Products-People-Digital Equilibrium

With Prof. Michael Porter

With Dr. Michael Porter

I am writing this blog post to bring out the essence of our discussions that occurred during the”FT-PTC Future of Industrial Innovation Global Series” organized in New York yesterday. Manufacturing industry thinktank and senior leadership personas have come together to exchange ideas on how manufacturers are adopting new-age technologies to compete.

A joint keynote address from Dr. Michael Porter and James Heppelmann (Jim), CEO of PTC, was an excellent “confluence of thought” that brought together strategic mindset and technology acumen.

While the siloed productivity of human and machine/product has been evolving over decades, the Digital technologies are offering capabilities that can enable progress to the global optima and excellence creating Human-Machine/Products-Digital Advantage. Machine and Products are interchangeably used from now on in the context of manufacturing.  The connection between Products/Machine and Digital (Cloud, Digital Twin, etc.) has been established for some time. This connection enables sensing of a product’s data by digital technologies (edge/embedded) or digital controlling through the optimization of products/machines. But there is a lag between the human-machine and the human-digital connection compared to the digital-machine connection. This lag is causing the “discontinuity” of humans in human-machine-digital ecosystems.

Prof. Porter elaborated on the manufacturing evolution to date as shown below. His vision of the next phase in the evolution is “Smart Connected People”. He emphasized that this phenomenon is happening now with progress from connected products (IIoT) to Smart Connected People with the advent of Augmented Reality (AR) on occasions combined with Virtual Reality (VR) and Xtreme Reality (XR).

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Today’s interfaces separate the physical and digital worlds. A prime example being the GPS system in the car. The 2D display on the GPS shows directions, but human cognizance has to take that input, process it, and finally execute it. This 2D to the 3D gap is what Dr. Porter referred to as “Cognitive Distance” which results in “Cognitive Load”. Imagine a “Heads Up” display leveraging AR that minimizes and eliminates the cognitive distance and cognitive load. AR narrows the cognitive distance by integrating the Digital world into the Physical world, seamlessly.

Digital transformation is leapfrogging the industrial and manufacturing progress continuum from Monitor -> Control -> Optimize to “Autonomy”. AR technology is uplifting the human connection by enabling visualization and collecting the instruction to pass on to the machine. Technologies like computer vision are promoting the human-machine interaction such that the embedded software & systems are allowing humans to diagnose the inner workings of products which were an earlier limitation. In scenarios where AR gets dangerous, VR can fill the gap with simulations and move forward. Thus, the Human-Machine-Digital equilibrium is being established to drive the next-level of industrial innovation.

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Prof. Porter’s strategic foresight was well complemented by Jim’s real-world technology development and use cases. New-age digital technologies are expanding industry boundaries through precision agriculture and smart city solutions. In the past, products progressed to smart products and then became connected smart products but the present and future of industrial evolution revolve around “product System” and “System of Systems”. All-in-all it was great mindshare on today’s manufacturing excellence. I am parking the detailed description of use cases to my next blog post.

P4 I summarize this post with two important closing thoughts from Dr. Porter and Jim.

  1. AR enables People as IoT enables Assets/Products
    • Enabling more effective training and guidance to address the shortage of skilled front-line workers
    • Enhancing worker productivity through better collaboration with machines
    • Counterbalancing the shift to automation by empowering human workers
  2. Both IoT and AR combined to change the competitive environment, requiring new strategic choices and organizational models. For example,
    • Technology development: internal or outsource?
    • Disintermediate distribution or service channels?
    • change the business model?

In the end, I interacted with Prof. Porter to reflect on the discussions of the day and sought his expert comments on the man-machine inflection point. Here is the gist of my discussion. Over the past decades, the industry experienced a gradual reduction in annual work hours, resulting in the gradual improvement of productivity and output. One key attribute of productivity is man-machine collaboration. With digital technologies, the man-machine inflection further uplifted the productivity to 2X, 4X and in the panel discussion yesterday, one company executive was mentioning about 9X productivity gains. In view of this, my questions were,

  • Where does the productivity multiplication (constant uplift of human-machine combined productivity/inflection point) lead next?
  • In the near future, is it going to be survival of the fittest between a human vs machine as the trend line of annual working hours continue to decline?
  • In the long term, would machine constantly chase & replace the humans or the cognitive distance prevail in the foreseen future?

I will follow up with Dr. Porter on this and share further learnings. Stay tuned!!

Fashion Builds Trust with Blockchain

fashion BC

The gig economy and millennial are placing experience over just customer service and rewards over loyalty. The expectations are steep rising when it comes to the Apparel and Footwear as the industry leaders are elevating to overall fashion management. Combined with richer experience expectations, consumers are demanding more awareness with granular traceability and sustainability attempting to drive deeper to know more about apparels they buy, including the story behind each garment and how and where they are manufactured. It is high time for fashion brands to prove their trustworthiness necessitating complete transparency across the value chain on ethical sourcing and sustainability. It is more important in current times where many apparel companies lack ethical supply chains, and ~10% of global emissions are produced by the fashion industry alone.

The blockchain beyond cryptocurrencies offers a decentralized structure that provides immutability, transparency, and security making data trustworthy and scalability.  Blockchain technology has the potential to enable creating a fair, safe and more transparent fashion industry.  In this blog post, I will try to articulate how blockchain can bring added value to transforming business model and culture of the apparel industry from a supply chain that prizes consumption to a demand chain that takes pride in sustainability.

By leveraging Blockchain, fashion companies can offer greater transparency in supply chains creating new incentives for companies to change the way they do business and showcase their organizations. As shown in the diagram above, Blockchain helps create a peer-to-peer and decentralized network that connects all stakeholders in the value chain (design houses, farmers, raw material suppliers, manufacturers, transporters, distributors, retail outlets, banks, consumers and other parties of the complete supply chain). Using a decentralized system, all communication between these stakeholders will be direct and will not pass through a specific central entity. Due to its decentralized nature, the blockchain platform will not have any single point of failure and will not rely on any single entity.

The blockchain has demonstrated fashion supply chain transformation improving track-and-trace and inventory management thus far. By a further confluence of Blockchain, 3D printing and AI/ML technologies, the fashion industry may very well see much more dramatic improvements. Blockchain technology empowering fashion business with uniform real-time access to updated product information supplied by brands, a universal pathway for retailers to immediately report back to suppliers on aspects like stock levels and customer feedback, and has potential to add further on to this new building block structure.

Summarizing below how Blockchain technology further augments fashion value chain capabilities that help to deliver better outcomes.

Fashion Value Chain Capability Building with Blockchain:

Blockchain technology can provide consumers visibility into the entire fashion lifecycle of a garment, including materials and vendors used, the labor sources, and even the production, shipping and warehouse locations involved. Everyone from the farmer to the textile mill to the garment factory can communicate directly with the brand that buys from them. As well, consumers can interact directly with the brand/design house for co-creation or customization of the garments, influencing pricing and even co-investing in the concept. I can all out the following to articulate how Blockchain is augmenting fashion industry capabilities,

  • Create new levels of trust among Suppliers, Brands, and Customers
  • Design better PRODUCT, Offer improved SERVICE and Tell a unique STORY
  • Transform Apparel companies to Fashion Conglomerates

Delivering Better Outcomes with Fashion Blockchain:

Global companies like Patagonia and Everlane have been successfully betting on sustainability and supply chain transparency as a distinct selling proposition enabling customers to identify their suppliers. How Blockchain is delivering better fashion outcomes is summarized below.

  1. Enabling sustainability and circular economy: Blockchain is boosting fair trade practices offering consumers’ increasingly demanding transparency and allowing them to know where the fashion product is coming from.
  2. Better Traceability and Transparency: Blockchain enables fashion companies to communicate with the customers the complete product story (DNA) for each and every fashion garment. This includes comprehensive details on all stages of product life cycle starting from design inspiration, raw materials, manufacturing and distribution to the stores and also providing visibility of all stakeholders involved in the value chain to create traceability and transparency in true sense.
  3. Improved Experience & Goodwill: Blockchain applications allow customers to scan the tag and discover the history of every garment and thus help in improving the customer buying experience. Blockchain applications also can help fashion companies who license their trademarks or designs in tracking the sales and working out the royalty payments. As well, it enables design houses to document process steps and thus having the organic evidence of ownership on the designs.
  4. Brand Authenticity:  Fashion products can be verified by both retailers and consumers since branded garments pass through the blockchain steps and hence can be tracked. This could help to reduce the counterfeiting and diverting out of authentic products. Every time a fashion item moves from one place to other, its tag or code gets scanned thus recording its location with the time stamp. Consumers would be able to scan the item and trace its journey from raw material stage to their home and would be able to ascertain if the product is real or a counterfeit. Blockchain applications can help provide protection against the counterfeiting.

Fashion Blockchain Use Cases:

Blockchain is creating enough traction in the Fashion industry and successful use cases are increasing day by day. Here are few use cases of interest,

  • VeChain solution to tackle the fraud and ensure anti-counterfeiting of fashion products.  It provides a company’s product with a QR code or smart chip with its own unique ID. The company embeds the code, or chip, in its products, scans it, and stores it on the blockchain. The company can then track the product along with each phase of its life cycle: from its creation to the consumer. The blockchain is tamper proof. Consumers will know when they purchase that they are purchasing the original, authentic product.
  • Fashion Coin (FSHN) is a peer-2-peer version of electronic cash for Generation Z. Based on creativity, game theory and steganography+cryptography, Fashion Coin provides seamless and effortless online payments  – with maximum speed and limitless scale.
  • LUKSO is an open blockchain ecosystem specifically created for the fashion and lifestyle industry, providing a decentralized innovation and trust infrastructure for fashion brands, start-ups, and customers. The LUKSO architecture encourages its users to design and deploy an infinite number of innovative features for the modern fashion system: it opens up digital wardrobes and sharing economies, secures IP rights and authenticity, enables omnichannel communications and novel ways of funding collections.
  • faizod is currently paving the way in this area, working together with a logistics company to pioneer a prototype of such a Blockchain-based tracking system. The prototype pairs Blockchain with radio frequency identification (RFID), which uses radio waves to transmit information to a reader.
  • Provenance is increasing the transparency in the fashion supply chain by tracking the journey of raw material through the supply chain, this collaboration between fashion designer Martine Jarlgaard and Provenance highlights the role of blockchain technology in increasing transparency and substantiating claims in the fashion industry.

Given all the advantages, blockchain clearly seems to be the future for fashion, however, to speed up the application, a single and comprehensive blockchain standard adopted by the fashion industry has to come in fast.

Future of Financial Services Workforce

UntitledFinTech disruptors have been finding a way in by focusing on a particular innovative technology or process in everything from mobile payments to insurance. A forte of technologies “AI-ML-DL-NLP-CV” is fueling the FinTech innovations. The large financial services companies can’t be complacent as FinTechs have been attacking some of the most profitable elements of the value chain and as well as areas which were historically subsidized.

Let us refresh our memory on these AI technologies and their relevance to the financial services industry.

  • AI makes machines to learn from experience and perform human-like tasks – AI offers robotic & intelligent process automation (RPA/IPA) of financial processes
  • ML is a specific subset of AI that trains a machine on how to learn – ML is enabling algorithmic trading lead to better predictability and decisions around credit and consumer lending, thereby lowering risk to the bank or financial institution
  • DL is s a type of ML that trains a computer to perform human-like tasks, such as identifying images – leverage big data (customer demographics, consumption records, etc.) to parameterize a DL model that can simulate the likely response to new product/service configurations (e.g. new credit card with cash rewards, moderate interest, zero interest on balance transfers, etc.)
  • NLP is a branch of AI that helps computers understand, interpret and manipulate human language – NLP is shaping the future of banking with voice assistants and ubiquitous computing.
  • CV s a field of AI that trains computers to interpret and better understand the visual world –  CV is transforming financial services by using appealing visuals and new solutions for a new world where seeing is believing

These new-age FinTech developments are leading to a continuous transformation of the financial services workforce. The changing landscape and evolving financial services resource pyramid is presented in the diagram above. I would like to highlight a few trends reshaping the talent of financial services on this blog post.

  • AI automating business-as-usual activities of financial services: Robots and AI already started addressing key pressure points, reduce costs and mitigate risks. Building capabilities to target a specific combination of capabilities such as social and emotional intelligence, natural language processing, logical reasoning, identification of patterns and self-supervised learning, physical sensors, mobility, navigation and more are in swing. The goal is to look far beyond replacing the bank teller. There are whole categories of work that had not been seen as cost effective to automate. However, with lightweight software ‘bots’, workers are freed up to focus on higher value activities.
  • Changing patterns with Human vs Machines foray: Are financial services firms moving to re-shoring of work with talented machines? The answer seems to be, Yes. In the last two decades, many financial firms have ‘offshored’ repetitive tasks to lower-cost locations such as India, China, and Poland. However, relative costs for labor in those regions have started to rise. Combine this with improvements in robotics and AI capabilities and machines are becoming credible substitutes for many human workers. As the capabilities continue to improve and technology continues to drive down the cost of machines, these forces will combine to spur re-shoring, as more tasks can now be performed at a competitive cost on-shore. Even functions that seem dependent on human input, such as product design, fraud prevention, and underwriting, will be affected. At the same time, the need for software engineering talent will continue to expand
  • It is not just automation, Technology is picking high-end work: ML is enabling next-generation algorithmic trading systems are moving from descriptive and predictive to prescriptive analysis, improving their ability to anticipate and respond to emerging trends. And while algorithm trading programs were once limited to hedge funds and institutional investors, private investors can now get access to them too. AI soon automate a considerable amount of underwriting, especially in mature markets where data is readily available. Even in situations where AI does not completely replace an underwriter, greater automation would allow humans to concentrate on assessing and pricing risks in the less data-rich emerging markets. It would also free up underwriters to provide more risk management, product development advice and other higher value support for clients.
  • While building machines, the real focus is on accessing the necessary talent and skills to execute strategies and win markets: Financial services firms lack the internal knowledge and expertise need to implement a customer-centric approach. For example, a mainframe programmer who maintains a core banking platform may not have the skills or interests to learn to code AI applications. Many senior IT executives, non-IT staff-members, and even technical personnel do not have the skills needed to build and operate an effective digital channel offering. Financial institutions are starting to realize they will need talent with very different skills. This might mean finding more industrial engineers for robotics work, or retraining underwriters to do higher value work once AI is used to automate certain existing functions. But the issue runs deeper than developing a different competency model. First, firms to understand what is already working and what needs to be done differently. This might involve changes across the human capital strategy through revitalized recruitment, learning and development, partnering and cultural initiatives.
  • The contingent workforce is creating the talent-exchange mindset: financial firms need to address is the growing preference for flexibility and entrepreneurship among many in the labor force. In the United States, the US Chamber of Commerce has found that 27% of the labor force is currently self-employed, and some believe that this ‘contingent workforce’ could rise to 40% or more within several years. Practically, for this reason alone, financial institutions will need to adopt a ‘talent exchange’ mindset, leveraging part-time and/or self-employed individuals in a creative manner. This may range from bidding out specific tasks or work to expanding the use of seasonal or temporary workers. Of course, this will introduce challenges around culture and quality, and this will introduce new opportunities as well. For example, we might see employers using online platforms to manage confidentiality and legal risks in creative ways.

Artificial Intelligence capabilities impacting the financial industry and thereby attitudes toward work continue to change, some of the attributes that have benefitted institutions in the past such as big firm and stable employment are slowly losing their appeal. Refreshing financial firm’s approach to recruiting, learning and development, and culture may offer an effective way to address issues that FinTech has brought into the open market.

Welcome your ideas in further spotting future trends in financial services workforce.

 

The Changing Role of Retail Workforce

I was visiting Lush – a fresh handmade cosmetics store along with Lush_app.jpgmy daughter and felt that the shopping experience compared with the past is changing in a noticeable way, in particular when it comes to interactions with the store workforce. I came to know that Lush employees typically go through extensive training to ensure they have the tools and knowledge to deliver this kind of service. At Lush the digital technology offers a replacement to the information usually found on packaging – the Lush Lens app uses machine learning to recognize products, meaning customers can simply scan ‘naked’ products to discover key information about them. Hence the retail workforce is upskilling to add value beyond the digital offerings.

This blog post is a result of the experience above. Global Retail and e-commerce leaders reimagining their business models in digital evolution and which is further changing workplace practices. I can say from my vantage point that digital, social and environmental developments are shifting the needs of the retail workforce. It is evident that device and sensor proliferation is aiding retailers to experiment intelligent and connected methods to innovate new business models to try new markets, offer new services and create rich & compelling customer experiences. The new-age developments listed below reflects the continuous transformation of the retail workforce

  1. Knowledgeable workforce offering personalized shopping experience: In a world where just about any product or service is instantly available online, shoppers visit a physical location is driven by specific needs. It means recognizing that shoppers would make the trip because they need something more than what they find in the digital world: face-to-face contact, empathy, and deep expertise. Whether they want to figure out how to hook up a smart home, what dress to wear to a formal dinner, or what to pack for that dream wilderness vacation, they want to talk to someone who can offer them more knowledge and personal understanding that they can find with a quick online search.
  2. Fitment of the retail workforce in experience economy: Stores just can’t be product-fulfillment centers. In both the physical and virtual worlds, product fulfillment is fast becoming the domain of AI and robotics, with retailers, consumer products companies and e-commerce platforms racing to develop the best systems to anticipate consumer needs and deliver products to meet them. What technology cannot fulfill, however, are human needs that remain unmet today and will continue to evolve in the future. One thing I’ve learned through my work is that as technological connections grow, so does the human need for meaningful connections. This need is what’s driving the experience economy. Whether in restaurants, travel groups, shared workspaces, yoga studios or spin classes, people are actively seeking intimate connection with other people and finding it in spaces and communities like these.
  3. Uplifting workforce skills is the need of the day: Process improvement, speed, and efficiency are at the core of successful online businesses. With online infiltrating over to brick-and-mortar sales it’s a mismatch in areas such as supply chain, inventory management, trend identification, competitive pricing analysis, etc.; for example, the ability to automate 99% of pricing decisions, not only offers a real-time advantage, but it also eliminates hours and hours of manual work per week. Hence the use and mastery of algorithms is a key tool of the buyer in successful online companies, a skill that is not as prevalent in brick and mortar;

With the advent of modern technologies bringing e-commerce intelligent systems that make running a retail store more efficient, my experiences with retailers progressed on leveraging in-store data. Having the right retail workforce management solution can take care of tedious administrative tasks across the board, while simultaneously collecting data to instantly improve in-store operations. With this schedule, store managers can be confident knowing that the most knowledgeable and high performing sales assistants are on the shop floor during times of high customer traffic, enhancing the shopping experience and resulting in more sales.

As retailers continue to evolve in experience economy continuum, it’s the value that a capable retail associate can add – the expertise, social sensitivity, and problem-solving skills – that will differentiate the good stores from the bad, the stores that will endure from those destined to fade from the scene.

AI in Operations (“AIOps”)

AIOps

Recently I was searching for verbatim “AIOps” on Google and got 624K results. Without many surprises noticed that there have been over 100 times rise in search trends since July 2017. That signifies the momentum for AI led Operations.

As my curiosity on AIOps increased, I looked at market opportunity for AIOps. From MARKETSandMARKETS analyst data, the global AIOps platform market size is expected to grow from USD 2.55 billion in 2018 to USD 11.02 billion by 2023, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 34.0% during the forecast period (2018–2023).

In this blog post, I am attempting to capture some highlights gathered from my learning curve over a past year or so. Refer to the schematic above that provides a high-level “AIOps Framework”. The following are key elements of the framework.

“AIOps” Verbatim Defined: Simply stating AIOps stands for Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations. Extending AIOps to business operations is inevitable in near future. Adding further, AIOps automates various aspects of IT and utilizes the power of artificial intelligence to create self-learning programs that help revolutionize IT services

AIOps Context: There is a significant opportunity to leverage AI for analyzing enormous data being created by IT and business operations tools, to increase the efficiency of operations, speed up services delivery and ultimately create superior user experiences. The resulting power of AIOps is enabling the progress from siloed to integrated operations backed by intelligent insights.

Signals: In today’s business and IT operations environment, the user is adapting multiple channels of communication for ease and enriched experience. So the backend operations teams as well should expand their ability to sense, analyze and respond to such structured, unstructured and semi-structured data signals. With this in mind, the AIOps platforms are being developed with built-in capabilities to receive and response signals that can encompass any events, alerts, service requests, IoT sensor data, Email, Video, Text, Voice support, UX, Social channels and many other forms.

Interfaces: The way enterprise operations backbone interfacing with signals and external queries also is shaping up in this transformation.

  • The first layer is Machine-First: Giving software/machine/bot the first act on sensing and responding to operations requisitions not only improves the automation of repetitive tasks but also augments cognitive intelligence in complementing human intelligence.
  • Human-Next Touchpoints: Human-next layers take up the operations requisitions that are not solvable by machines. These are the requests which involve human interventions.
  • Ensuring Reliability of Services: Alongside the above two layers, taking an engineering approach to services reliability for constant monitoring, triaging and incorporating insights from advanced analytics of enterprise data brings the culture of continuous improvements and stability to operations.

AIOps Platform: The entire AIOps ecosystem is based on the underlying Platform and Enterprise Core that ties all the components together. As Gartner defined, “Artificial Intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) platforms are software systems that combine big data and AI or machine learning  functionality to enhance and partially replace a broad range of IT operations processes and tasks, including availability and performance monitoring, event correlation and analysis, IT service management, and automation.”

As businesses are increasingly software-driven, operations downtime is becoming more costly and slow is the new down. This is leading businesses to proactively manage and improve experiences of services, applications, cloud, and networks. Along with this business 4.0 is digitally shifting the businesses offering the technologies that increase the volume, velocity, and variety of data. As traditional systems and manual efforts are facing challenges in correlating and analyzing the data or alerts, AIOps is stepping up to augment the enterprise intelligence in operations.

To conclude, the future is bright for IT and business operations with AIOps. The increasing shift of organizations core business toward the cloud, raising investments in the AIOps technology ecosystems, exponentially growing data volumes and increasing end-to-end business application assurance and uptime are driving the growth of AIOps market demand.

 

 

Marching Ahead to 2019

2019

Here is my take on the next 3 big trends to watch out as we march ahead into 2019.

1) Automation crossing over inflection point: Point I am making is progressing beyond task automation. For example, when we call a Bank, it really doesn’t matter whether a bot or a human reply from creating the net new value and better customer experience point of view. In fact, speaking to human can avoid following initial mundane activities alongside a BOT. Having a BOT may save cost and make operations efficient for a Bank, but what’s in it for the customer? Secondly, Automation has to elevate to be more intelligent and process-centric than taskmasters. That is what the inflection point for automation progressing to “creating value for consumers”.

2) “Shared to Distributed” economy/business models as a path forward: Over the past years Uber, Airbnb, Google and increasingly proliferated shared economy models are been successful use cases that rely on the contributions of users/external resources as a means to generate value within their own platforms. Unlike the Automation, here consumers get direct value from the shared economy models and better experience. But the shared economy model is still centralized and hence prevails risks limiting full potential. The shift is going to be towards a new model of decentralized organizations that are aggregating the resources of multiple people to provide a service to a very active group of consumers. This shift marks the advent of a new generation of “dematerialized” organizations that do not require physical offices, assets, or even employees.

3) The confluence of Digital technologies fuelling the next-level adaption/growth: We make a progress beyond adapting one or two digital forces towards the convergence of the ecosystem of digital technologies that drives the collective benefit of businesses, consumers and all stakeholders.

CPG Blockchains

scmCPG Supply Chains are undergoing an unprecedented change looking out for new ways of improvement. I am focusing on this blog on how net-new technologies including  Blockchain is transforming the CPG supply chains.  Evaluating few real-life examples in CPG space triggering a discussion on Blockchain relevance in CPGs.

CPG sectors that benefit from Blockchain are widespread. Fashion products, which is one of the prime CPG sectors ripe for Blockchain adaption where supply chain provenance plays a significant role. The other product classes include garment or makeup products, fine wine, art, luxury items or for that matter diamonds that can benefit from Blockchain adaption. I have been evaluating on how CPG companies can promote an “ethical fashion” or “ethical products” with Blockchain based applications. Let us dive into details.

Blockchain relevance to CPGs:

Focus areas chosen are supply chain provenance, transparency, counterfeiting, and sustainability. The enterprise-wide Blockchain platform could help to increase business velocity, create new revenue streams, and reduce cost and risk by securely extending the supply chain to drive tamper-resistant transactions on a trusted business network.

Provenance & Transparency: Do you agree that the relationship between CPG supply chains Transparency (access to information) is not always linear & straightforward with Traceability (provenance)? Let us look into how to build a Blockchain based solution for CPG supply chain provenance.

Blockchain could help in improving the transparency of the fashion supply chains, promoting sustainability and addressing fashion companies’ lack of ethical supply chains that are contributing to >10% global emissions, and as well in combating to counterfeiting.

Blockchain can play a role in transparency in transforming fashion supply chains through technologies such as track and trace and inventory management. With Blockchain, it is possible to create physical – digital link between goods and their digital identifiers. Cryptographic seal or serial number can be used as a physical identifier linking back to the product’s digital-twin. An example to quote is “Better Kinds”, with a focus on decentralized manufacturing allowing everyone to know where your clothes come from.

Counterfeiting: Blockchain solution as well helps fashion CPGs in combating counterfeiting by recording on blockchain every time goods change-in hands. The chain of custody on blockchain provides a record of the last party to gain custody of the product, showing where the counterfeit product slipped in, or an authentic product got diverted. Read my blog post, Combating Counterfeiting With Blockchain Technology

Sustainability:  The promising outcomes of Blockchain in this space include, sustainability gains in the form of reduced environmental impact and better assurance of human rights and fair work practices. Having a clear record of product history helps product buyers to be confident that goods being purchased are coming only from sources that have been recognized as being ethically sound. More accurately tracking substandard products and identifying their occurrence further upstream in supply chains will help reduce the scope of rework and recalls, providing considerable greenhouse gas reductions and other resource savings. the ultimate goal of Blockchain will be improved supply chain optimization gaining access to a more complete longitudinal supply chain datasets eliminating redundancies and bottlenecks, and ultimately, decreases in resource consumption.

Blockchain implementation process for CPG Blockchains:

Blockchain solutions could help fashion CPGs in their brand positioning as environment-friendly and tech-savvy. Existing technologies like ERPs, Enterprise Data Warehouse, Integration Technologies, and existing e-commerce website can enable provenance, but with practical limitations.  That is where new technologies including Mobile App Development, Public/Private Blockchain Platform, Crypto-Fiat payment gateways & wallets, Digital-Twins, Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Analytics, IoT Sensors, Robots & New Handheld device Hardware etc.

Blockchain implementation for CPGs is an art. The new technology adaption process includes building a public or private blockchain network bringing connecting all key stakeholders using a DLT. Create a token that promotes the use of such application and potentially incentivize the users and suppliers. Create wallets to store tokens and collect incentives. Integrate with payment gateways and exchanges. This forms the Blockchain Core. Then build business and application logic with workflows that support the provenance functionality. Integrate the Blockchain core with back-end transaction systems and ensure seamless flow of information ensuring the data integrity and privacy. It may be a good idea to consider a second layer solution for improved transaction rates and at the same time confining certain confidential information, in this case, supplier data to open access to all competitors via a blockchain. Developing a mobile app and lastly, integrating UI, Application (Blockchain Core) and back-end systems. A brief description of 3 layers of foundational architecture is provided below.

  • User Interface: Customer experience plays a significant role in provenance applications. Should have access to a friendly UX that should support consumers to be able to walk into their favorite retailers, use phones and scan the tag on a garment or makeup product to be able to pull up full supply chain information.
  • Application Logic: Build business and application logic with workflows that support the provenance functionality. This is the core platforms that developed and rolls out provenance application.
  • Data and Back-end Transactions: Brands should get a better handle on what’s really happening in their production processes and chosen technology should relieve a logistical headache by streamlining the record-keeping and verification processes. Second, it requires brands to voluntarily invite their suppliers (who will need to in turn invite their own suppliers, and so on down the chain), to adopt the technology.

How to calculate ROI for CPGBlockchains?

Setting up a Blockchain based application for CPG supply chain provenance involve a capital investment for infrastructure and development costs and ongoing maintenance costs. ROI is a derivative of whether such application attracts more consumers demand and/or willingness of consumers pay additional fees for access to truth and sustainability and/or reduced costs of the current supply chain with streamlined operations. Hence ROI should be computed as “[ Increased revenues from consumer demands & adaption + Premium fees consumer willing to pay + Reduced costs of supply chain operations – Total Investments & Costs (CapEx+OpEx)]

The real ROI of Blockchains come from handling the volume of CPG products and transactions having a second layer solutions to offload/ off-chain transaction volumes from core Blockchain. Estimating components is a challenge in computing Blockchain ROI. But there exists an opportunity to estimate parameters with a degree of accuracy. Such parameters include,

  • Improving the efficiencies of running workloads. Smart contract automation can save significant time in real life transactions avoiding manual interventions
  • Cost reduction is a great value in horizontally integrated supply chains. Blockchain can easily create a global view without expensive third parties
  • Increased trust among key stakeholders that would improve supply chain performance
  • CPG/Retail plastic/waste management can be incentivized leading to a better sustainability

Let us examine use cases:

The following two case studies offer a great insight into how Blockchains can enable provenance. From these examples, taking a value chain based approach for identifying incremental benefits along various supply chains components could fairly offer potential ROI perspective from Blockchain adaption.

  1. Examining the Everledger based blockchain application for traceability of diamonds. The key challenge of the diamond industry is certification of the ethical origin of the diamond. Noticed that Everledger has been trying to create a database of diamonds registering on the blockchain to certify the final cut diamond was ethically-sourced from “conflict-free” regions. Such examples can be used to create an anti-counterfeit database for other valuable goods such as fine wine and art.
  2. Moving on to another example, Blockchain enabled traceability application for yellowfin and skipjack tuna fish. The Etherium based platform trying to track the entire supply chain from fishermen to distributors. End users could track the source of their tuna fish sandwiches via a smartphone. This platform would enable determination of information about the producers, suppliers, and procedures undergone by the end product. allow confirmation of a given fish’s origin tracking the supply chain. Such a solution would present a viable model for product certification to an end consumer.

In Summary…

The complex blockchain solutions will provide an unprecedented level of transparency and traceability, to build the highest level of trust in the sustainability of the CPG supply chains. The CPG products are able to be traced on the blockchain through their unique tracking code with the information collected from linking all information sources within the global supply chain covering from the source through the production process up to the final point of sale as described in the case examples above.

Working as a single source of truth, Blockchain can change the way business transactions take place. From a supply chain perspective, such visibility will help ensure efficient transactions, while promoting safety, efficient recalls, the elimination of counterfeits, and the assurance of ethical trading.

I continue to research further on Blockchain relevance to CPG supply chains. While the core principles of Blockchain are being established, the companies adopting the new technology progressively evolve alongside. ABC (AI+Blockchain+Crtptocurrencies) continues to significantly alter Retail / CPG business models.

Reach out to me for further discussions @ kishor.akshinthala@gmail.com.