We sat down with ketteQ Senior Solutions Engineer Nick Viola to get his take on market trends and the growing need for prescriptive technology.
With inflation bearing down on consumers and persistent rumblings about recession, supply chain companies are moving from revenue growth models to cost cutting capabilities. This will call not only for even greater visibility across supply chains, but better, more precise collaborations among internal teams to carry supply chain leaders to a profitable goal line. We sat down with ketteQ Senior Solutions Engineer Nick Viola to get his take on market trends and the growing need for prescriptive technology.
Q: What career path led you to ketteQ and what is your role?
A: I graduated from the Naval Academy with a BS in mechanical engineering and was stationed aboard the USS Pennsylvania, a nuclear-powered submarine based outside Seattle, WA. I spent time leading different teams and trained new officers. The Navy brought me to Atlanta, and I was an interim instructor at Morehouse College NROTC, part of the Georgia Tech NROTC consortium, teaching naval engineering. I received my MBA from Georgia Tech and went to work for Georgia Pacific where I started in operations leading a manufacturing team and then moved over into supply chain analytics focused on warehouse and inventory optimization, demand planning and sourcing. I moved to Amazon as a senior program manager working with DSPs (Delivery Service Partners) and my team supported data collection and data dissemination. That position was great for learning analytics, and we had the opportunity to use Salesforce to start up a call center. I pivoted to pre-sales support at Aera Technology, a decision intelligence company, and then landed a pre-sales leadership role here at ketteQ. It’s a perfect fit for my skillset, which is understanding the pain points for our supply chain clients and being able to prescribe novel technology solutions and help raise customers out of manual processes and give them a way to bring multiple layers of data and information into one place, so they can leverage visibility and scenario planning to optimize operations much more effectively and efficiently.
Q: What are the biggest market trends you see on the horizon?
A: I really think the market trend is going to move from revenue growth to cost cutting. Macroeconomic issues like inflation and recession threats, the war with Ukraine and even global currency fluctuations are changing consumer preferences and the way we spend money. If you talk to business leaders and listen to their earnings calls, everyone is skeptical, and more companies are looking to invest in ways to improve cost cutting. Companies want to get closer and closer to more efficient costs, more accurate supply chain planning and supply chain execution. The answer, of course, is technology.
I hate crystal balls, but I think we will see the complexity of supply chains continue to grow over time, on the demand side and competitive side. As a company I may grow my locations to go where demand is going and that demand may change. On the supply chain side, we have seen chronic interruptions in shipping from China, so manufacturers are moving to plants in Mexico, Canada, or Southeast Asia. We continue to see problems with sourcing materials and chronic shortages, like for semiconductors. All this movement and disruption adds to supply chain complexity.
Consumers will continue to shift preferences, sometimes dramatically. Especially as inflation bears down, consumers are making constant trade-off decisions. Will I buy this toy for my child, or will I buy eggs that are now more expensive? Consumer demand will change with market offerings, too, as cool, new product offerings hit the market.
Q: What is one of the most common pain points for supply chain operators?
A: Complexity within operations. Each macro and micro economic shift adds a layer of complexity that supply chain operators need help navigating.
Often, among the three most important functions or teams within a supply chain company – sales, finance, demand planning – you have people who speak different languages. Sales teams are making their forecasts, while finance says, through an outlook, the company needs to sell a certain number of goods, and then demand planners predict what number they think the company will sell. On top of that you have operations. This can create a lot of noise because synchronizing those teams and functions and languages can be very complex.
What ketteQ offers in the face of this complexity is a game changer. ketteQ brings all those data interpretations into one place on its platform and shows what all teams are saying about the data simultaneously. If the finance team wants to see the data in terms of dollars, for example, that view can be called up, while the demand planning team is provided data in units. ketteQ aids in bringing data together to get to consensus planning much faster than through manual processes.
Q: How does ketteQ’s technology solution stand apart?
A: Most companies are managing how to get enough product to deliver to the right customers at the right time. That requires demand planning, forecasting, inventory optimization and all things that go into sales and operations planning (S&OP). Meetings are held to gain consensus and many times those are done at a high level over manual data entered onto spreadsheets – a process that is showing its age. Getting all that spreadsheet data into one place, able to be quickly and easily interpreted in multiple views, vastly improves planning.
How ketteQ uses Salesforce to collect and interpret data is revolutionary. ketteQ is built on the Salesforce platform, which allows internal teams to use a familiar CRM system. Not only is data presented collaboratively within Salesforce, but ketteQ also calculates and analyzes the data, offering unprecedented computer power.
It reminds me of my days as a mechanical engineer when I needed 12 computers to run heavy computations. It took a long time, involving overnight runs and batch analysis. But now we are talking about one computer system able to run all kinds of scenarios and computations very quickly.
But, even more important, once you have the data, what do you do with it? Supply chain decisions are made in numerous ways, many times through human interpretation. i.e., team meetings and calls. But, ketteQ’s platform not only collects and analyzes the data, but it also helps companies pick the best scenarios, essentially prescribing the best solution by crunching all the numbers and offering up views all teams can understand.
Right now, that technology is offered through ketteQ’s supply solver tool. Based on what a company wants to accomplish – whether maximizing cost or improving on-time delivery or better parts planning – multiple metrics and scenarios can be considered, and a next-step solution offered. Now, instead of spending time running the numbers, operators can apply their knowledge and experience at a higher level.
Q: What does the future hold for the supply chain industry?
A: In the future, we will move to an automated supply chain, and we will be able to run computations and calculations, predict probability with demand scenarios and go from the beginning of the supply chain all the way to the consumer, fully automated. But we are years away from that. Right now, though, we can apply that level of technology to areas of the supply chain and start moving away from existing processes that leave us shooting in the dark or not delivering the optimal path. We will also be moving towards better collaboration using data as the tool and power source for superior operations.
If you are ready to start the move to faster, better supply chain problem solving, reach out and let us show you how ketteQ’s platform can help.