EY Summit 2020: Lights out Planning at the Cognitive Automation Summit

By
Matthew Burton
22m
EY Summit 2020: Lights out Planning at the Cognitive Automation Summit

How cognitive automation can drive supply chain performance.

EY Summit 2020

Gonzalo Benedit:

Good morning. Today, I'll be talking to Matthew Burton, partner at EY. We will discuss agility and how cognitive automation can help drive supply chain performance. EY is one of the leading consulting partners and has teams working with us, implementing Aera cognitive automation and skills at several of our largest blue-chip accounts. Matthew leads EY's EMEIA Supply Chain and Operations Practice. He has over 25 years experience in supply chain, planning both industry and consulting, and has worked with many leading companies, advising them on supply chain transformation. Matthew, welcome to the Cognitive Automation Summit.


Matthew Burton:

Thank you, Gonzalo. Real pleasure to be here today.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Well, it's really great to have you with us, Matthew, and just to start, let's talk about COVID, so this pandemic has had massive disruptions across supply chains for many companies. In your views, how have companies reacted and responded to this situation, to this new reality?


Matthew Burton:

That's a good question. It's been a really difficult time for everybody. Obviously, first and foremost, companies have been thinking about looking after their staff, thinking about safety and welfare. The question has actually come on to a lot of criticism during the crisis. Yeah, because of well-publicized shortages of PPE, hand sanitizer, and even toilet rolls, but actually, when you think about it, that criticism in places perhaps it's justified. There's been a lot of focus on building our supply chains to be lean, cost optimize, linear. Resilience isn't actually inherent anymore in the design. We've concentrated our vendors in certain geographies. Far shore production makes the supply chains very lengthy, but in the main, actually, I think you have to reflect that supply chains have done remarkably well. International borders have been shot down and air travel and cargo capacity slashed. Borders closed, companies furloughed, and yet, the lights have stayed on. We've had in the main: heat, light, power. The food supply chains continue to run. Consumer goods and pharmaceuticals have been delivered, so incredibly agility in response to this, in the face of that extreme situation.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Yeah, absolutely agree and that's a great point. I feel we often underestimate the complexity that is behind running these supply chains. Again, all the other dimensions we are privy to. Now, Matthew, with that in mind, which would you say are the other top priorities for companies at this point?


Matthew Burton:

That's a good question. In actual fact, we did a survey last summer. If we bring that up, we'll take a look at a couple of the questions. Now, this survey was a part of a paper we did on reinventing the supply chain for an autonomous future. As I said, it was last summer, but in the course of the crisis, when we were running a number of webcasts with different companies, we asked a lot of the same questions and we got exactly the same answers. The top ranked factor for creating a successful supply chain was really the need for speed. Starting top ranked was the need for end-to-end visibility across the supply chain with number two, that real-time responsiveness. Probably not surprisingly, but those are the same things that the executives are saying through the crisis and now are their top priorities.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Interesting and talking about responsiveness and agility, so this being number two, Matthew, can you maybe share with us some examples on agility in action, so what do you see during the crisis?


Matthew Burton:

Yes, it's a good question. Let me just start with that visibility piece because I think that is an important start point, but it shouldn't be a surprise. First of all, we had locked down in China, then in Northern Italy, and then beyond and companies found out very, very quickly that their sort of patchwork of reports, they're multi-SOP cycles, sales and operations planning often a lot of the information was out of date by the time they collated it. They need to be able to move much more quickly, much faster, much more agile. That was the first thing that changed in terms of responsiveness and agility, a real upgrade, but a number of companies moved quite rapidly from that monthly planning cycle to weekly and even daily.


Matthew Burton:

Now, if I go further in terms of physical supply chain, as I mentioned earlier, the borders were closed down, companies furloughed, FAA capacity slash because of the lack of passenger plane cargo capacity, and yet the supply chain continues to run. Now, the first round of responsiveness and agility was companies creating safe working environments for their employees, those that continue to run. Creating often kind of complex screening and layout, so screens between workstations on production lines to allow for safety and allow production to continue. We saw companies having to operate with fewer staff because of sickness and because of distancing on the line. We help broker deals between companies to get workers from some furlough businesses into those that saw big spikes in demand, particularly pharmaceuticals and consumer goods. Yeah, I think there was a real change as well with companies leaning in developing new products to help whether that was PPE, hand sanitizer, or companies developing and sharing ideas for rapid development of hospital respirators.


Matthew Burton:

I mean, less visible though, would be something like planning. That's not been in the headlines, but overnight companies had to virtualize the whole entire planning process, so demand planning, supply, planning, production scheduling, logistics, materials planning. Yeah, all of that, that was often office-based, either in the market or in centers of excellence, had to be moved and virtualized and the supply chain had to continue to run. I mean, what we really saw was that the companies that were sort of further ahead in progressing on their digital journeys and autonomous operation thinking, they were actually better able to respond. What we're now seeing is that COVID, the crisis, has actually, if anything, accelerated investment further towards autonomous operations.


Gonzalo Benedit:

You're absolutely right. It's actually fascinating to see what has happened in the last few months. I heard somebody saying recently, "Oh, the future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed." That's I think very much applicable to also the many different companies with you and us, so we continue to connect with. Now, talking about autonomous operations, what would you say is the proportion of companies that are truly managing to get on that journey? That are advancing themselves by starting their autonomous operations?


Matthew Burton:

Well, I think in my views, it's actually quite a low proportion, but this was actually another question that we asked in the same survey if we look at the next question. When we asked "How far are you progressing in evolving from linear to the top digitally networked value chain?" These are the responses we got. Now, what you see is a minority of companies still operating traditional, linear supply chains. The vast bulk are actually sort of transitioning and starting to think about the networking system, cloud computing, and digitalization, but only a much smaller proportion and just 6% responded that they had actually kind created an autonomous planning function, so really it's a minority today, but the trend is clear.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Absolutely. Now, what about the benefits? Matthew, you talked about the number of benefits, but can you maybe elaborate a little bit farther in terms of which would be the benefits behind running an autonomous operation, lights out operation, like getting the hands off the wheel?


Matthew Burton:

I mean, I think there's a whole range of benefits. I mean, one of them is actually, I already mentioned this speed and agility to change. Planning, despite investment in technology and systems, it's still quite a manual process and it's one of the factors that led to the traditional sales and operations planning process for many companies continuing to be monthly because they actually can't run at a faster cycle. Actually investing in these digital tools that kind of support the people process, you can speed that cycle up and we're seeing an increasing trend towards weekly and even daily planning cycles and that's exactly the sort of speed you needed to respond to this crisis. If we look at one more question from the survey, if we can pop those back up on screen, please. When we correlated a couple of different questions from different parts of the survey, we asked companies whether they were growing or shrinking their market share.


Matthew Burton:

We asked whether they were winning or losing in terms of customer satisfaction. We then correlated that with the responses around where they were the journey from linear to autonomous value chains. What we saw is that the final 6%, those that reported they had further invested in autonomous supply chains, were showing a much, much stronger level of customer satisfaction versus those at the other end of that same spectrum that they just have these sort of traditional linear supply chains. Actually, it's not just about speed and agility, quality is a factor, but it's actually born out, certainly in this survey, in terms of the results of companies getting in market share and customer satisfaction. I think that's pretty fantastic.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Absolutely. Now, talking about planning, Matthew, and then you said, planning is less visible and I fully agree with that. I think today it's less and less obvious, which are the issues and which would be the steps required to build, basically, an autonomous operation. Now, again, what would be your view on that? What's your guidance? Which of the key things that companies are looking into or should be looking into?


Matthew Burton:

I mean, that's a good question. There's a whole host of issues that we saw during the height of the COVID crisis and the lockdown. I think a lot of what we saw, they line up with the key steps that we believe are needed to navigate the journey towards autonomous operations. We've actually got a chat on that as well, if we can bring that up because I think it will help with the discussion. We see five main steps. The first topic around visibility, I already mentioned, but we'll start there. Visibility and integrated business planning or sales and operations planning. For many companies, that's still a monthly process. The crisis highlighted for many that actually things were changing so fast on a daily and even hourly basis.


Companies had to invest quite significantly in time and effort to speed up that process during the course of the crisis, moving from monthly to weekly and even daily. Now, they're actually putting investments in to industrialize that and make it a permanent feature because they can see the benefits. The second step is around having standardized, harmonized processes. Often run through planning centers of excellence to get the right mix of which activities occur in the market versus which are in centers of excellence where you can pull resources and create a real career path for planners. Now, here again, the crisis exposed some of the weaknesses in the current setup, whilst companies might have thought it was all working, the crisis and absenteeism and the extreme nature of having to move work from in between different regions to keep the process running showed that actually there was an awful lot of knowledge still in people's heads and all the spreadsheets on laptops that were sometimes stuck in the office, or couldn't be connected.


Matthew Burton:

Look at another area of focus. Now, despite all of the investment over the years in visibility, business planning, and planning centers, planning actually remains inherently a very high touch activity. Almost every product being touched, every planning cycle, and that's a real barrier to get into all that kind of autonomous and touch-less goal. This is where the third step: segmenting and synchronizing the supply chain comes in. The supply chain's now, is a complex ecosystem of suppliers, partners dotted around the world. That's not simple linear chains anymore, and what's actually happening is that old supply chain bullwhip is here and the Coronavirus magnified the impact, so the small changes in demand have become big changes inside the organization. Actually, all of a sudden, they were big changes in demand, creating massive changes in the organization, but actually, if we get the right analytics across the end-to-end supply chain, we can tune the whole system up.


Matthew Burton:

We're not a moving system, I don't mean IT. I mean, actually people, process, behaviors, and the IT setup, and you get that right and that starts to unlock the opportunity to work on steps four and five, which is then you really get into optimization and cognitive automation. Really all these steps they shouldn't be seen in [inaudible 00:15:28] linear sequences the diagram suggests, but topics that you can work on and seek to master preferably roughly this order, but they can all be progressing in parallel and culminating with that progressive automation, whether that's through simple robotic process automation or more complex AI machine learning and unreal cognitive automation.


Gonzalo Benedit:

That's inspiring. Thanks for sharing that, Matthew and we at Aera cannot agree more with that. It's a changing paradigm. Now, what would this mean for the planners? In terms of their day-to-day, should they be concerned about the future? The role of the planner?


Matthew Burton:

Yeah, that's a great question. There's a lot of talk about Industry 4.0 and autonomous planning. Actually, I see fully autonomous planning as being some way off. In the near term, actually, this is a fantastic opportunity for the planner. Today, we have separate planners for demand planning, supply planning, production scheduling, materials requirements planning, distribution requirements planning, there's all sorts of little silos that create breakages and bottlenecks all along the way. Actually, if we get the right level of tools to support the planner, then we can get a real human-machine symbiosis, the two working in tandem. It actually creates the opportunity for a value stream manager rather than a solo planner. The planner can actually concentrate on the value and activities rather than some of the routine and dull, et cetera management that they have to do today.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Yeah. It's interesting that you say that, so at Aera, what we see is precisely that symbiosis you referred to, the machine and the planner, the human, that would drive a lot of augmentation, it will allow eventually the planner to do a lot more, to achieve a lot more in terms, again, through the combination of augmentation and automation. Now, we're talking about so many blue-chip leading companies you work with, Matthew, and the Holly White team, and I'm sure you've initiated many of these journeys already. What would be your guidance or recommendations with regards to how to get started? This is something that we often get, so from our customers it is like, "Okay, as a vision, this sounds fascinating, and it's clearly, this is the future now, where should I start?" What's the first step of this journey?


Matthew Burton:

That's a really good question. First off, I'd always want to know, where are the biggest pain points? Conducting a short sort of segmentation synchronization assessment is a good first start point to see where the big pain points are. Then, in terms of taking the first steps, in terms of automation, you can start with something relatively simple, like basic robotic process automation for managing stock-outs exceptions, but that's not really cognitive automation, something a bit further up the spectrum, would be perhaps looking at demand forecasting and using improves statistics, machine learning, and even AI, to improve forecasting. That's an area where we are tempted when we do these assessments, more often than not, there are segments where even the most basic statistical setup can beat the current setup and the planners manual adjustments, but it's not been thought about in that way before.


Matthew Burton:

If you get it right, you can then pick the right tool sets for doing an approved statistical forecast, including use of AI and machine learning and you can then give measures to the planner that help them with what their forecast value add. They can then see when they are actually adding value to the forecast versus whether they are reducing value, destroying value even. Then, that way, the machine can learn from the data it's got, but there's loads of stuff the machines never going to know and this is where the planner can add value, but if they know where they best that value, then the two combined get better and better. That's a great first place to start on that journey towards cognitive automation.


Gonzalo Benedit:

That's interesting. That's great. Matthew, last question on my end. Look, I know I'm biased right, obviously I'm part of the Aera team, so I don't need to be convinced about the power of cognitive automation, but from your point of view, when do you think we'll see the adoption of automation at scale? When is this happening?


Matthew Burton:

As I said, I think there's a while away. We did ask the same question actually in the survey. Rather than just my opinion, let's just say I have a quick look at that question. We asked in the survey, over 500 senior executives in supply chain, when did they actually expect fully autonomous supply chains? Around 50% of them said that by 2025, that's when the fully autonomous and sustainably conscious supply chain would be there. That's some way out, but it's not that far away.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Well, if I speak for the momentum we're seeing out there in the markets and we're getting there almost. Matthew, thank you very much for your time and insights today. It's been fantastic to have you with us at the Cognitive Automation Summit and Aera, we are very much delighted to have the EY as a partner for us. Thank you.


Get social with us!

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By
Matthew Burton
,
Partner, EMEIA Supply Chain and Operations Leader
Published:
September 24, 2020
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EY Summit 2020: Lights out Planning at the Cognitive Automation Summit

How cognitive automation can drive supply chain performance.

EY Summit 2020

Gonzalo Benedit:

Good morning. Today, I'll be talking to Matthew Burton, partner at EY. We will discuss agility and how cognitive automation can help drive supply chain performance. EY is one of the leading consulting partners and has teams working with us, implementing Aera cognitive automation and skills at several of our largest blue-chip accounts. Matthew leads EY's EMEIA Supply Chain and Operations Practice. He has over 25 years experience in supply chain, planning both industry and consulting, and has worked with many leading companies, advising them on supply chain transformation. Matthew, welcome to the Cognitive Automation Summit.


Matthew Burton:

Thank you, Gonzalo. Real pleasure to be here today.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Well, it's really great to have you with us, Matthew, and just to start, let's talk about COVID, so this pandemic has had massive disruptions across supply chains for many companies. In your views, how have companies reacted and responded to this situation, to this new reality?


Matthew Burton:

That's a good question. It's been a really difficult time for everybody. Obviously, first and foremost, companies have been thinking about looking after their staff, thinking about safety and welfare. The question has actually come on to a lot of criticism during the crisis. Yeah, because of well-publicized shortages of PPE, hand sanitizer, and even toilet rolls, but actually, when you think about it, that criticism in places perhaps it's justified. There's been a lot of focus on building our supply chains to be lean, cost optimize, linear. Resilience isn't actually inherent anymore in the design. We've concentrated our vendors in certain geographies. Far shore production makes the supply chains very lengthy, but in the main, actually, I think you have to reflect that supply chains have done remarkably well. International borders have been shot down and air travel and cargo capacity slashed. Borders closed, companies furloughed, and yet, the lights have stayed on. We've had in the main: heat, light, power. The food supply chains continue to run. Consumer goods and pharmaceuticals have been delivered, so incredibly agility in response to this, in the face of that extreme situation.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Yeah, absolutely agree and that's a great point. I feel we often underestimate the complexity that is behind running these supply chains. Again, all the other dimensions we are privy to. Now, Matthew, with that in mind, which would you say are the other top priorities for companies at this point?


Matthew Burton:

That's a good question. In actual fact, we did a survey last summer. If we bring that up, we'll take a look at a couple of the questions. Now, this survey was a part of a paper we did on reinventing the supply chain for an autonomous future. As I said, it was last summer, but in the course of the crisis, when we were running a number of webcasts with different companies, we asked a lot of the same questions and we got exactly the same answers. The top ranked factor for creating a successful supply chain was really the need for speed. Starting top ranked was the need for end-to-end visibility across the supply chain with number two, that real-time responsiveness. Probably not surprisingly, but those are the same things that the executives are saying through the crisis and now are their top priorities.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Interesting and talking about responsiveness and agility, so this being number two, Matthew, can you maybe share with us some examples on agility in action, so what do you see during the crisis?


Matthew Burton:

Yes, it's a good question. Let me just start with that visibility piece because I think that is an important start point, but it shouldn't be a surprise. First of all, we had locked down in China, then in Northern Italy, and then beyond and companies found out very, very quickly that their sort of patchwork of reports, they're multi-SOP cycles, sales and operations planning often a lot of the information was out of date by the time they collated it. They need to be able to move much more quickly, much faster, much more agile. That was the first thing that changed in terms of responsiveness and agility, a real upgrade, but a number of companies moved quite rapidly from that monthly planning cycle to weekly and even daily.


Matthew Burton:

Now, if I go further in terms of physical supply chain, as I mentioned earlier, the borders were closed down, companies furloughed, FAA capacity slash because of the lack of passenger plane cargo capacity, and yet the supply chain continues to run. Now, the first round of responsiveness and agility was companies creating safe working environments for their employees, those that continue to run. Creating often kind of complex screening and layout, so screens between workstations on production lines to allow for safety and allow production to continue. We saw companies having to operate with fewer staff because of sickness and because of distancing on the line. We help broker deals between companies to get workers from some furlough businesses into those that saw big spikes in demand, particularly pharmaceuticals and consumer goods. Yeah, I think there was a real change as well with companies leaning in developing new products to help whether that was PPE, hand sanitizer, or companies developing and sharing ideas for rapid development of hospital respirators.


Matthew Burton:

I mean, less visible though, would be something like planning. That's not been in the headlines, but overnight companies had to virtualize the whole entire planning process, so demand planning, supply, planning, production scheduling, logistics, materials planning. Yeah, all of that, that was often office-based, either in the market or in centers of excellence, had to be moved and virtualized and the supply chain had to continue to run. I mean, what we really saw was that the companies that were sort of further ahead in progressing on their digital journeys and autonomous operation thinking, they were actually better able to respond. What we're now seeing is that COVID, the crisis, has actually, if anything, accelerated investment further towards autonomous operations.


Gonzalo Benedit:

You're absolutely right. It's actually fascinating to see what has happened in the last few months. I heard somebody saying recently, "Oh, the future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed." That's I think very much applicable to also the many different companies with you and us, so we continue to connect with. Now, talking about autonomous operations, what would you say is the proportion of companies that are truly managing to get on that journey? That are advancing themselves by starting their autonomous operations?


Matthew Burton:

Well, I think in my views, it's actually quite a low proportion, but this was actually another question that we asked in the same survey if we look at the next question. When we asked "How far are you progressing in evolving from linear to the top digitally networked value chain?" These are the responses we got. Now, what you see is a minority of companies still operating traditional, linear supply chains. The vast bulk are actually sort of transitioning and starting to think about the networking system, cloud computing, and digitalization, but only a much smaller proportion and just 6% responded that they had actually kind created an autonomous planning function, so really it's a minority today, but the trend is clear.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Absolutely. Now, what about the benefits? Matthew, you talked about the number of benefits, but can you maybe elaborate a little bit farther in terms of which would be the benefits behind running an autonomous operation, lights out operation, like getting the hands off the wheel?


Matthew Burton:

I mean, I think there's a whole range of benefits. I mean, one of them is actually, I already mentioned this speed and agility to change. Planning, despite investment in technology and systems, it's still quite a manual process and it's one of the factors that led to the traditional sales and operations planning process for many companies continuing to be monthly because they actually can't run at a faster cycle. Actually investing in these digital tools that kind of support the people process, you can speed that cycle up and we're seeing an increasing trend towards weekly and even daily planning cycles and that's exactly the sort of speed you needed to respond to this crisis. If we look at one more question from the survey, if we can pop those back up on screen, please. When we correlated a couple of different questions from different parts of the survey, we asked companies whether they were growing or shrinking their market share.


Matthew Burton:

We asked whether they were winning or losing in terms of customer satisfaction. We then correlated that with the responses around where they were the journey from linear to autonomous value chains. What we saw is that the final 6%, those that reported they had further invested in autonomous supply chains, were showing a much, much stronger level of customer satisfaction versus those at the other end of that same spectrum that they just have these sort of traditional linear supply chains. Actually, it's not just about speed and agility, quality is a factor, but it's actually born out, certainly in this survey, in terms of the results of companies getting in market share and customer satisfaction. I think that's pretty fantastic.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Absolutely. Now, talking about planning, Matthew, and then you said, planning is less visible and I fully agree with that. I think today it's less and less obvious, which are the issues and which would be the steps required to build, basically, an autonomous operation. Now, again, what would be your view on that? What's your guidance? Which of the key things that companies are looking into or should be looking into?


Matthew Burton:

I mean, that's a good question. There's a whole host of issues that we saw during the height of the COVID crisis and the lockdown. I think a lot of what we saw, they line up with the key steps that we believe are needed to navigate the journey towards autonomous operations. We've actually got a chat on that as well, if we can bring that up because I think it will help with the discussion. We see five main steps. The first topic around visibility, I already mentioned, but we'll start there. Visibility and integrated business planning or sales and operations planning. For many companies, that's still a monthly process. The crisis highlighted for many that actually things were changing so fast on a daily and even hourly basis.


Companies had to invest quite significantly in time and effort to speed up that process during the course of the crisis, moving from monthly to weekly and even daily. Now, they're actually putting investments in to industrialize that and make it a permanent feature because they can see the benefits. The second step is around having standardized, harmonized processes. Often run through planning centers of excellence to get the right mix of which activities occur in the market versus which are in centers of excellence where you can pull resources and create a real career path for planners. Now, here again, the crisis exposed some of the weaknesses in the current setup, whilst companies might have thought it was all working, the crisis and absenteeism and the extreme nature of having to move work from in between different regions to keep the process running showed that actually there was an awful lot of knowledge still in people's heads and all the spreadsheets on laptops that were sometimes stuck in the office, or couldn't be connected.


Matthew Burton:

Look at another area of focus. Now, despite all of the investment over the years in visibility, business planning, and planning centers, planning actually remains inherently a very high touch activity. Almost every product being touched, every planning cycle, and that's a real barrier to get into all that kind of autonomous and touch-less goal. This is where the third step: segmenting and synchronizing the supply chain comes in. The supply chain's now, is a complex ecosystem of suppliers, partners dotted around the world. That's not simple linear chains anymore, and what's actually happening is that old supply chain bullwhip is here and the Coronavirus magnified the impact, so the small changes in demand have become big changes inside the organization. Actually, all of a sudden, they were big changes in demand, creating massive changes in the organization, but actually, if we get the right analytics across the end-to-end supply chain, we can tune the whole system up.


Matthew Burton:

We're not a moving system, I don't mean IT. I mean, actually people, process, behaviors, and the IT setup, and you get that right and that starts to unlock the opportunity to work on steps four and five, which is then you really get into optimization and cognitive automation. Really all these steps they shouldn't be seen in [inaudible 00:15:28] linear sequences the diagram suggests, but topics that you can work on and seek to master preferably roughly this order, but they can all be progressing in parallel and culminating with that progressive automation, whether that's through simple robotic process automation or more complex AI machine learning and unreal cognitive automation.


Gonzalo Benedit:

That's inspiring. Thanks for sharing that, Matthew and we at Aera cannot agree more with that. It's a changing paradigm. Now, what would this mean for the planners? In terms of their day-to-day, should they be concerned about the future? The role of the planner?


Matthew Burton:

Yeah, that's a great question. There's a lot of talk about Industry 4.0 and autonomous planning. Actually, I see fully autonomous planning as being some way off. In the near term, actually, this is a fantastic opportunity for the planner. Today, we have separate planners for demand planning, supply planning, production scheduling, materials requirements planning, distribution requirements planning, there's all sorts of little silos that create breakages and bottlenecks all along the way. Actually, if we get the right level of tools to support the planner, then we can get a real human-machine symbiosis, the two working in tandem. It actually creates the opportunity for a value stream manager rather than a solo planner. The planner can actually concentrate on the value and activities rather than some of the routine and dull, et cetera management that they have to do today.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Yeah. It's interesting that you say that, so at Aera, what we see is precisely that symbiosis you referred to, the machine and the planner, the human, that would drive a lot of augmentation, it will allow eventually the planner to do a lot more, to achieve a lot more in terms, again, through the combination of augmentation and automation. Now, we're talking about so many blue-chip leading companies you work with, Matthew, and the Holly White team, and I'm sure you've initiated many of these journeys already. What would be your guidance or recommendations with regards to how to get started? This is something that we often get, so from our customers it is like, "Okay, as a vision, this sounds fascinating, and it's clearly, this is the future now, where should I start?" What's the first step of this journey?


Matthew Burton:

That's a really good question. First off, I'd always want to know, where are the biggest pain points? Conducting a short sort of segmentation synchronization assessment is a good first start point to see where the big pain points are. Then, in terms of taking the first steps, in terms of automation, you can start with something relatively simple, like basic robotic process automation for managing stock-outs exceptions, but that's not really cognitive automation, something a bit further up the spectrum, would be perhaps looking at demand forecasting and using improves statistics, machine learning, and even AI, to improve forecasting. That's an area where we are tempted when we do these assessments, more often than not, there are segments where even the most basic statistical setup can beat the current setup and the planners manual adjustments, but it's not been thought about in that way before.


Matthew Burton:

If you get it right, you can then pick the right tool sets for doing an approved statistical forecast, including use of AI and machine learning and you can then give measures to the planner that help them with what their forecast value add. They can then see when they are actually adding value to the forecast versus whether they are reducing value, destroying value even. Then, that way, the machine can learn from the data it's got, but there's loads of stuff the machines never going to know and this is where the planner can add value, but if they know where they best that value, then the two combined get better and better. That's a great first place to start on that journey towards cognitive automation.


Gonzalo Benedit:

That's interesting. That's great. Matthew, last question on my end. Look, I know I'm biased right, obviously I'm part of the Aera team, so I don't need to be convinced about the power of cognitive automation, but from your point of view, when do you think we'll see the adoption of automation at scale? When is this happening?


Matthew Burton:

As I said, I think there's a while away. We did ask the same question actually in the survey. Rather than just my opinion, let's just say I have a quick look at that question. We asked in the survey, over 500 senior executives in supply chain, when did they actually expect fully autonomous supply chains? Around 50% of them said that by 2025, that's when the fully autonomous and sustainably conscious supply chain would be there. That's some way out, but it's not that far away.


Gonzalo Benedit:

Well, if I speak for the momentum we're seeing out there in the markets and we're getting there almost. Matthew, thank you very much for your time and insights today. It's been fantastic to have you with us at the Cognitive Automation Summit and Aera, we are very much delighted to have the EY as a partner for us. Thank you.


Get social with us!

Follow us on LinkedIn: Cognitive Automation Community
Follow us on Twitter: CognitiveAutomation

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