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Sourav Niyogi: Digital supply chain trends for utilities

Sourav Niyogi on how digitizing the supply chain can help utilities drive growth and improve operational efficiency
Sourav Niyogi

Sourav Niyogi is the Procurement and Supply Chain Go-to-Market Lead for Resources in UKI.

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How are utilities responding to the digital disruption we are seeing in the industry?

Utilities are increasingly betting big on digital technologies as a mean to drive growth, improve performance, reduce cost and deliver asset management excellence.

To date, we have seen that digital take shape mostly in the front office in areas ranging from customer engagement to smarter grid operations. While this trend will continue, companies are now turning to the supply chain for the next wave of digitization.

What are the most impactful digital supply chain trends that we should expect to see this year?

2017 is set to be a tipping point year for digital supply chain. From the Accenture Technology Vision 2017 report, we picked out three trends that every utility should watch out for.

  1. AI and robotic automation is coming of age

    With the use of AI technology such as Alexa and Siri come into everyday use in the consumer side, we are also seeing AI coming in to play in supply chain and operations. AI has the potential to augment and enhance workforce productivity in the supply chain by performing high volume, repetitive tasks including supplier on-boarding, processing help-desk orders, and expediting invoice compliance.

    Digital assistants with natural language capabilities are set to be the new customer and user interfaces. They have the potential to help improve experiences, shorten process lead time, and eliminate errors as well as release the human workforce to take on more complex, value-added tasks such as high-value sourcing.

  2. Advanced analytics will continue to build momentum.

    The data-heavy nature of supply chain makes it a prime candidate for advanced analytics. What’s different now is the rise and availability of plug-and-play, pay-as-you-go solutions. Companies can now benefit from scalable cross-industry, industrialized supply chain analytics solutions. Analytics projects that used to take 10 months now takes two to three months to implement.

    By harnessing the power of analytics in areas such as supplier collaboration, buying decisions and inventory planning and supplier network optimization, companies can improve productivity and cost efficiency through data-driven decision making.

  3. Digital control tower can be the new orchestrator of the supply network.

    Control tower is not a new concept in supply chain but the widespread use of the IoT, big data and mobile devices has significantly amplified the power of the control tower. We are also likely to see the digital control tower step beyond its traditional home in logistics to drive end-to-end supply chain management from purchasing through to inventory planning.

    For companies working with multiple partners and contractors on major capital programs, a digital control tower will provide the capability to sense and respond to changes in the supply changes real-time and orchestrate execution that can deliver significant benefits in terms of assuring on time delivery.

What advice would you give to utilities starting out on their digital supply chain journey?

  • Look for quick wins. Demonstrate value, create momentum and then iterate. We have worked on prototypes in everything from robotic automation to analytics that only takes four to six weeks from design to build. It’s a powerful approach to demonstrate value and test the application.

  • Be bold. Too often companies focus in on their current ways of working, and digital becomes an add-on. Concurrent to the quick wins, companies should reimagine their operating model and put digital at the heart of their supply chain operations strategy.

  • Define a clear digital supply chain vision and strategy. Be clear about your goals, energize the organization and define your game plan to get there. Delivering the vision will require focus and investment. Getting your organization behind this transformation will be key to success.

For more information read our report, "Three winning themes for utilities in digital supply chain."