Episode Sixty-Three: Tackling Supply Chain Management During Covid-19

Managing Supply Chain Disruption

We've got these incredible seismic challenges which are going on and we're having to completely restructure supply chains that were designed for an old normal.

In this episode of The Power of Data Podcast, Richard Wilding, Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield University School of Management and Hemanth Setty, Global Head of Product for Risk, Supply Chain and Compliance Solutions at Dun and Bradstreet explore the value of supply chains and their critical role during the pandemic and how they’ve been impacted. They discuss the importance of planning and infrastructure in the vaccine supply chain, leveraging automation and how supply chain 4.0 is changing the capabilities that we have.

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(Please note that this podcast was recorded remotely.)


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The Power of Data Podcast

Episode 63: Tackling Supply Chain Management During Covid-19

Guests: Richard Wilding, Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield University School of Management and Hemanth Setty, Global Head of Product for Risk, Supply Chain and Compliance Solutions at Dun & Bradstreet
Interviewer: Sam Tidswell-Norrish, International CMO, Dun & Bradstreet

Sam 00:00
Welcome to The Power of Data Podcast. I have two very special guests with me today, I have Richard Wilding, OBE, Professor of Supply Chain Strategy from Cranfield University School of Management. And I have a good friend and colleague, Hemanth Setty, Global Head of Product for Risk, Supply Chain and Compliance Solutions at Dun & Bradstreet. Welcome both.

Right, let's get stuck straight into this. And I'm going to start with a controversial statement. I didn't think I'd ever say that I was fascinated by supply chains, I really didn't. But through COVID-19, we've seen an incredible disruption of supply chains around the world, and business leaders have had to make super quick decisions take immediate actions to sustain their business operations to continue selling their customers, their clients communities, not to mention to support and protect their own employees themselves. Before we get stuck into the podcast, and we talk about the impact of supply chains, it will be great to hear a little bit about your backgrounds for our listeners. Let's start with you first, Richard.

Richard 00:59
Well, I mean, my background is I started my career in industry. And I accidentally fell into academia many years ago, it wasn't one of my career goals. And I was basically involved in production management. So I'm actually a chartered engineer, I used to work on manufacturing systems and I was in production management and responsible for a large production facility, where actually I was able to manage a complete supply chain. It was one of those rare places where you're managing material out of the ground, I was making bricks processing loose, and basically then sending them to building sites. So I had my own little supply chain, which I was responsible for. And then when I moved into academia is working with lots and lots of companies I've always been what you might describe as a pracademic, so a practitioner-academic, I spent most of my time working with different companies all around the world, engineering companies, fast moving consumer goods, pharmaceutical companies. And one of the areas which I then got into was really understanding what we call supply chain dynamics. Supply chain dynamics really moved into risk very much so, because a lot of the risks we're experiencing before, if you like the year 2000 were around, if you like dynamics, it was really about things like you might have heard of the bullwhip effect, and things like that were really being researched and looked into. But in 2000, various events happened, we had things like 911, we had fuel crises, we had Foot and Mouth, we had volcanoes going off - all sorts of things which started disrupting supply chains. And that's where, if you like my previous work really came into play, and I became the first ever and we think globally Professor of Supply Chain Risk Management at Cranfield University School of Management. And that was in back end of 2005. And my title change to Professor of Supply Chain Strategy, because what we find is, is that supply chain risk is something which really has to be embedded an early stage in the supply chain strategy. And I think that'll be part of the debate which we're going to be having, as we move forward during this, this discussion today. So I think that probably gives a reasonable overview. If anybody's got any questions, feel free to ask.

Sam 03:21
Thank you, Richard. And I love that terminology, pracademic. I'm going to tee Hemanth up to hopefully smash what I'm about to lob, but Hemanth are you are datademic?

Hemanth 03:29
Yeah, that's a nice way to look at it. And that's a little bit of a fascination of my role at Dun & Bradstreet. So I joined Dun and Bradstreet about six years ago. But before that I was in the technology world, building products and services for end users. I never did a lot of work in supply chain space, mostly focused on you know, FinTech and startup type of capabilities and solutions. Then I did a bunch of management consulting work with banks and financial institutions for 10 plus years before Dun & Bradstreet, where I got a flavour of risk management, mostly from a financial perspective, then landed a job at Dun & Bradstreet managing their first supply plus product that they already have. And since then, basically been fascinated with combining data and analytics to allow customers and our users to manage their risk in a much more comprehensive manner, which, you know, I could say it could be a date again, it's in that sense to you know, to manage the portfolio data assets and risks that we're doing. More recently, I became the Head of Product for our Supply Chain Solutions Group. We are focused on building new products and capabilities around supplier risk, combining them with compliance and regulatory drivers around supply chains, mapping your supply chain and mapping to new kind of factors around ESG and cybersecurity. So we are dedicated that full spectrum view of solutions for our customers as part of their overall risk management program.

Sam 04:48
I can already feel the excitement that it's mounting, bringing together pracademic and a datademic to create some incredible supply chain innovations - we're going to have to think about taking that part offline. Last year and leading into this year has seen some of the biggest challenges for businesses in modern history. I read a report recently: 90% of Fortune 1000 companies saw supply chain disruptions last year alone. And one industry saw the biggest disruption at the start of the pandemic and needed to adapt quickly was the supply chain industry. Richard, in your view what impact did Covid-19 have on supply chain risk and supply management? And what opportunities are you seeing for companies to leverage automation to make their supply chain management more efficient in the aftermath?

Richard 05:32
Well, one of the key things is really, I think what companies have started to realize is that the supply chain is the business to be quite honest. We've said for many years, that competition is not between individual companies, it's between the supply chains they're part of. And we've had disruptions in the past, things like earthquakes, tsunamis, and so on and so forth in various places, which disrupt supply chains. But the scale of what has happened in the last 12 months has just been pretty massive. I mean, as we're talking now, at the beginning of February, I can remember it's just over a year ago that I was working with companies, and they're saying we're starting to get some issues developing in China, on some of the rivers, or we're finding containers are not moving in the way we expect them to, and this is starting to disrupt our supply chain. So this was, you know, picked up back then. And in terms of data, how is it picked up? It's there's an awful lot of analytics and things like that, which is actually going on. I think what has been really interesting is that the companies that have really fared well have actually effectively been through scenario planning on this. Not probably to the same degree to which you know, to get rid of all the risk associated with it, but they have actually thought through the consequences. And I was quite surprised I was getting early on in the pandemic companies, very experienced supply chain directors and people contacting me just expressing “I have no idea what to do. Where do I start in terms of managing this? How do I you know, what are the just the foundations of supply chain risk management?” And this is a subject, of course, as you've heard, which has been close to my heart for years, and all of a sudden, it was just a wakeup call to absolutely everybody. And so interestingly enough, lots of the principles and the approaches, which we've had available to us for the last 20 years, you know, we were able to take these off the shelf and share them with organizations. The big difference that we have today, of course, is just the whole issue of how we can manage data across the supply chain. And one of the key things that, you know, often when I'm talking about supply chain resilience, I talk about, you know, the temple of supply chain resilience, where you have a foundation of the supply chain strategy, you have to think through product and service design for the supply chain. You’ve got to focus on collaboration and managing relationships, you need to think about agility and flexibility, you've got to make sure you've got if you like a risk management culture. In other words, often say culture is what people do in the absence of instruction when they're under a bit of pressure. So you have to get people asking the question, when I make a sourcing decision, how will this impact on the overall risk profile of the supply chain. But really, to cap that all off, you need supply chain transparency, you need continuous monitoring intelligence. And that's where some of the, you know, newer technologies from what we call supply chain 4.0 really come together, you know, big data analytics, cloud computing, and so on and so forth, because that enables us to create the transparency we need, and also continuously monitor what's actually happening. So those businesses who have been really at the forefront of these approaches, really, they're the ones that I would argue, were able to really see what was happening, see what was coming and start to adapt accordingly.

Hemanth 09:03
Yeah Richard, I totally agree with you on that, you know, kind of that transparency, and that visibility of their supply chain and their network is what we see with our customers as well. And one of the challenges we have, we have a fairly diversified customer base. And part of the challenge is the maturity level of managing their data in a much more holistic and a governed manner. Many of them don't have the systems and processes in place. And these kinds of disruptions can have a material impact to them if they have not heard that systematic approach to transparency, and that, as you mentioned, the culture, the risk management culture within their organization.

So one of the things we you know, we've done is we've done a survey with our users and customers and disruption seems to be plateaued, and it has a much higher level than it used to be. Disruption has been going on for many years, as you've said, but now we have almost a sustained level of disruption going into the supply chain right now. And that essentially forces our users and customers to start thinking about it as a phenomenon within the culture, they have embedded within the culture like how do you manage the supply chain disruption. And it kind of goes back to that visibility goes back to the transparency. And I think we at Dun & Bradstreet have, the tools and services and capabilities to allow you to get that data, get access to that visibility, and also monitor that on an ongoing basis to essentially, manage the disruption. Disruption is not going away, it's just that now you have to make it a first party activity within your risk management program.

Richard 10:28
Yeah, it's really interesting, because one of the big things which has been spoken about for a few years now is what we call the bi-modal supply chain. And it basically says, we have two modes, we have one mode, which is focused on predictability. So this is all about efficiency, cost reduction, managing predictable swings, and inventory fluctuations. But mode two is focused on exploration, it's all about speed, it's dynamic, it's iterative, its strategies for solving the unexpected, and so on and so forth. And so mode one, you could argue, you know, going back to the old production, mindsets, that's very much about Lean. And I think, you know, if we go back to the old normal, which is, you know, it's probably 2019, you'd find often, for many companies, a lot of what they were doing was probably 80%, if you like that mode, one predictable stuff, very lean, and 20% was mode to focus on exploration, the agile side of things. What we've seen in the last 12 months is an absolute swings, you could argue that now for organizations to survive, is that agility, you know, the speed, its dynamic, its iterative, it's solving the unexpected, that is 80% of the business. And perhaps 20% is that focus on the predictable stuff, the lean stuff. And the nature of the information systems, the nature of the data, which is required to be able to operate in that very agile mode, in that mode two type supply chain mode is very, very different. And that's why we've got these incredible seismic challenges which are going on, because in a way, we're having to completely restructure supply chains, which were designed for an old normal, and we're having to move into this new normal, and we just need everything different. And I think that's one of the key things that we're having to deal with here.

Sam 12:19
That's a great point, Richard, and let's explore a little bit further. So we talked about the power of data on our podcast and the data landscape, post COVID, has changed a huge amount. I was talking to a client recently and the client asked me to summarize the trends that we've seen in our industry and how we've been affected by it from a data perspective. And if you think about around the world, how the data supply chain has evolved, you've had small things like extension to filing deadlines that have shifted how we collect data, the typical processes for collecting data has changed with registries and courts changing. We've had an accelerating shift to automation, there's a greater dependency on data because people can't diligence in person there’s more data lead decisioning. There's uncertainty and the classic risk modeling techniques we used to use. There's a whole load of variables in there and the key thing to bear in mind is that, and this is why the client asked it, all of those trends impact every industry, but no industry more so than the supply risk landscape over the last 12 months. So how is data really impacting the supplier risk landscape?

Richard 13:20
If we go back to if you like, the fundamentals of supply chain strategy and in very simple terms, I often talk through you have the corporate strategy, which for most companies is global domination. It's that high level sort of statement of global domination. Below that you have the competitive strategy, and the competitive strategy will be different for different products, different customers, different markets. It's about how do we actually create value, you know, how do we create value in that particular area. The supply chain strategy is all about the delivery of that value. And the key thing there is, you know, it's a simplification, but it works, there's really four key things you need to consider: you need to consider the supply chain process design, the infrastructure and equipment design, but also very much the information systems design, also, then the organization and if you like the people. And all these areas interacts. You've got the processes, you know, the network, you're dealing with the equipment you've got in facilities, etc, you know, that infrastructure, but Information Systems really, really important. And then you've also got the organization and society design as well the people side, and I think one of the interesting things that's actually very much occurring, not just in the supply chain, thinking about warehouses and so on and so forth. The big debate now, in many boardrooms is around basically property, you know, do I need my office anymore, I've got all these people remotely working. So therefore, in terms of the way I manage the supply chain, where my suppliers are and everything else, it's sort of I don't need property, or I need property for a different purpose. But if I reduce the amount of property I have, and I've got people working remotely, I therefore need to invest and have the appropriate information technology, which also links to the appropriate data, which I'm going to be sharing. And then the other big area is HR management, how do we actually manage people in this virtual environment, if we're actually dealing with those and adapting the processes accordingly. So one of the key things here is, is that all of a sudden, when we're looking at this, what's going on in the supply chain, you're having to actually think through that we're having to manage multiple risks. We talked about ESG, environmental, societal, and governance risks, and we're having to sort of monitor those globally, wherever possible, to ensure that we're actually doing the right thing, we're having to make sure we've got modern day slavery in our supply chain, for example. We're having to train our people differently. We've got to have the information, technology infrastructure in place, really to enable all these things to work, because one of the things we discovered in the last 12 months is yeah, okay, our most vulnerable asset is our people to a physical virus, but also in this new world, we're having to think about that other environment, and that is the virtual world, where actually cybersecurity to deal with that virtual virus is also absolutely critical to protect all this data that we're having to move around the world and ensure that our operations can continue.

Hemanth 16:34
That's great Richard, I think this is where D&B can tremendously help customers and supply chain to power that analysis and power that change transformation that they're going through. Like you said, the macro level trends around cybersecurity, ESG, in natural disasters, you know, there's not a lot of data that's available on that, and the data tends to be sparse. And I think what we can do within D&B is with the power of our entity identification and the Data Cloud that we have, can start to transform the way the customers and supplier networks want to be able to transform the value that they provide to their end users and customers. We have 420 million businesses within our global dataset around the world and this allows us to with accuracy, pinpoint where your suppliers are, how we are managing the traceability of your supply chain, where the potential risks are. And as you lead in different dimensions of risk, whether that's financial risk, risk of bankruptcy with predictable indicators, and ESG their cybersecurity risks, for example, you can get that end to end visibility to manage your supply chain and, you know, effectively transforming supply chain in this kind of, you know, changing times.

Richard 17:40
And I think one of the key things as well, we have to actually think through is that whole world of Robot Process Automation, RPA. Because we've seen just a massive move forward in in that. It is easier to recruit somebody in a very low-cost country to do certain procurement activities or to do certain activities, which often say RPA is what you're trying to do is to take the robot out of the person. So if there's a repetitive task that you're doing on a regular basis, can you actually put in place effectively algorithms to manage this. In its simplest form, of course, it's just macros in, in spreadsheets to connect these things together, you could argue, but I mean, the point is that we're just seeing a massive change in focus for organizations. And if you like this launch of automation on some of these repetitive processes, which in the past, we would employ people to deal with, but this is just data manipulation, as it were, which people are going through on a regular basis. So hey, we've now got the approaches, we've got the technology, and we can move forward by automating those. And I think that actually raises some interesting issues, because ultimately, you know, a lot of the things that we're doing in the supply chain, you can think through, you know, I always think through the triple bottom line of thinking of the planet, the profits and the people. And one of the key things that we haven't think through some of these things that we're doing is changing the nature of employment, it's going to impact our society quite dramatically and that's just what's happening in supply chain 4.0, it really is changing the capabilities that we have. And by leveraging if you like that data information, that continuous monitoring and the intelligence that we're using, you know, which we've just been discussing, there's some incredible opportunities to take the robot out of the human, which then allows humans to actually do the clever stuff, which only humans can do at the moment, which is sort of think creatively and innovatively about some of these activities.

Hemanth 19:42
And I'll add one more thing to that, I mean, the amount of data that we have to do that is getting unmanageable by any number of humans right now. So you almost need these RPA type of tools just to manage, you know, regulatory changes, information overload, unstructured information, so it's almost impossible to get away without building some of these capabilities to effectively manage your change transformation.

Richard 20:03
It is interesting, we often talk about artificial intelligence, I like actually the term augmented intelligence because I think if you do it well, that's what you achieve. You're using if you like this intelligence from RPA, and so on and so forth, to augment human decision making. So you know, enables humans to make better decisions, because they have better data presented to them in a format that they can sort of utilize for those decisions. So yeah, it's a really interesting sort of journey that well, society in the world's going on.

Sam 20:37
Let's keep going on the theme of mass adoption and large scale. When you hear the term global rollout, what you might normally think of is a product from Apple. And it's being rolled out market by market. But when we talk about one of the biggest rollouts we've ever seen, we're talking about the COVID vaccine. 7.8 billion people on the planet, everyone needs one. What kind of steps and planning from a logistical and supply chain perspective does a task like this actually entail?

Richard 21:03
The goal is we need to inoculate everybody on the planet, that is really what we're trying to do. And to enable that to actually happen, we've got to actually create supply chains to be able to inoculate everybody on the planet. And I think at the moment, this means a massive rollout and engagement across multiple levels. So one of the key things is, it's going back to those foundational principles of supply chain strategy, you’ve got to have the infrastructure and the equipment in place to be able to make this work. And at the moment, we're in a situation where we're literally just trying to build a supply chain to deliver this capability. And if I take a UK-centric view on this, let's just look at the United Kingdom, because it says, if you'd like a little microcosm of what's going on, first thing that you have to sort of think through is okay, we need to get the infrastructure in place to make this work. And actually what was done was, if you go back to April of 2020, we had something called the vaccine task force, which was put together. What's really interesting about that is, is that the person who was put in charge of it was a venture capitalist. And I think that's interesting, why, because these are people who will take risks, you know, they're able to sort of look at things and say, we're going to take some risks on some items here, this is what we're gonna have to do to be able to think differently about that. And that actually helps, because what they did was they backed multiple horses. They looked at the spectrum of the vaccines, which are out there, and they put money behind them. But I think what's really interesting about this is that they had to put the research because the vaccines had to be developed. And there's a massive failure rate on vaccine development. It’s not a done deal, if somebody's researching it, whether the you're gonna get anything out of it. But what they were basically doing was concurrently designing the supply chain, while that product was being designed, which is where it should be done. You should have this, you know, this link between supply chain and product development running in any organization, right, because then you have to understand how you're going to move it, distribute it and manufacturing and mass. I might be able to come up with a fantastic vaccine sitting in my office here. But the point is, if I can only make it in sort of jam jar sized quantities, it's not going to help very many people. So you need to be able to sort of think through how do we go about that. So very early on, they were thinking about infrastructure. And one of the big important things that they did was they looked at, if you like the resilience of the current vaccine supply chain, and they noticed that there are bottlenecks, and one key bottleneck globally, is what's called film finish. This is where you actually put that vaccine into a small vial, you know, a little a little container, so that you can actually move it around, and you can effectively vaccinate somebody. And what they did very early on was they bought capacity in the United Kingdom. So they actually bought all the capacity in the United Kingdom for film finish, which was really quite important in association to the AstraZeneca vaccine. So really early on, they were thinking about the infrastructure and everything else that needed to actually come into play. They started designing the processes, and also information systems had to be put in place. And in fact, they were you could argue there's actually three key people in terms of the people the organization, who are having to actually work together on this. You've got if you're like the organization is, is you've got the public sector, which is the health service, amongst others. You've also got the military, and they're really important at various stages in developing a brand-new supply chain on scale very, very quickly because they can call on national resources, but also one of the things that the military have very good at doing is actually dealing with the politics of the situation. But then you've got the private sector. So even very early on, you know, the big logistics providers were brought into this. And also the big information systems providers, were also being sort of brought into this so you have this coordinated approach. And I think what's interesting to talk about then was mobilizing the people. So if you think that, in the United Kingdom, you've got 1,000s of volunteers, also sort of as part of this process, so they're able to mobilize the population. They published a UK COVID vaccines delivery plan, so there's a plan out there. And it really provides the vision and very simply speaking, it talks about supply was one of the key things they wanted to sort out, we've got to sort out suppliers we've been discussing, you got to sort out prioritization, and that's who's going to receive this first, you've then got to think about they talk about places, because places is really the infrastructure and what we're talking about there is where everybody was going to receive their inoculation, or their jab, as we often say, and in England, that was 206 active hospital sites, 50 vaccination centers, 1,200 local vaccination centers, but also you've got to have mobile teams. So you know, this was like trying to create within a matter of weeks, a massive supermarket supply chain to be able to actually roll this particular thing out.

The other key thing, of course, is, you know, the people is how do we mobilize a workforce behind this? How do we get the volunteers? How do we get the resources? How do we get the vaccinations into local communities, so really, all those elements had to actually come together. And it's worked, you know, it's still early stage supply chain. And what we have to remember isn't on any new product launch, you will have disruption. I often talk about, if like a number of key stages in in launching any product, with a supply chain, you'll have a supply chain dedicated to the product launch. That product will then go into a stable phase, and you will change the nature of that supply chain, sometimes you need completely different people operating it, and then you'll go into product decline as well. And I think we're already hearing with, you know, these new variants of the COVID vaccine, this isn't something which is going to go away. It's going to be like the flu, we're probably going to be having annual jabs to be able to deal with this, so this is something which is going to be running for many years now. And we're gonna have to wait and see what happens. But that basically means is that this is now going to turn into a process that we're going to be going through on a regular basis that we're having to go out rather like with any other vaccination, like the flu jab or anything, we're going to have mass vaccinations probably taking place for a number of years. That's just in the UK. The challenge then is how do you roll this out globally, because there's no point in us sitting on a little island here on the edge of the Atlantic, as it were, unless the rest of the world is also vaccinated. And I think that that's going to be the big challenge that we're starting to see. And we're already seeing manufacturers and supply chains being mobilized globally, to deal with this particular issue.

Sam 28:20
As we prepare for this being something that's with us for many years, and particularly with new variants, and I guess the difference of application and vaccination around the world. What's Dun & Bradstreet doing Hemanth, to help customers and supply chain and risk space? And how can we help prepare for future evolutions of this pandemic?

Hemanth 28:40
It's a good question, because this is kind of unprecedented territory for a lot of our customers and trying to deal with their, employees and teams and supply chains is a massive challenge for anybody to deal with. So, you know, for the Dun & Bradstreet's perspective, our view is that we want to allow our data set and our capabilities around analytics to support you as part of that journey. So some of the things we've done is, you know, we've done a COVID Index Assessment, and identifying where the COVID hotspots are doing a macro level analysis around you know, how COVID could impact your business, what regions of the world the COVID vaccination supply chains are impacting the way you want to source raw materials and goods and things like that. So that's one aspect of it.

The second aspect is much more focused on the disruption side, where because the supply chains are being disrupted, using our data and using our risk assessment models, we are able to try to understand how you can manage that disruption.

And then kind of finally, as we are going through these transformations and changes in the supply chain programs to distribute the vaccines, there's a lot of fraud that's also happening within the supply chain. So you know, through the in the US the PPP the Payment Protection Program, we've been noticing a lot of like fraud that small businesses are trying to do trying to get government funding as part of their PPP program. So we can also try to evaluate where these frauds are occurring and So the right resources are being provided to the right sets of businesses in this type of media as well. So those are some of the kinds of things that we can support as part of this, you know, massive rollout program that the world is going through as part of this vaccination rollout.

Richard 30:13
And I think that one of the key things is, is that also supports one of the big trends we have been seeing is really moving to onshoring, nearshoring and also multi shoring. I was working with one company recently, and they said, they were very, very pleased, because they had all their supplier, that they would try sourcing that three suppliers for a particular product, the problem they discovered was, they're all in the same region in the same town. And when it went into lockdown, because of COVID, it made no difference whatsoever. So actually thinking through and having the analytics presence, so you can make informed decisions about also multi shoring, so that you can perhaps procure from completely different areas so you've got more secure supply coming through? Or you might say, well, okay, are we able to bring some of that capability using some of the, you know, the new technology, maybe additive manufacturing, technology, and so on, and so forth, more local to us where the customers are. And I think that's the key trend we're going to start seeing is, it's not all about, you know, low labor rates or anything like that, it's now with the technology we have, labor's becoming a smaller proportion of the total costs of many organizations. So therefore, are we able to actually have small footprint manufacturing close to where our customers are, so that we can actually manufacture for them and make that things more resilient. So we've got all the data requirements associated with that. And I think in a way, this pandemic is put up, create a massive burning platform for people to explore these new opportunities and in order to do that, you've got to make sure you've got really good quality data.

Hemanth 31:53
That's actually a great point, right now, they're kind of following these new strategies and new approaches to solving problems. They're trying to be creative with the change that's happening. So where do you see these kinds of ideation with these kinds of new strategies, post pandemic, how of them are going to stay and do they continue post pandemic as being the norm going forward?

Richard 32:13
We were seeing if you like the foundations of these principles, before the pandemic. So my predictions were, you know, if you're looking at, say, the foundations of industry, 4.0, systems integration, big data analytics, simulation, virtualization, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, autonomous systems, augmented reality, and additive manufacturing, and don't forget cybersecurity, covering all those things. If you look at those sort of those foundational building blocks, we were seeing massive move forwards and organizations really innovating in the way that they were sort of joining those elements together in the supply chain. Now that was going on sort of 2017/2018/2019. And we were looking at this sort of saying, Oh, well, you know, in the next five, six years, we'll see some of this, and so on and so forth.

2020 came along, and I was talking to companies who said, we thought this project was going to take us five years to implement, and cost, you know, X million. And actually, we've done it in five weeks and it's cost us very, very little. And that is really what's happening, people have suddenly realized, hang on a minute, we can actually start doing this. And it's just created this platform for investing in technology, so that we can actually start working differently. So can we get automation into warehouses? We have to think that some of the robots, you know, collaborative robotics, for example, even in 2019, those bits of equipment were costing, maybe $25-30,000. By the time you've implemented them, it might cost you $90,000, to have one of those in in a particular facility. This is as much as a smart family, saloon car, really and the return on investment was around about nine months.

Now, if you think about the world we're in now, if you've got that technology in a particular facility, and so on, and so forth. So you need less people who can catch a virus, as it were, or you can socially distance more effectively, it can actually improve your operations and I'm sure that you know, when you look at the analysis, your return on investment is going to be far, far less than nine months now. So you know, we've seen these trends there, but this has just created this great big burning platform. So I think an awful lot of what is going on is going to stick. Even if I'm looking at online shopping, my 80-year-old father, he never did online shopping really. Now he thinks it's the most fantastic thing out so a whole new demographic is discovering online shopping. So are we going to go back to where we were before? I really don't think so. And that, of course is going to really challenge the cost to serve of traditional supply chains. So you know the processes we have the information structure, the information systems and the people we have in the old normal will not move directly into the new normal, there's going to have to be massive adaption. And that's going to be the big challenge that we're having to deal with.

Sam 35:12
Thank you Hemanth for asking that question because I wanted to get stuff straight into the big areas of innovation, and procurement and supply chain and Richard, you've answered it very succinctly then. We're unfortunately out of time, which is a real shame because I think we could talk about this topic forever, particularly with the world's first ever Supply Chain Risk Management Professor. Richard, thank you so much for joining us today on The Power of Data Podcast, and Hemanth thank you too.

Richard 35:37
Thank you.

Hemanth 35:37
Thank you, guys.