Optimising The Supply Chain For Global Uncertainty

Optimising The Supply Chain For Global Uncertainty Image 2

Mark Johnston, from Industrial Automation Asia (IAA), spoke with Dr Bo Zhou, founder and CEO of FuturMaster, on supply chain management, the company’s plans for 2017, its growth strategy and the global economic and technological developments impacting its business in the years ahead.

With a mixed global economic outlook, companies are searching for growth opportunities and ways to boost their profits amidst rising uncertainty. One avenue being explored to improve their bottom line is to focus efforts on optimising business processes and methods targeted at improving supply chain efficiency. With advancements in machine learning and efforts to optimise and streamline business processes gaining ground, companies such as FuturMaster are in an ideal position to capitalise on such trends.

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A vendor of Advanced Planning supply chain solutions, FuturMaster enables its customers to sustainably improve their supply chain performance through optimisation and best practice. Handling over 500 customers and 10,000 users worldwide, the company has its eye on global expansion, with plans to double its revenue by 2020.

What Are Your Plans For 2017?

DR Bo Zhou: As the only company with an Asian CEO and founder among the 21 providers listed in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Supply Chain Planning System of Record, FuturMaster possesses in-depth insights into the unique challenges in the Asia Market.

In 2015, I started a 2020 transformation plan to grow the business in response to market changes and to position ourselves for future success that will lead us to double the company’s revenue over the next five years.

To achieve this we will focus our attention on what we call the three levers of growth:

New Technology And Software Offerings – As part of our 2020 transformation plan, FuturMaster invests a lot in machine learning technology and other advanced analytics in the Supply Chain Planning solutions.

Our future software offerings will integrate machine learning combined with optimisation to increase the effectiveness of promotion management.

Traditional demand forecasts are based on time-series forecasting methods that can only use a handful of demand factors (eg: trend, seasonality, and cycle). With integrated machine learning-based forecasts, it combines learning algorithms with big data and cloud computing to analyse thousands of promotional activities. Simulating the promotional impacts (uplift, cost, margins, Return-On-Investment (ROI), retailer margin, capacity, and so on) and finding the optimised best-fit promotions among all the planned promotions in order to help our customers achieve their business targets

International Development – Over the past two decades, the company has expanded and is growing rapidly. FuturMaster has a global presence with its headquarters and Research & Development in France, another Research & Development office in China, and offices around the world – Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore, Brazil, China – Beijing & Shanghai, UK & we are also expanding into the US.

Expansion In The Manufacturing & eCommerce Sectors – FuturMaster provides supply chain solutions in over 65 countries, which has more than 10,000 users, for over 500 customers worldwide in the Aerospace, Bank, Cosmetics, Distribution, Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Food & Beverage manufacturing, Healthcare, other manufacturing sectors, Pharmaceutical, Retail, Service, Telecom, and many other industries. We are expanding and investing more in the other manufacturing sectors such as discrete manufacturing.

eCommerce is already big in Asia, and it only has room to grow. As the market becomes increasingly competitive, it is only natural that our customers in the eCommerce industry start looking for new ways to drive revenues and cut costs. We have more eCommerce businesses approaching FuturMaster to manage their supply chain.

Would You Consider The South East Asian Market To Be Your Fastest Growing Market?

BZ: I would say there is strong growth in this market, with the rise of Asia as the new economic powerhouse, organisations are looking towards the region to expand their business.

However, global businesses are having to deal with many layers of distribution and in some countries, the situation is making it difficult for businesses to cope and fully deliver their goals. For most companies the potential is clear; the challenge is how to address it. That is where FuturMaster comes in. Our value proposition is to help our customers increase their top line and improve their bottom line by optimising business processes and methods targeted at improving supply chain effectiveness and efficiency, increasing the service level and reducing the costs.

FuturMaster continues to be selected and implemented by more South East Asian companies in the recent years.

Many Companies Are Looking To Optimise Their Processes And Leverage More On Data. They Want To Save Costs And Increase Efficiency. How Do You Use This Data And How Can You Help These Companies Achieve Their Goals?

Our value proposition is to help our customers increase their top line and improve their bottom line by optimising business processes and methods targeted at improving supply chain effectiveness and efficiency, increasing the service level and reducing the costs

BZ: We live in a world increasingly driven by data, organisations today have more data than ever compared to past years at their disposal. FuturMaster helps customers derive meaningful insights from all the data, providing businesses with greater insight and converting these data into knowledge. We help customers navigate through the complexity of the data.

One such customer, a number one whisky producer in one of the South East Asian country, needed to be able to detect real-life constraints in the supply chain and quickly manage those constraints using automated processes, governed by business rules. They approached FuturMaster to help them better understand how the data within their supply chain can be used effectively to drive a more efficient and effective process. FuturMaster established Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as forecast accuracy, the service level, inventory and actual production conformity with planned order, with KPI dashboards and timely reports, FuturMaster’s solution enabled top management and supply chain managers to continually monitor and measure these KPIs to generate detailed plans and adjust accordingly in order to enhance business processes into the future. Thus allowing better control and reduced risks over supply chain processes after implementing FuturMaster’s solution.

What Method Of Demand Forecasting Do You Use?

BZ: The FuturMaster solution can support all of the relevant demand forecasting methods. However it is not really about what method customers decide to use or what methods we support, rather, it is what customers need and what their requirements are and how we are able to improve their forecast accuracy, effectively.

Is The Analytics Done Locally?

BZ: The analytics is done locally today. As mentioned earlier, customers are having to deal with a lot more data to ensure that all stakeholders have the right information when and where it is needed. Though the industry’s move to cloud computing is still in its youth, effective Business-To-Business (B2B) collaboration is essential and this is where Software as a Service (SaaS) based solutions can deliver real benefits. Some of our customers are on our SaaS model and increasingly, we see more wanting to come on board. We feel we are moving in the right direction but it will take time for the Asia market to fully embrace this.

What Type Of Company Size Does Futurmaster Cater To?

BZ: Our solution caters to the end-to-end supply chain planning and forecasting of any type of organisation size. For a software and system solution to deliver optimal value, it must closely align with the customers’ maturity level in each phase. In other words, software must be configurable and customisable, and able to grow alongside customer.

The company’s solution is tailored to the needs of the customer through software configuration, instead of secondary development. The configurations can be adjusted based on changes in the market environment and the customer’s maturity level. It is still possible for us to work with a smaller company, but one with rapid growth. For instance, we recently partnered with a Chinese eCommerce business in 2016. This company had an annual revenue of US$150 million but was growing at 40 percent per year.

We also see a lot of family businesses in Asia with rapid growth. When a company grows fast, they have limited options and facilities to deal with that growth. This is where FuturMaster can help.

How Has Technology Impacted Supply Chain Management?

BZ: Emerging new technological tools are transforming daily business processes.

The need for fast updates makes supply chain management ripe for technological innovation. In my earlier example of the whisky producer, they have transited from manual tracking and reporting to receiving updates of their production plans via their iPads and smartphones using my company’s solution.

Keeping up with emerging technologies can be difficult for companies who have deep investments in older technology. Although transitions may take time, leveraging new technologies is becoming of key importance in this competitive industry.

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