Suuchi Ramesh joins Sheri Hinish, host of the Supply Chain Revolution podcast, in a two-part interview to discuss digital supply chains, measuring sustainability, what is needed for digital transformation, and how to scale B2B enterprise software. Listen now!
Q: Tell everyone a little about your company and what it does because it’s fascinating.
Key Takeaway: For sure! I’m always happy to speak endlessly about it, but I’ll try to be crisp. We saw a gap in the market when we thought about the concept of what Suuchi Inc would be. If you look at supply chains across companies and industries, there is a gap in the market, so far as two things are concerned. One is how do you solve the physical problems of the flow of goods? Supply chains aren’t fast enough, there are data blackholes, and they are spread across the world without enough communication, collaboration, and transparency across all of the participants.
The second problem is one of digital silos. Meaning a ton of systems that companies invest in are not communicating with each other. They tend not to be intuitive and are very clunky. So, the physical supply chain problems are exasperated because the digital landscape is so broken. The other part is that even when executives wanted to invest in new systems, they looked at investments as two to three different systems specific to different parts of the supply chain.
So, we really wanted to bring everything together to create a single source of truth and make it cohesive. The GRID is our answer to that white space. It’s a very intuitive, simple system that wraps around the entire supply chain. It’s one version of truth, it democratize access, and accessible by a laptop or mobile phone which creates an easy entry point for everyone from an executive looking at reports or a factory worker who is providing a status update. The biggest takeaway is it is a single system of record for folks.
Q: Let’s talk a little about digital trust. I saw a post on the future of supplier audits, and it really piqued my interest because I think there can be some controversy around third party digital networks. Does that really give you the trust you need when you’re shaking hands with someone in a digital environment you may never meet or speak to?
Key Takeaway: That’s a great question, and it’s one that is so nuanced. If you look at audits and the cost of trust and compliance, it’s really high. I mean that there is a really high cost of physically needing to do the checks and balances with factories. So far, we have not yet found something that can substitute with the same level of trust. But when I talk about the cost of trust and compliance, there is also a huge cost to getting wrong. If you don’t have the audit done well, the real exposure is what if something fails. What if compliance is faulty, in terms of social compliance or labor laws, or worse yet, the safety conditions? There is a huge cost to maintaining the checks and balances of compliance, but there’s an even bigger risk to the exposure if something goes wrong.
So, as we think about digital trust, I don’t think we start looking at how we eliminate or erase the physical nature of how we conduct compliance today. It’s about how do we make it a little bit easier in baby steps. Are there ways to complement what we’re doing today that can reduce cost, make it easier for brands and retailers to win confidence with factories, but also the same in reverse? How do suppliers have a seat at the table to meet in between and proactively share what’s happening on the factory floor and certifications and digitally connect themselves so that the whole process is easier for everybody?
We shouldn’t look at digital trust as a binary thing. It’s about how you take the physical process today and complement it with the digital so that overall, that relationship is strengthened between the brand and the supplier. For example, how we do that with the GRID is all factories have a digital identity. They have their profile information on there, and such a big part of this is easy UI & UX. They’re able to interact and add information about themselves without it being really cumbersome or tough. It’s also about simple things. Can I upload my certifications as a factory? Adding photos or videos of what’s happening on the factory floor or starting video conferences in real-time makes life easier, as two other examples.
These small steps complement the need for the physical handshake. That physical handshake is very expensive, so the cost is reduced by combining the two, and the relationship is strengthened.
Q: You mentioned something around digital trust, and if we go up 5,000 feet from the first question, we can talk a little about the power of provenance. When you think of the social and environmental impacts on the end-to-end supply chain. When you think about the biggest areas of opportunity, how might people use technology to identify these hot spots around environmental and social impacts?
Key Takeaway: I often think about it with respect to definitions. How can technology be a need to define what sustainability means to you better? So, in coming across companies across fashion and dozens of other industries, we often see that companies recognize that they have to have an identity on sustainability because it is important to their consumers. However, often they are a little confused about what it really means to them. Sustainability, environmental impact, and carbon footprint don’t have to mean the same thing to every company. The definition needs to encompass if the company is being deliberate about what it means for you.
When you do that, it is important to assess what that means qualitatively for you, but you also need to quantify what that means for you and how you measure against it. That’s where technology helps because if you’re not able to define it, you wind up with a very ambiguous idea about what it is, and then you’re just talking the talk and not walking with something to measure. When you think about sustainability, there are a couple of different parameters to consider.
One is the suppliers that you use. Are they being measured and rated for things that matter? The digital identity that we spoke about earlier can help with your definition to see if they are compliant with labor laws, are they being efficient with their use of water, and have the certifications to prove that they use the processes that matter to your business? Those things can be tracked and measured using that digital identity.
Q: I think you also need to look beyond Tier 1 because sometimes you have the “Tier 1 hub,” which is typically only upstream where the social and environmental impacts occur. Would you agree?
Key Takeaway: You have a great point there, and I agree 100%. How do you also add the Tier 2s, 3s, and 4s? That is where digital identities come into play. The other part is exposing consumers to the metrics that matter. We’ve seen a direct positive correlation between speed-to-market and your sustainability metrics. The longer a product sits in your supply chain, we see that it has an inverse impact on wastage. For example, you should take something technical and expose that to your customer. An example of this would be to say to your customer: we’re faster because we have a geographically diverse supply chain and that speed also means we have less wastage. If you can quantify those things, they will help you better define sustainability internally and what it means when a consumer is looking you up.
Q: You make a great point: short supply chains are typically happier. Let’s shift to talk a little about design to distribution. When we think of end-to-end orchestration and all of the nuances, the handoffs, the stakeholders involved, it’s tough for a supply chain manager to imagine the autonomous supply chain. So, this is a two-part question: As a technologist, can you share examples of “digital transformation on steroids”? Where the outcomes or the value realized matched or surpassed technology’s promise.
Key Takeaway: I love that question! When you talk about the value or impact of the “digital transformation on steroids,” many people think that it’s rocket science or that it’ll take a big amount of investment. The reality is if you want digital transformation with big impacts, it really starts with low-hanging fruit and connecting everybody. We quantify this with the GRID by looking at three main parameters: reduction in speed time, reduction in cost or COGS, and taking people from 95% analog to 95% digital. That is actually the easiest thing to do if you have a simple enough system.
Let’s get everybody on one single source of truth and engaged in one digital conversation. When you do that, you start to see the ripple impact of many things happening simultaneously. If you have everybody conversing, you now have accountability, traceability, and trackability. I’ll give you a real-world example of that from design to distribution. You have someone creating a design or a tech pack then passing it to production, and they want to comment on it to make some changes to the design. Right away, the system alerts all the relevant participants of that change and the impact it has on the projected timelines. You can then hold everybody accountable based on those workflow dates versus the past where the factory wasn’t connected, and there was a huge disconnect between each stage and phase.
When you define impact, you should have three or four major use cases you want to solve, and that’s when you get those “on steroid” impacts. Just focus on those simple, low-hanging fruit, and you’ll drive 60-70% of the impact.