales Director of BluJay Solutions to discuss some of the opportunities and challenges in the Asia-Pacific region during these turbulent times, and the importance of customer experience as part of service delivery in the supply chain.
Q: We last interviewed Doug Braun, then CEO of now BluJay Solutions in April 2016, back when it was Kewill. When we spoke to Doug, we learned about the Kewill MOVE platform. Can you please give us a brief overview of BluJay and how it has evolved since then?
We have been BluJay since March 2017. Key to the BluJay brand is that it brings together our company including prior acquisitions (Blackbay, LeanLogistics, and so forth) under one global identity. I think you would have heard me talk about our Global Trade Network, which is a core aspect of the BluJay brand. I think the GTN is really about universal connectivity. This connectivity is among all the participants, that is the customer base, the carriers, and other participants on the network, and having the capacity to provide end-to-end visibility, as well as to improve the speed and agility of their business. A notable evolution of BluJay is the strength of our integrated applications, built to work within a network, producing powerful data that companies can use to their advantage.
Q: BluJay Solutions is obviously playing a leadership role in providing a platform that enables supply chains. In applying industry 4.0 thinking to supply chains, it becomes obvious that it’s not just about having a single technology that drives the business. What are the technologies that are of particular importance to the Supply Chain Industry?
At BluJay we collapsed all the things we’ve been doing the last two years after rebranding from Kewill. This included the launch of our GTN, the Global Trade Network. It needs to be clear to our customers as to what these developments mean for their businesses. The goal for us is to power a frictionless supply chain. We already have about 50,000 participants in the GTN ecosystem – including customers, carriers, freight forwarders, and suppliers. The connectivity and collaboration provided by this powerful network helps companies operate more efficiently and facilitate multi-enterprise workflows.
Looking past that network, we offer business-critical solutions that support customers daily. These include transportation management solutions, warehouse management solutions, customs solutions and more. These solutions need to drive data-driven decision making for our customers. One of the big initiatives that we have is our BluData, using data from our ecosystem, which makes powerful data available for our customers for better decision making for their day-to-day operations. This data could be a benchmark from across the network so they can determine, for example, which are the rates that make sense for them? Another example is whether or not a particular lane performs against peers in the network using aggregated data. Of course, this is all wrapped up in the BluJay way with a streamlined user experience supported by our global team.
Q: From your response, it seems like there’s a big emphasis on getting data right, and using big data and analytics. Does that mean BluJay is driving or enabling external benchmarking for customers?
So, I will talk about the North America business. This is already available for our North American customers, especially for the truck rates. What this means is that customers can actually benchmark against let’s say, for example, a route from Chicago to maybe the West Coast, maybe to San Francisco and so forth. So based on the 50,000 participants on the GTN, there is a lot of data available (for aggregation). We do that benchmark for customers, especially in North America. In the Asia-Pacific region, the sharing of data is still sensitive, and there is a guarded mindset. So a lot of the data is still very much proprietary, and they keep it very much to themselves. But we have a framework to replicate the success we have in this regard in in North America.
Q: At LogiSYM Malaysia in 2019 you are presenting on customer experience and how it is driving supply chain innovation – can you outline what you mean by that and the role that customers play in pushing organisations to innovate?
I think one of the big topics we talked about from report that we did, with Adelante SCM, a third-party analyst, was on enhanced customer experience. What we uncovered was a very close relationship between the above-average performers as well as innovators, and how they rank in terms of supply chain experience performance, internally as well as externally.
We found that for average, and even below average performers (even the laggards), a lot of the time they do not measure customer experience. It has a direct correlation between how they rank themselves – lower than their peers in terms of supply chain performance. So, I think that’s a really clear indication as to how enhanced customer experience and innovation wraps around what is offered to customers, which results in real business benefits. Ultimately, customers need to ask “how can your business create that business benefit for your customers?” So a lot of the LSPs out in the market space when they look at enhancing customer experience, it is about delivering that business benefit for their customers.
Q: How do you think the current trade environment affects the customer experience from a supply chain perspective? What do companies have to do to ensure they continue to deliver in this environment?
If we take the situation in Hong Kong, as well as Brexit, the US-China trade war… let’s wrap it around that as I am sure there will be something else around the corner that we might not see. Ultimately it’s about disruption – whether it’s political, whether it’s environmental, whether it’s technology, we don’t know. So right now, we see a lot of political disruptions, for Hong Kong, Brexit, the US-China trade impacted markets. It does have a direct detrimental effect on modern supply chains. However, there is also a chance for logisticians to look at this as an opportunity.
They must imagine with all this disruption; there is the possibility that businesses could expand very quickly. Let’s say for example, with the China-US trade war; we see a lot of the modern supply chain silently looking at Vietnam, looking at Indonesia, as they’re manufacturing cars. So that creates opportunity. There is much change. So how would companies look at expanding with these disruptions and reduce their risk?
It’ll be through systems and platforms that they can grow, to change their business, with agility without committing assets? If companies want to go asset-light – they don’t want to own 200 trucks, for example, in a particular region – then how do they work with carriers? How do they work at enabling their relationships in those future regions that are expanding very quickly, as well as addressing those that are contracting? Flexibility is essential at this time.
Q: How can the voice of the customer be heard across supply chains when some organisations struggle to listen to it within their own company? What advice do you have for companies that are just getting started with this level of digitalisation and integration?
I think the most common misconception is that supply chain innovation needs to be completely new, or disruptive, to their organisations. The most successful customer experience innovation that we’ve seen in companies is not about revamping every system or every process in their supply chain to be innovative.
They need to strike a middle ground. It’s not about chasing after every shiny new technology that comes along, whether it is drones, whether it’s bots, or robotics, and so forth. It’s not about starting on proof of concept with the tech behind it. It’s also not about dismissing all these new technologies as well, because it could be really relevant.
If let’s say, you are a business that tries new picking processes and last-mile delivery technologies, someone like Amazon or Lazada, then yes, the robotics, the picking technology that’s available out there will make a lot of sense for you because it will be beneficial to your business.
I think this necessitates striking the middle ground and having a clear understanding of the end goal. So what’s your angle? Is it to enhance the customer experience? Whether is it cost reduction, or competitive advantage, and then have a planned way to execute and achieve goals – including KPIs.
Q: Companies are typically focused on customer loyalty, boosted brand reputation, and of course, increased profits. Customer experience can seem like an additional expense that might be hard to measure and assist with these metrics. Is this the case?
It’s hand-in-hand, and I think many customers will always look at ROI as one of their measures. But we also see many customers adopting that customer-centric mindset, that prioritises customers not above, but rather in tandem with ROI. So it allows that disruption and that flexibility to change. Many customers say, “Hey, my supply chain is humming along, you know if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We know, we’ve seen companies come and companies going, or people like, Kodak, BlackBerry, we’ve seen these businesses kind of rest on their laurels, and want to remain comfortable. They don’t fix things; they want to remain at the status quo. We do, however, see customer-centric businesses continue to grow; more companies like Amazon, where they look at a customer and think “how do we improve on that on a daily basis?”
Q: In the journey of digitalisation and improving the customer experience, ROI is the most common metric we hear about. Is this still a valid metric and should companies be looking to other measures? If so, what and how do they help companies realise value for their customers?
I think that with customer experience, it is not just one word. It’s not just about customer satisfaction. There are a lot of different ROIs behind that, and if we focus on the supply chain, there are metrics like visibility, on-time delivery, for the customer it is about getting a premium fulfilment service at little-to-no cost. So, I think the expectation is that customer service and customer experience enhances quite a fair bit, and the ROI is beneath that.
Q: How should the supply chain industry re-think the future with so many variables & challenges seen ahead?
So I think a good statement would be “Don’t be complacent.”
Keep a peripheral view of the obstructions that are going to happen in the market space, whether it is politics, technology, environment, and so forth.
I think the people, the processes, the technologies that made us successful to date, they have already made you very, very successful. However, that’s all – you have got to keep a view of the disruption.
And don’t rush to rest on your laurels and keep at whatever made you successful. What I do today is not necessarily going to be what makes me successful in the future. It’s about that new year, new quarter.