ASUGFORWARD is turning out to be a good show for those wanting to understand how their peers are managing their supply chains and the degree to which modernization is taking a front seat. By the end of this second day I'd heard from eight customers on this topic - something we would almost certainly not have achieved at the in-person event. So all good there. Slightly disappointing is the fact there isn't much time for questions - but then you can't have everything in a virtual world. Onwards.
Today I'm going to focus on two customer stories. First is New England Biolab (NEB) one of those companies you've never heard of but which is at the center of scientific R&D currently underway to support development of a vaccine against COVID-19. As part of its offering, NEB develops and manufactures reagents which are used in a variety of tests. To give you a sense of NEB's stature, the leadership team includes seven PhD's and a Nobel Laureate.
Sharon Kaiser – CIO, New England Biolab, (NEB) made an interesting observation about the networking power of community among ASUG members and especially peers that are in the same field:
I have a quarterly lunch or did, not right now, but with three CIOs in the Boston area that we all have very similar systems, similar sized companies in the biotech life sciences world. We all have similar people problems. We all have similar system problems, priority problems, resource availability problems. And we just chat and talk about different solutions.
But back to how NEB is managing at a time when they are experiencing outsized demand. The company has been rolling out systems worldwide and at the time travel restrictions hit, NEB was close to a go live in Singapore. That created significant challenges since some of the implementation team was in Boston, 12 hours time difference away. This creates issues when someone raises a query because in the usual method, people would stand shoulder to shoulder. That's not possible but NEB managed.
On the labs side, the firm had remodeled to get better space utilization but with the pandemic, space use had to fall by 80%. To compensate, NEB introduced shift work but they still couldn't meet capacity requirements so ended up leasing unused lab space at other companies where premises are empty and also at universities where there are no students.
Talking to the way NEB operates, Ms Kaiser said:
I am so glad that we followed a cloud first journey five years ago. So one of the things we did was implement an electronic labs notebook (ELN) called Benchling. Our RingCentral phone system directly connects with Salesforce and we have Office365 so we had just moved all of our servers and file shares over to Azure. Our whole future of how we work is going to be changed.
On the supply chain specific side, NEB migrated to S/4 in 2018 and expanded its SAP footprint to include supply chain and inventory planning. Given the surge in recent demand, Ms Kaiser said there was no way they could know their inventories or identify bottlenecks without S/4.
We're finding ways not only to add new facilities to ramp up capacity, but we're also figuring out new processes in the labs to produce more scalable, more products out of what we're doing. So we're doing a three prong approach: external with CMOs, internal by increasing our yields, and then internal by increasing our capacities, our equipment.
Looking to the future, Ms Kaiser said that with a high touch, highly social way of working already part of how NEB operates, going forward they need to figure out how to preserve that culture while adjusting for what in some cases will be permanent workplace change.
Second was Deborrah Boehmisch (McDonald) – Head of BIS, Operational Services and Effectiveness, Bombardier, a Canadian multinational manufacturer of business jets and rail. Ms Boehmisch talked about responding to the pandemic from the point of view of complexity. She illustrated the problem through the lens of regulation impacts - which varies from country to country - discovering whether they are deemed essential and therefore able to continue operations, if so what measures need to be in place etc.
As Bombardier considers what the future holds, she raise many questions that will be familiar to decision makers considering the user of office space, even for those organizations that have high levels of service employees. But on the manufacturing front, she argues that without a digital and automated set of buying processes coupled to supply chain systems, it will be hard to consider alternative supply strategies. Equally though she sees important lessons for what might happen next, based on how manufacturers are responding in the here and now:
As hard as it has been, it'is a really interesting time to reflect on what did we go through? What do we now need as an organization? You cannot learn this in school. Another interesting scenario might be to consider an uptick in the use of private jets bay corporations given that mass travel is so restricted. This is a time to be really brave around your thinking. We'll never be the same but I think that lessons learned, from example how we quickly started making face shields which we would not normally do provide lessons from which we can learn more broadly,
It's worth mentioning Cooper Standard, a global supplier, primarily to the automotive industry. In recent years, they have made significant investments in streamlining operations on ECC and had a plan in place to run a brownfield conversion to S/4 with the idea of innovating later. It's no surprise that COVID-19 brought the entire automotive industry to a standstill. Did the onset of the pandemic kill their project? No. They had to make rapid changes to the products they make, retooling in the process so needed their S/4 project to keep going.
Finally, and as and aside, Cargill, best known for its food industry roots and is the largest private company in the US discovered more than 10 years ago that endeavoring to run a single instance of its SAP ERP system didn't make logical sense because of deep industry specific functional needs across its main business units. However, it does run on a single IBP instance.
This session was especially interesting for the clarity with which customers talked to the practical nature of managing in the current crisis. Yes, there are thoughts of what happens next but top of mind is not some extraordinary business model change but an emphasis on accelerated deployment in unique circumstances and the lessons learned from those experiences while at the same time finding ways to work fro which customers can learn for the future.