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What really goes on behind the scenes to ensure you get the things you order on-line or in person? To find out more, I spoke with Wayne Snyder, Vice President of Retail Strategy for EMEA at Blue Yonder.
Wayne has worked in retail for more than 20 years and is a recognised expert in planning and supply chain operations.
Wayne argues that with recent advances in technology, we’ve opened a digital window to the consumer, allowing us to go online, and see real-time availability of products in stores.
Because we’re making any flaws in the supply chain very visible to the consumer, the need to solve issues becomes even more important, because as consumers we are fickle, and will go anywhere that can help us best.
Wayne makes a point that there is an even greater challenge for retailers to make sure the supply chain is not only delighting but exceeding the expectations of customers.
We covered many topics related to retail and the supply chain including:
- Covid’s impact on the supply chain
- The 2021 Fuel Crisis
- The retail industry’s impact from the pandemic
- Key lessons for retail from the pandemic
- Is there a need for open data in retail?
- Navigating retail data
- The role of regulation in the retail space
- Sharing data
- Intermediaries sharing high-level trends
- The change in consumer behaviour due to the pandemic
- Will consumers shop closer to where they live vs where they work?
- The move to online shopping as the default
- Why stores are still dominant
- Differentiating between store and online popularity
- What part does technology play in the supply chain?
- Why Excel shouldn’t be running your supply chain
- The importance of IoT for the supply chain
- The Golden Quarter & Christmas in Retail
- The 2022 challenges for retailers?
- Building resilience into the supply chain
- The need for data literacy
- M&S example of digital enablement
- The use of real-time control towers in retail
- The move from when things happened to why things happened
- What’s the future for supply chain technology
- The impact of Christmas on the supply chain
- Why the supply chain will be holistic, connected & real-time
- Opening the digital window to the consumer
- The need for the supply chain to exceed customer expectations
- US Retailer inventory accuracy example
- Exception based reporting focusing on what’s important
- The role Blue Yonder plays to help with supply chain fluctuations
- The need for shorter technology deployment cycles
- Should consumers care about what goes on behind the scenes?
- 3 Actionable things to do today
More on Wayne
Wayne on Twitter
Wayne on LinkedIn
Blue Yonder Website
Books Wayne is reading
Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters
Factfulness Illustrated: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – Why Things are Better than You Think
Welcome to The Actionable Futurist® Podcast a show all about the near term future with practical and actionable advice from a range of global experts to help you stay ahead of the curve. Every episode answers the question what’s the future along with voices and opinions that need to be heard. Your host is international keynote speaker and The Actionable Futurist® Andrew Grill.
Andrew Grill 0:30
My guest today is Wayne Snyder, Vice President of retail strategy for EMEA at Blue Yonder, the leader in retail supply chain software. Wayne has worked in retail for more than 20 years, and is a recognised expert in planning and supply chain operations. At blue yonder. Wayne is responsible for blue yonder as retail strategy across EMEA, working closely with leading retailers to ensure they maximise full value from the technology and supply chain investments. Prior to joining blue yonder, Wayne founded ICT retail, a specialist merchandise planning consultancy, which developed leading business solutions and processes for many of the UK’s leading retailers, including Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, Tesco, and Vodafone. Welcome, Wayne,
Wayne Snyder 1:12
thank you very much. Nice to meet you, Andrew.
Andrew Grill 1:14
Today we’ll be talking about something that few consumers actually see. But feel the effects when it’s disrupted and that supply chains. So has COVID been the biggest test of supply change in your 20 year career?
Wayne Snyder 1:27
I think you have to say yes, not just the volume of challenges, but also the speed of challenges. And it’s also changing on a continual basis. Obviously, the challenges of supply chain were well known at the start of the pandemic, we all you know, experience things like the toilet paper and hand sanitizer and those things. But I think in reality, the challenges that we’re experiencing what back called a post pandemic environment, now, it’s getting even stronger. And we can’t open the newspaper at the moment without seeing challenges around ports and containers, and energy and all these different entities that are showing that the supply chain challenges are really actually getting harder, not easier, even as we’re, you know, we thought we’re emerging out of the difficult times.
Andrew Grill 2:09
I saw a funny meme the other day, you know, when you have to click those squares to prove you’re not a robot, and had a picture of Boris’s front bench, and it said click the squares where people know anything about supply chains.
Wayne Snyder 2:20
Well, you could probably pick a few topics and use the same name. We’re recording
Andrew Grill 2:23
this in late 2021. During the UK fuel crisis, I live near a very small petrol station, and it has fuel about every three days that the millisecond the truck pulls in, there is a line of people, it sounds like Manhattan because everyone’s honking their horn because they’re blocking the intersection. So I think consumers are now seeing the effect of when a supply chain is disrupted, let’s just zero in on one of the industries that you’re closest to what’s been the effect of the retail industry as a result of the pandemic.
Wayne Snyder 2:50
It’s a really multitude of issues really. So the I mean, the first one was obviously certain supply issues around certain products that really, as a result of peak demand, in essence, so they weren’t really supply issues, in many respects, they were demand issues. So we, you know, we saw that our behaviour changed, where we shopped, how we shopped what we bought, significantly shifted in the early stage of the pandemic, but then it was really kind of exasperated by what you could call supply issues. So factories being closed, recent labour shortages, an example. Certainly kind of political issues, energy issues, like we just talked about tax implications that are having all sorts of issues around the whole supply chain. And so you know, you read things like about container shortages, and what that’s meaning for retailers where their costs are significantly or are unable to deliver. And their supply chain challenges aren’t new. It’s it’s never been easy. And I think that, you know, the kind of shift that really retailers saw over the last 20 years where they move more and more things offshore, as men that actually its ability to respond quickly to some of those challenges has made it even harder. But certainly, as I say kind of volume of these changes and issues that happening all the time now, has meant that it’s very difficult for retailers. But I think what’s also true today is that retail is a is a generalistic term, and different facets within that had different issues. So the grocery sector obviously had a very different COVID period to maybe the clothing retailers who were closed and and utilised longer lead time products. So it’s actually quite differentiated within the sector as well.
Andrew Grill 4:26
So I’m saying to all my clients, this has been a once in a in 100 year moment that will probably never go through again. I hope we don’t do we don’t. We’ve got to learn from this and we’ve got to build resilience into these systems especially supply chain. So what lessons have we learned from pandemic and what changes have been made or need to be made?
Wayne Snyder 4:43
We what we’ve learned is that there is a need for greater visibility, greater automation greater optimization as a more connected way organisations work. What they found during the early stages and still find now is that a lot of their systems are just not connected together. Different people are looking at different things. information, find out information just took too long. And I think it’s fair to say that most retailers still haven’t had the chance to put those things. To sort those things. It’s still been, you know, firefighting, a lot of it. And, you know, as we come into 2022, I’m hoping that it means that we can start investing a lot more to solve a lot of those challenges. But I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned. You know, I think we’ve all experienced as humans, sometimes we’re, we forget lessons very quickly. But I am hoping that these lessons are ones that everybody will take on board very quickly.
Andrew Grill 5:34
You mentioned Open Data a few years ago, the EU forced all the big banks to share their data with an open Banking project. Is there a need for open data in the retail and supply chain to allow people to do real time inventory checking an end to end? And can new technologies such as AI and distributed ledger technology like blockchain? Can they help the supply chain,
Wayne Snyder 5:56
we talked about opening two different ways one is kind of collaboration across retailers where there are certain legal restrictions that prevent certain data being shared, but actually within an organisation, if that’s your start point, and actually sharing it across the organisation. So absolutely, I mean, we are within blue yonder are utilising control towers to be able to give that commonality of view that kind of real time visibility, utilising kind of real time entities to improve your warehousing operations and logistics, understanding where different entities are. And I think I always describe it, as there’s kind of four stages to what we believe on the colour autonomous supply chain. So if I ask you that quite quite a good analogy, really, for me as the sat nav world, we’re actually in the retail world today, a lot of people still utilise what I would call a map, there’s a piece of information, maybe it’s Excel, maybe it’s a report, and you’re still navigating your own path. And the process that we try to take people on is the first stage I would say, more like a tomtom. It’s great information, and it gives you a good way of moving forward. And then the next stage is what I’ll call the ways. So it’s much more real time information, continual optimization, continual improvement. And then the final stage is once you’ve resolved that, by an automated supply chain, that can run things just much more autonomously much more quickly. That doesn’t mean humans won’t be part of it. But it doesn’t mean that the supply chain can be utilised what you talked about as AI technology, as an example, to have that real time optimization and different retails at different stages of that four stage process. Some are more early on, some are more more later, but it’s going to be necessity to read relative because all these challenges to actually migrate further up that path.
Andrew Grill 7:37
One thing you touched on was regulation. And so you mentioned that some data can’t be shared. I know with the petrol crisis we’re going through right now, some of those laws have been relaxed, so they can share information. When I talk to clients, and sometimes I talk to regulators, I say that, as a regulator, you need to think like a startup, you need to anticipate what changes need to be made in regulation to allow new things to happen. Going back to the open banking example, the FCA, the Financial Conduct Authority that manages financial entities in here in the UK, they actually have a thing called a sandbox, they allow people and fintechs to play with these new things to try and break the law, essentially, to see how that might change. So if we take a leaf out of the regulators in the banking industry, those that regulate competition in data flow, do they need to be a little bit more liberal and allow more data to be exchanged to allow these autonomous supply chains to operate?
Wayne Snyder 8:27
There’s still there’s still a reticence I would say within a lot of retailers to share data. So one of the questions we often get asked in blue yonder, is by utilising our AI technology, do we share data across our customers? And the answer I always give is, we absolutely do not your data is your data. But I think very soon you will ask us to share it. Because the PL to kind of group all that data across multiple different facets, and to be able to share and learn from each other is gonna become more imperative. Now, we do see it in things like the logistics world of third party logistics providers that do operate across different retailers where they’re able to share facilities collaborate a bit more. Well, that needs to collaboration and share data and learn from each other. I absolutely agree will be a great imperative. I say at the moment, there’s still, I think, a concern about sharing data. But I think over time, as people realise their data is an asset will become more liberal,
Andrew Grill 9:23
or maybe as an aggregator you can share trends. So if it looks like there is a real issue with apples or flour, or one of the core ingredients, you can say, look what the trends are telling us. I won’t tell you who. But there is a real you know, the the time to stock is now seven days now it’s 12 days, there’s a real issue and you should know about it. Maybe that’s a role that intermediaries like you can play to share those high level trends.
Wayne Snyder 9:45
That’s also the role that technology as a whole is playing because if we go back to traditional ways of working within the retail estate and looking at things like forecasting, it was very singular. It would look at the Apple for example, in a particular store and say, well, that’s doing well that’s not doing what But the ability for machine learning to look across all different types of apples or how Apple’s performing different stores or fruit as a whole means that you’re able to respond more quickly. We saw this during the pandemic with things like the toilet roll. But actually, you know, when it starts to increase, is that is that a short term thing? Is it a long term thing? Is it just that store, but that ability to actually look across in a more holistic way, men that actually machine learning technologies were able to respond within a matter of days, where traditional tools were taking two or three weeks,
Andrew Grill 10:28
I want to talk about consumer behaviour. And the toilet roll one is interesting, I witnessed in a large Tesco store, the toilet roll aisle, had security guards at either end. And if I did take more than three packets, I was crushed, tackled to the ground, I hope to never see that again. But more broadly, how has consumer behaviour changed. And what impact has this had on how retailers manage their supply chains,
Wayne Snyder 10:50
it differs a lot by different sectors of tech, the grocery sector, the big thing, that shift to start with, as well as certain products like wellness and hygiene really increasing was actually where we shopped and how we shopped. So there’s been a trend in the grocery sector for all of us to buy little and often, to maybe pop into a store every day and buy what we need to that evening. And it really saw the return of the weekly shop. And what it also saw was the return of local shopping as well. So actually, people were looking to go more local walks where they were, or on the converse, maybe go to the big hypermarkets where they could park and it was bit more space. But what really shifted kind of that what we bought, and where we bought in a very different way that again, challenged the supply chain, because again, traditionally retail a lot of systems really utilise the basis that actually what happened last year, or what happened last week is going to happen this year or next week. And we saw it just was not true. And it’s absolutely still continuing was not that was not true. So there was that significant trend. I mean, obviously, it also differed by sector said, you know, in the clothing sector, where stores were closed, is cyclical, really sharp shifted things to online. And that’s a whole different supply chain, a lot of different retailers and the need again to homogenised and to link up what is often an online supply chain and offline supply chain become more imperative during the pandemic as well for companies.
Andrew Grill 12:09
So if we agree that hybrid working is here to stay, and you’re either going to be in the office three days, or in the office two days or a mix of that, it means that we’re going to spend a lot of time closer to where we live, not where we work. And going back to what you said before, are you seeing changes where people are now shopping closer to where they live, not where they work.
Wayne Snyder 12:26
We are I mean, I mean, a great example is things like clicking collect, we’re actually as a retailer, actually, for my background, I’ve got a host of challenges actually how click into it works. And, and they often do with a supply chain and how it works. And actually the fact that for example, when many of us go on land, do a click Collect order, you might know where to pick up for two or three days because its supply chain associated with it. But actually, for many people, that was a very convenient way of ordering products, because as you correctly said it was near your office, you can pick it wherever you wanted, as we saw during the pandemic that has shifted, because as we’re working from home, actually, there was no longer a need to take a day off to wear in for delivery, and all these different facets. So it’s absolutely shifted kind of where we shop, and also how we’re shopping. So, you know, online, again, you know, there was a whole, there’s really different four different criteria that were dictating how we got a delivery. So price was a key one, the time for delivery is a key one, the convenience, and a growing entity is the sustainability angle as well. But actually, because we’re working from home, as I say, you know, that need to stay in is not there, you can you know what I think we’re all, you know, I think it’d be amazing if we can continue chatting for the next hour and I’m not interrupted by a doorbell. You know, that’s how our lives are at the moment with all these different deliveries. But again, it shifted that that needs to be a less about convenience and more around maybe whether it’s an urgent buy, or actually you just pay to wait for the, for the price to be right. So it’s absolutely shifting in everything we’re doing. And I think that, you know, it will be interesting as that hybrid really kicks in, and what that really means from a retail perspective, because also it means you know, where people are shopping is different, you know, where where retailers are having to locate their stores is going to be different. What we’re actually buying is different. So, you know, and I was interested to the grocery sector, they were reporting not that long ago that things were normalising you know, the people were buying things little by little and often, that actually were eating out a bit more and people buying for their home baking and things were subsiding. But actually, you know, as this pandemic really doesn’t seem to peter out, we’re seeing some of those during COVID trends return a little as well.
Andrew Grill 14:37
So as we move to more online shopping because people are finding it convenient. Even my nearly 80 year old mother in Adelaide, Australia has completely converted to online shopping cuz she had to do you think that’ll re orient the whole retail sector so we won’t need as many shopping aisles because the larger stores don’t need to be as large because I mean, is there a trend that online is taking over from in person shopping or is that just an aberration? Sure,
Wayne Snyder 15:00
there’s two facets to it. So on one hand, I often joke that if an alien came down to work, and this was even pre pandemic, and they would have, they would have assumed that online was 90% of the sales based on what you read in stores were 10. The truth is, it was the other way around. Right stores are still the dominant force. And even during the pandemic, when you know, when things shifted more to online for a lot of different sectors, the grocery sector, you know, it went from, say, 6%, of sales to 18. But there’s still meant the vast majority of purchase or in store. And for those clothing retailers, that inevitably, app was shut during the pandemic, and everything moved to online, virtually without exception, and there were some exceptions, they were unable to shift all of their consumers online, demand drops, because the store remains an important part. What I think we are seeing, though, is actually greater differentiation. So there was certainly a trend pre pandemic for people saying that actually, there was a much more need for an omni channel experience, the digital store and all these facets. And I think as a result of the pandemic, we’re starting to see different purposes for it. So why wouldn’t you buy online? Well, actually, you wouldn’t buy online because maybe you need something immediate? Or maybe you need to speak to somebody, or maybe you like the experience. So there’s a variety of reasons, I think what we’ll see is retailers do is focus around what is the differential in the store, because the store and online are a different experience. And there are benefits of a store. And I think that we’ll see retailers work on that. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be store closures. We’ve seen it already. The Economics of running a store are exceptionally expensive, rents are expensive, expensive, rates are expensive. Labour’s dip, both difficult to get and expensive. So the economics are certainly a challenge of a store, but the need for it from a consumer, I think we still there,
Andrew Grill 16:42
your company Blue Yonder is very much a technology provider you make things happen. What part does technology play in the supply chain? And how much will it play in the future.
Wayne Snyder 16:52
So weirdly, yonder, we operate from an end to end perspective. So we help people look on from their planning of their business to their demand forecasting, their inventory management, their warehousing, transportation, pricing, Labour management are online operations. So across the whole entity, and I think the biggest shift that technology is doing is actually to allow those things to connect together. In the many retailers functions are often quite silos, as I said before, their systems are siloed, they’re not connected together, processes are not packed together. And often people only look at it from from their perspective. And I think what we’ve learned certainly last 12 months is you can’t do that anymore. You know, what impacts one function impacts another, and the need for actually utilise technology to bring those things together in that visibility. And that real time that we talked about, and our optimization that we talked about, is absolutely imperative that I think all companies are realising you know, if you look at in a lot of companies today, it’s still true to say that Excel is the predominant force and a lot of the ways that people work, right, and I’m a massive fan of Excel myself, right. But it shouldn’t be running your supply chain. And you know, that that needs to leverage the technology. So you know, new things like IOT, feeding those in in terms of energy tracking, continual monitoring, and all these different facets are really transforming how a supply chain can work. And it’s not just about delivering for your customer, it’s also about delivering for you as a retailer, the margins are pressurised at the moment is highly competitive. So the need to actually do things much more efficiently, which technology can support and ensure that you’re delivering for that customer and their expectations, which are getting harder and harder, just becomes a much greater imperative. So technology is at the heart. I mean, we heard about a year and a half ago, two years ago, the the chief executive of Walmart, described their organisation as a technology company, not a retail company. Now, you know, obviously, they are a retail company, but he’s expressing that need that actually all companies now need to embrace technology. And, you know, we see it with a lot of a lot of companies that we work with, they’re employing their own data science teams, they’re looking to actually build their own different facets, which is great, and we support our customers to actually build their own entities. But what we also recognise is actually there is a benefit also from working from companies like us as an example that we have specialists in the area, and touch on your point about data and collaboration. You know, we’re fortunate that because we work with 1000s of different retailers across the globe, we can learn from them as much as they learn from us. And it means as a result that the software can develop at a much faster pace to meet the needs of the retail environment.
Andrew Grill 19:29
I had to laugh when you mentioned Excel, because a friend of mine worked for a pharmaceutical company in supply chain. And she, in frustration, showed me the Excel spreadsheet one day and I just went you mean you run a pharma company on this spreadsheet? Wow. So but you mentioned IoT one of my favourite topics, and we’ve had a number of guests talk about IoT in the podcast. IoT is going to revolutionise things because it’ll give you more retail real time data or near real time data, everything down from fridge temperatures to where things are and all those sort of things. Talk to me about what You think IoT can mean for the supply chain sector?
Wayne Snyder 20:03
So it’s a great question. I mean, I think it’s still relatively early days, I mean, actually in blue yonder, we actually got acquired about two weeks ago by Panasonic. And one of the rationales for the acquisition is to leverage their IoT and our retail platform to really help drive these things forward. So, you know, initially things around footfall tracking has been key energy has been key, you know, things like some of the RFID tag technologies and those sorts of things. But I think what we’ve found is often those IoT applications have been used again in a quite a siloed way. And it’s really that need to integrate it. So take energy as an example. You know, if you’re recognising that you’ve got some sort of fridge issue, as an example, what does that mean? It turns your inventory management work? Where do you have to move it to what you have to do replenish more? Same with your warehouse, you know, if you can track people in terms of their movement, how you can optimise the warehouse efficiency? So I think for me, the next stage is to take what is a good technology, and make it really a driver of your business.
Andrew Grill 21:07
It talks about a golden quarter in the run up to Christmas. What do you mean by this? And what does Christmas actually looks like?
Wayne Snyder 21:13
Christmas has always been the most important time for retailers, it’s the time when many retailers make their profit. But what we’ve seen really over the last, probably six or seven years is the importance of the whole quarter. So things like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Singles Day, are really shifting what was really a December peak, so often being a November peak for many different retailers. And again, that shifts your whole supply chain, when do you need to bring products into your whole organisation? How do you manage that peak, which isn’t just a single peak, but it’s a, it’s a much longer period? How do you make sure you got the capacity to do that. So it really has become a whole quarter. And in this particular time period, and I think it will need more be a quarter. So as people read the newspapers in terms of supply chain issues, worries about toys worry about Christmas trees, it’s inevitably going to shift it forward even more. I think what we’re also going to see in many respects is that and we saw this little bit last year, but obviously Christmas was affected last year, that we just want to have a good Christmas. So you know, we all spend probably too much of that time period. But I think this year is going to be even more that actually the need to actually make sure our kids have had a good time is going to be, you know, an even more important part for us as all as families. So I think we will definitely see retail spend kicking in and it will be strong, there will be supply chain challenges, you know, the labour shortages won’t be fixed quickly, you know, the things we talked about in terms of ports, and containers and factory challenges are not going to be fixed. But retailers will pull through I think, you know, for me, actually the retail industry for the last year and a half. Really, it has really come through and deserves a lot of credit through exceptional times. You know, by and large, there really weren’t gaps on the shelf. You know, I know there were some high profile things we don’t think about. But during exceptional difficult times, we tell us transformed the supply chain, they actually reduced their products so they could service their customers. Well, the store for staff really, you know, many of us think about the retail staff in a very different way that we did before. So the retail industry really came to the fore, and I think absolutely will do this Christmas. What I would say though, is the way it solves most of those problems, has been quite manual, it’s been, you know, looking at looking at things using that Excel that I talked about, you know, I’m really kind of as human stepping up to the mark. But the ability to leverage technology going forward will be imperative to make sure that you know those challenges we’re seeing now, and which aren’t dissipating will continue. But I’m confident that it will be a strong Christmas, but 2022 I think will bring different challenges.
Andrew Grill 23:51
What are the 2022 challenges? And what do you see happening the next sort of two or three years in terms of supply chain? Once the effects of the pandemic have borne out?
Wayne Snyder 23:59
Well, I think the early part of 2022, we are going to see price increases, you know, the cost being incurred by retailers across the supply chain have increased and ultimately that does have to be passed on to the consumer. So I think that will change things. What that normally means when prices go up and inflation increases is that we we tend to focus on the essentials. So discretionary, spend things like clothing tends to decline. And that sadly, I think that will mean there will be more bankruptcies. You know, I think that because of government support in the last 18 months, there haven’t fortunately been that many companies disappearing. But I think sadly 2022 may see some but with you know, with with companies disappearing, that often means that actually the other companies get stronger. And I think that’s what we will see as well with that. There’ll be some there’ll be greater consolidation that we companies being bought by other companies to try to leverage that economies of scale. But I think, you know, we will see also challenges to government as well. You know, I think one of the interesting things societally, that over the last 18 months is we’ve started to look more to government to solve our problem. rooms, for better or for worse. And I think there will be pressure to solve things around rents and rates and taxation that we touched on before. As I said, I think that we’ll start seeing that differentiator, the stores online will grow. But we’ve seen online actually, in the recent in the recent months, declined a little bit back from its peak, so it will stabilise. But it will continue to grow. And it will be contributing important facet of all different retailers. As we go forward. I think what’s interesting for me is when I talk about the retail sector as well, is that the charging retail didn’t start 18 months ago, it’s been taught for quite a long time, you know, the challenge of online has been a challenge of supply chain and contrastive economics for quite a while, you know, we’ve we’re seeing a lot of brands selling direct compared to competing with retailers, customer expectations have been growing significantly over the last 10 years or not, and our demands are increasing the need for leverage technology. So all of those things, and those challenges that retail have found for really the last decade will continue to accelerate. So, you know, the pandemic has, has accelerated some of the things change some of those things, but it’s part of a wider challenge that we’re seeing a lot of retailers having to grasp with over the past decade.
Andrew Grill 26:15
So resilience has been a constant theme of my guests over the last two years. Where can we build resilience into the supply chain? Well, the first
Wayne Snyder 26:22
start of resilience is visibility. So I’ll give you a great example of the recent issue with the Suez Canal, where obviously, we all read about the shipping stock. So one of the challenges retailers found is they didn’t actually know how they’re affected items. You know, they didn’t actually know what goods they had on that on that particular ship, whether other ships that they had goods on were affected, whether actually the items on the ships were affected, were problematic, or actually they hadn’t enough stock to deal with. So what’s the first step for companies was that visibility, so companies that leverage things like our control tower, that could bring all that disparate data together and really understand within hours, what their challenges were, was the first step in it. So that’s the first step to resilience to actually have visibility, which a lot of companies just don’t have, because of that the legacy system estate that I talked about in the silos. And the second really is, you know, leverage technology. Right. But to leverage technology, you also have to build up your skills in your organisation. You know, as I said before it, you know, I’ve had companies come to me and say, though, do I see the vision of the world, actually, there’ll be the we know, people needed, and absolutely not, you know, the history of the world tells us as technology improves, we need more people, not not fewer people. But it is an imperative that just changed the skill sets that we are going to need as human beings, the ability to leverage that to be more analytical, to make sure that data is at the forefront. Because again, data was a huge challenge. You know, you touched on it before in terms of the collaboration, but actually just having the right data is a challenge. And that and we recommend to all of our customers actually have the right data strategy to really fix that. Because as technology moves on the the has, the more data you’ve got, the more intelligent can be. So you know, it’s about getting that backbone in place to build that resilience, which, as I say, you know, today has been often firefighting, but going forward just has to be more smooth, because the challenges aren’t aren’t going away.
Andrew Grill 28:21
The need to be more digitally savvy, data literacy, AI literacy, that seems like a key challenge, because probably all the best data scientists are being sucked into the Googles and Amazons of the world. I talk about clients being digitally curious, how do we make retailers and supply chain experts more digitally curious and have that digital literacy that AI literacy? How do we improve that as a way to improve the whole outlook and have data as the heart of supply chain?
Wayne Snyder 28:50
I started out in retail 25 years ago. And I think it’s there are obviously exceptions to this. But I think it’s it’s a bit of a it’s a shame to say that actually many of the processes that I actually thought were inadequate 25 years ago, are still in place today, retailers have not been at the forefront of embracing technology as a whole. You know, when we look at things like artificial intelligence, we find that only about 20% of companies have really embraced it properly. And, you know, 80% are telling us that’s our aspiration over the next two or three years. But that migration to a digital mindset is a big shift. And it takes leadership from the top. And that’s a challenge because often the leadership in retail organisations as exceptionally commercial as they are, have not been brought up. But they’re not digitally, digitally. They’re not digitally native in the same way that maybe younger people are, which is why we’re seeing some of those retailers actually trying to set up whole digital departments themselves to really be at the forefront, which is absolutely fantastic. But they also they need to make sure that these digital departments aren’t in silo. And actually it does expand it across your whole organisation. So it challenges it challenges who you recruit It challenges who you’re who You know, who you promote how you recruit where you recruit from. And as you correctly said, the retail sector has always found it a struggle to compete against some of those people. So, you know, if you look at it’s not, it’s not just competing against Google and and you know, and Amazon and Facebook and these people, it was always to the retail sector had to compete against management consultancies or legal firms and companies that are paying much higher wages than retail organisations can afford. So the need to actually train people and invest in people, and look at salaries and look at all these different things, is absolutely one of the next endeavours that a lot of retailers are having to go through.
Andrew Grill 30:40
One of the things I talk to my clients about, and they range from retailers, to banks to airlines, is the fact that you’ve actually got two tribes in every organisation, you’ve got the going digital you’ve just described, and they’re very senior, they’re very commercial, but their digital skills are still developing. And you’ve got the Born Digital, their first toy was an iPhone, they live and breathe this. And one thing I’ve seen that’s completely practical, is you run a hackathon versus a virtual hackathon or in person, you get the going digital, with the Born Digital in the same room, and the leaders that you’re talking about go. I don’t think that way. And the way that these people live and breathe digital is something that’s foreign to me and actually see how that’s happening. Have you seen activities like that to bring those two tribes together, because it may be you don’t need to have a huge recruitment drive, you already have one of the tribes that’s there willing and able to help you
Wayne Snyder 31:25
out as you read, but Marks and Spencers an example of setup for a whole kind of function themselves to really look at this whole digital enablement to try to make that culture spread across the organisation. And so that’s the before, I’d say that a lot of our main customers are embracing it and building up their own data science teams in order to do that, to try to leverage it. But I think it’s also true to say that all of us need to be more technological. And all of us need to embrace it and be less scared of it. You know, when we speak to a lot of people, we find that there is a councillor concerned about taking your job, right. But I always say to people that, you know, if I gave you a difficult maths question, you’d very happily use a calculator, right? You know, a computer, when they use terms of AI and machine learning, I guess scary vision of something like Terminator is a far cry from the reality, right? It isn’t a computer making a decision for you. It is just a very, very clever mathematical algorithm backed up by fast computer processing. It’s not some sort of thinking machine that’s making up an answer. So people have got to lose their concern, because it’s there to help. And I think we did a webinar last week actually, where we’re talking about markdown pricing, which is another area where we’re seeing actually optimizations to really understand what is the right level of pricing in different stores for different items, is leading to profit increases by five to 10%. But when we ask people today, how much time we’re spending, they’re spending less than the day analysing pricing, because they just don’t have the time. And if you don’t have the time, you just can’t do it properly. And that’s not a criticism of any individual. It’s a fact that the retail environment is so fast moving, and there’s so much to do. None of us have the time. But technology can step in, and we need to lose that that fear that we’ve got about it, and really embrace it. And I think that you’re absolutely right. There are things like hackathons and digital teams that can drive it forward. But I think it’s incumbent on us. And I think as you correctly said that next generation are coming into the workforce. That’s where they come from. So you know, as in the older generation, we’ve just got to accept it, or else we’re going to be you know, we’re going to be pushed out by that younger generation that will show us up.
Andrew Grill 33:31
I also talk about digital diversity. Do you have people on every team that understands these new technologies and can actually understand what it means for the organisation from the board down to management teams to the smaller teams that that diversity of thought, digital diversity thinking? I think it’s really important, what’s the most innovative thing that you’ve seen in the supply chain industry over the last couple of years,
Wayne Snyder 33:49
the utilisation of control towers has been quite imperative, I said, to bring those things together and give you that real time information. And I think real time is actually a key facet of it. So again, with AI optimization, the ability to actually get things much more granular. So traditionally, in retailers, and it was partially due to SAT to time, sorry, you weren’t you were often late. And I say this for my own background, you just were not able to actually do things at that level of granularity. And the reality is that there are different dynamics going on for every item for every store for every day. And it’s just impossible for us as humans to understand things and to analyse things at that lowest level. And the innovation for me is to be able to go down to that, that lowest level that granular information and discern insights that you didn’t really understand what what were the different factors contributing to elements, and that’s okay, using AI as that as that the thing. You know, traditionally, forecasting for example, was utilising things like what happened in the past what happened last week? This did I sell a lot. And actually the innovation that we’re seeing now is the ability to actually understand why things happened. So when something sold a lot of last week, it wasn’t because it was last week, it might have been because the weather was nice or is a bank holiday, or you run a promotion. Or actually, you might have had a road closure, like the M 25. And that had a negative impact. So those things may not repeat next week. So the innovation for me is actually it started to really build up our understanding of why things happened, not just what happened. And then to leverage that real time optimization to mean you can start making decisions faster and quicker to solve the
Andrew Grill 35:26
problem. So what would you say is the future for supply chain technology?
Wayne Snyder 35:29
Well, I think the will be more automation. I think automation is an inevitability to solve those different challenges. And that connected planning that I talked about, I often joke the fact that, you know, in many retailers that I worked with, and work for Christmas was like a surprise every year, you know, your warehouse got busy and full. And it was like, it’s like you didn’t know Christmas happened. But actually, that is a result not of the warehouse. But actually, there’s a lot of many different facets that really come together at the Christmas time for that peak. So the future for me is about that that visibility, that resilience, we talked about that optimization, that ability to respond quicker, and to actually understand issues in advance what retailers are very good at resolving issues as they hear about them. But what they need to get better off is to be able to predict them in advance a lot better, because then you can start mitigating them, and being ahead of the curve, as opposed to doing a fantastic job of trying to solve the problems. And then that’s where supply chain is gonna go to be much more holistic and connected and in real time and automated, and leverage what we do best as humans, which is to set the strategy. And to step in when the computer maybe doesn’t know sorts of things, and then get the best of the technology, the AI and the IoT, and all those different facets. It’s really just much more as a continual and optimise. And ultimately, we as consumers demand it. When I go back to when I started in the retail world, 2025 years ago, when we went into a store, if something was out of stock, I never knew, because I only knew what I saw. You know, now we’ve opened this digital window to the consumer, you can go online, you can see real time availability in stores, you can see availability from an online perspective. And we’re making all of the flaws very visible to the consumer. So the need to solve those things becomes even more imperative because the competition is out there, consumers are fickle, we will go anywhere that can help us best. And it means that it becomes even greater challenge for retailers to make sure the supply chain is not only delighting exceeding expectations of their customers.
Andrew Grill 37:26
That story about not knowing what you’re out of stock of surprises me, my father ran an electronics component distribution company in Australia. And so he had a physical warehouse with little resistors and transistors. Back then he was ahead of his time, he ran an Wang vs system that had very low level understanding of how much stock was there, the turnover, time and time to restock, all those sort of things within tolerance. And we did a stocktake, every six months, he knew exactly how much stock he had on hand and how much you need to order that’s in the 1980s. So you’re telling me in 2021, or even a few years ago, retailers didn’t know what stock they had on hand.
Wayne Snyder 37:59
I’ll give you a great example. You talk about doing stocktakes every six months. So we’re doing a piece of work with a large US retailer, they’re actually looking at their inventory. Because actually, what a lot of retailers whilst they’ve got inventory information, actually, the accuracy is not real time, it’s often got challenges. So often, you might think you’ve got items in store that you don’t. So actually what we’re utilising AI to do is actually to analyse what do we think the inventory is not just what’s the ERP system, say? But actually, by understanding historical discrepancies, understanding what your sales have been the stock can be, you can start actually understand your actually, I think I’ve got stuck with this item. But I don’t I remember going myself going into a large retailer a few years ago, wanting to buy something, and I say I went online, and they told me you had five units in stock. And they said, Oh, okay, sorry about that. We don’t have any, that isn’t an experience you can repeat. And again, you know, we’re seeing that need for technology that we’re developing to actually make it much more real time and much more accurate. So it’s not the retailer’s don’t have information. It’s often the question of how accurate how up to date it is. So you talked about, you know, counting every six months? Well, I mean, that’s great, because a lot happens in that six months. So actually, how can you keep on top of it? And how can you then as I said before, it’s not predicting that. So yeah, we’ve talked about that, for example, items going off items going close to its expiry date, I might know that I’ve got five packs of cheese left. But actually, if they’re all going to expire tomorrow, that’s very different to what I have to live with organ expire in two weeks time. It’s not just having some day to it’s at the quality of the data as well, but becomes even more
Andrew Grill 39:32
important. You mentioned before the use of control towers, how’s that manifested on a daily basis? Are there big dashboards, big screens? Are there flashing lights? How do I manage my whole end to end supply chain visually,
Wayne Snyder 39:43
so it’s all of the above, but the key thing is actually make an exception based because there is so much inflammation going on, to really focus on what’s important to help you understand what your priorities need to be. So, you know, it can’t highlight every single issue because there are so many happy thing all the time, you know, to the extent that you know, a supply chain issue could be that a customer is expecting a delivery at 11 o’clock from an online and somebody’s caught in traffic, you can’t monitor every single element as a human and look at it. But what you can do is can prioritise it and utilise technology to solve some of those problems, and then leverage us to be able to understand what are those key priorities and make those decisions that we need to make. So it’s those big flashing lights, it is a bit of that Minority Report. But it is much more about focusing on what’s important rather than flashing up 1000s of lights you just can’t do anything with.
Andrew Grill 40:33
So what part of the ecosystem does blue yonder play in? And how do you help retailers cope with supply chain fluctuations,
Wayne Snyder 40:39
we work end to end, we’ve got a supply chain platform that allows people to connect across really from start to finish from farm to fork or from planning to execution, which is, which is a major element. I think what we also do within blue yonder, we think is important is that it isn’t just technology, people and process are as important as technology. So we have a lot of people in our organisation like myself that have spent time with working in the retail sector, we found it important to actually work with our customers to understand not not just technology, but how they can best leverage it, how they can implement it, what their priorities are. Because if you look across the supply chain, there are many different challenges that retailers are having, and they can’t solve every problem tomorrow. So understanding what to prioritise, you know, again, is something that we could try to help people understand, you know, what is their real business need, where they’re going to get the biggest value straightaway. Because then in this current environment where it’s very challenging, delivering value, getting quick time to value is an is an even greater request from our customers. So the days of technology tough to take 1218 months or more read some horror stories in the press of some technology has taken many, many years to implement, that just can’t happen any more. Customers are rightly saying to us, I want these things up and running in a matter of weeks, and I want to be able to use it and I want it to be easy to use as well. So the ability to actually have things not just as a black box AI can’t be some sort of black box, it has to be explainable to, to the user. And I said ultimately, it has to make us better as humans, I think that’s where we try to work best with our customers and really work close with them. As I said, you know, we’re fortunate to work with 1000s of retailers across the globe. So we see as a partnership, that we’ve got fantastic technology, they’ve got fantastic commercial nows. How do we bring all those different facets together and solve? What are the many challenges?
Andrew Grill 42:25
Should consumers care about? What goes on behind the scenes with supply chain?
Wayne Snyder 42:29
I think the answer should be No, obviously, in the recent perpetual crisis is sometimes when we do care, we can make the problem even worse, it’s incumbent on the retailer, you know, as a customer, that’s not my job, I expect the company that I’m paying the service to to be able to do that job for me. So the answer is no. What is also true, though, is that what we did see in the 2020, or the pandemic is consumers being quite forgiving. So you know, we all acknowledge that supply chain was challenging, and we were all understanding of the challenges that retailers had. As we’re coming into 2022. We’re back to our bad old ways, we’re less forgiving, we expect our retailers to have that availability of item that they expect when they want and to, for it to be there at the right price. So customers shouldn’t care. It’s incumbent on us as technology providers and as retailers to be able to say to deliver what our customers expect.
Andrew Grill 43:20
So as we often do on the actual Futurist podcast, we’d like to know more about our guests. So I’m going to run you through a quick fire round a quick answer is good answer. iPhone or Android?
Wayne Snyder 43:28
Andrew Grill 43:28
PC or Mac?
Wayne Snyder 43:29
Andrew Grill 43:30
Biggest hope for 2022
Wayne Snyder 43:31
My biggest hope is that kids have a normal life. I think that you know, the pandemic has been fine for my generation, enjoyable in some respects. But for kids, it’s been extremely tough. So I really hope that they get back to normality of enjoying their adolescence,
Andrew Grill 43:44
the one thing he won’t be doing, again, post pandemic?
Wayne Snyder 43:47
Spending a whole day in this little room, I used to be able to visit a lot of our customers a lot travel to a lot of events and and the ability just to have that face to face, I think is going to be something I’ll enjoy in 2022.
Andrew Grill 43:59
What are you reading at the moment,
Wayne Snyder 44:00
I’m a bit of a contrarian, I like to read things that kind of look at the data behind the scenes, rather than just reading the newspaper headlines. So I’m reading a book called unsettled, which is about data behind climate change, written by a member of the Obama administration, and also fact fulness, which is interesting book about kind of, again, data and actually showing that, you know, we read all the headlines in the newspapers about the world feeling really bad. But if you actually look at the facts about, you know, improvements in poverty, improvement in life expectancy improvements in all facets of our life, there’s a lot to look forward to.
Andrew Grill 44:35
And final question on our quickfire round, how do you want to be remembered?
Wayne Snyder 44:38
The truth is I will probably just will be remembered by my kids. So I want them to remember me as a good dad, but actually in the context of the retail world, then actually, I joined the retail world 25 years ago, and I’ll be honest, I found it frustrating then I looked at many things happening and felt that they just didn’t suit the world 25 years ago, so they certainly don’t suit it now. So I would love to be able to help our customers more have and really be at the heart of driving forward retail so that it really is a better retail environment for both customers and for the customer and for the companies themselves.
Andrew Grill 45:09
So as this is The Actionable® Futurist Podcast, what three things should I listen to be doing today When it comes to better understanding their supply chain?
Wayne Snyder 45:18
I think the first thing is be critical. It’s very easy as human beings for us to think what what we’ve always thought to do in the past is right. And I think that what we’re seeing now is that what that isn’t the case and you can’t paper over the cracks. So the first thing is to be critical. And remember the problems that you’ve had in the last 18 months. And as things get better, don’t forget them. Look into wind is another thing. One bad egg can break the whole supply chain, one weak link. So you have to look into went and look connected. And then finally embrace technology is there to help it’s not there to take over is there to support and retailers that are doing this are reaping the benefits every single day.
Andrew Grill 45:55
We’re in a fascinating discussion about a topic that none of us really probably consider until it doesn’t work. How can people find out more about you and your work?
Wayne Snyder 46:03
Go to blueyonder.com for everything you need.
Andrew Grill 46:06
Someone really passionate about the topic. Thank you so much for your time today.
Wayne Snyder 46:09
Thank you very much.
Thank you for listening to The Actionable Futurist® Podcast you can find all of our previous shows at actionablefuturist.com. And if you like what you’ve heard on the show, please consider subscribing via your favourite podcast app so you never miss an episode. You can find out more about Andrew and how he helps corporates navigate a disruptive digital world with keynote speeches and C suite workshops delivered in person or virtually at actionablefuturist.com. Until next time, this has been The Actionable Futurist® Podcast.