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The digital supply chain ecosystem

digital supply chain

TMX has recruited Matthew Jackson as Director of Digital Supply Chain, spearheading the consultancy’s digital services as part of TMX’s end-to-end supply chain offering. He explains why a focus on digital supply chain is a must for all major organisations. 

Matthew Jackson, who has recently joined TMX as its Director of Digital Supply Chain, says while TMX is already well established in Australia and the broader Asia Pacific as a leader in supply chain network strategy and implementation, it is now offering customers a digital supply chain overlay to complement and round out its end-to-end solutions. 

“TMX is renowned for its solutions in supply chain design and implementation, including major functions like warehouse automation,” Matthew says. “The new digital supply chain team – comprised of people recruited internally from TMX, as well as externally, like me – provides an offering that touches on all of TMX’s established pillars of expertise, as well its new integrated business planning (IBP) pillar. The goal is to enrich our customers’ end-to-end supply chain through digitalisation.” 

Matthew says that TMX avoids “cookie cutter” approaches when approaching its clients’ supply chain objectives. Although TMX does much of its own software development, Matthew says the new digital team will work with the best on offer in the marketplace solutions-wise, and continuously work to improve and develop solutions in concert with a client’s evolving strategy. “We are going to be bringing forward a lot of our newly developed partnerships and alliances in the digital area,” he says. “For us it’s about moving away from any linear approaches, and instead fostering a solutions ecosystem that aligns with a modern data ecosystem.”

HARNESSING DATA & DEVELOPING STRATEGY

“Data is at the heart of the digital supply chain,” Matthew says. “Without data, there is no digital element.”

In the past, he says, supply chains were very linear, and organisations operated on projections necessarily limited by the informational constraints imposed by time and space. Modern methods of disseminating, organising, analysing, and instantaneously responding to data – bolstered using artificial intelligence and machine learning – have changed all that. 

“Imagine a retail organisation saying, ‘We want to have this much of X product’ and instantly the manufacturer already knows to either shift to the customer based on inventory levels, or produce it – that’s what we’re talking about,” Matthew says. “It’s that data enabling capability to make the right decisions across your supply chain. Then organisations can reduce their required inventory levels and they don’t have unnecessary inventory occupying valuable warehouse space. They’re getting the right inventory levels and can ‘flex’ those levels up or down as required – which is especially important with the constraints that COVID-19 is putting on current local and global supply chains.”

He adds that there are myriad and ever-evolving ways of using data to improve decision-making. “Through technologies such as digital twins, personalised dashboards and control towers for conveying data to personnel, AI-enabled scenario-based planning, and paperless environments – all of these can improve our end-to-end supply chains right now.”

A key advantage that TMX’s new digital team will bring to the table is the ability to draw all the threads of digital supply chain thinking together in devising overall strategies, or roadmaps, for organisations. 

“This ties in really well with TMX’s already established strengths in network strategy development and assessment,” Matthew says. “We will be going into an organisation to assess their supply chains and ask, ‘What’s happening?’ and ‘Where are the key challenges?’. Then, from a digital point of view, we can point to actual digital and technology solutions and explain the value it would bring to the organisation. So, whether it’s improved planning, improved OEE [Overall Equipment Effectiveness] within the make environment, sustainability, or safety within the logistics process and warehouse – we will work to identify all these different elements that can be assigned an actual value. Because, the reality is, you don’t want to put in new technology just for the sake of putting in technology. You want that technology to drive towards some form of value in each component of the supply chain.”

He says that being able to assign value to individual components is essential, because CFOs are often reluctant to sign off on projects that don’t have a clear value associated with them. Providing end-to-end assessment and assigning precise values to proposed initiatives creates buy-in across the whole organisation, which is essential in formulating a realistic roadmap. 

Matthew says that using digital twins – virtual representations of real-world processes, based off real-time data – is extremely helpful in testing and demonstrating how different solutions will work ahead of their actual implementation. 

“Imagine the ability to scenario-plan all elements of the build and maintenance of a proposed automated warehouse, and to test the technologies and processes that are playing through them at all times,” he says. “We can ensure we’re maintaining costs and not having cost overruns in different components of the warehouse, as well as ensuring the maintenance of that warehouse is as high as possible.”

TMX is now offering customers a digital supply chain overlay to complement its end-to-end solutions.

THE AUSTRALIAN OPPORTUNITY

Australian supply chain in general –and businesses in particular – have an opportunity to take the next step in technological and digital optimisation, Matthew says. 

“Australian governments are giving out a lot of funding for the digitalisation of supply chains; a lot of money to try and improve organisations,” he says. “From this point of view, some of the elements that businesses have an opportunity to really improve on are things like visibility, gaining market share, and gaining more growth out of already-existing processes. If Australian businesses don’t take advantage of this opportunity, they will be lagging behind.”

In this connection, Matthew says that TMX can help organisations with scenario-based planning, smart manufacturing, and smart warehousing. He says that so many opportunities have opened up over the past decade in supply chain due to lower and lower costs of technology implementation. 

“I’ll be honest, five to 10 years ago I could not have imagined doing things of this nature in Australia because of the associated costs,” he says. “The reality is that now these costs are much less significant. For instance, an IoT device that might once have cost you $100 now costs hardly anything at all, and at the same time the abilities of that device are 11 to 15 times more powerful than when they first came on the market. And the value of the data collected from IoT devices is immense in terms of informing better decision-making. 

“The linear supply chain of the past is no longer relevant – it’s the digital supply chain ecosystem that will enable Australian supply chains to succeed as we move into the future. Whether we’re talking about supply chains in mining or in oil and gas – or whether its hospitals waiting for shipments of COVID vaccinations – a focus on digital supply chain is indispensable. And TMX provides that ecosystem.” 

For more information on TMX, click here.

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