IIoT: BXB Digital looks to visibility opportunity first in Supply Chain as a Solution services provision.
Shankar Jayaraman Senior Director BXB Digital was one of the several accomplished speakers at the recent Supply Chain Conference, hosted by Automotive Logistics Magazine in Atlanta. To take a step back, BXB Digital was launched by Brambles in February 2016. At that time it was tasked with exploring opportunities for:
- internal customers, e.g. where solutions like asset tracking can help make Brambles’ businesses more efficient, and
- external customers, e.g. where asset tracking can help customers better manage their inventories and, over time, also where Brambles can harness the data to which we have access as a result of our strong network positions to bring new and improved solutions for customers.
It was also asked to review existing or ‘in-development’ IIoT solutions within the company such as those at CHEP-TRAC to determine which ones might be scalable.
Fifteen months later, BXB Digital, the Silicon Valley-based branch of Brambles Ltd., parent of CHEP and IFCO, employs around 40 engineers and data scientists, according to Jayaraman.
“We endeavor to deliver digital solutions that increase the visibility of supply chains and the solutions required at the intersection of people, processes, and tools,” he said. Of course, he added, such solutions would initially be built in conjunction with the existing Brambles network, which comprises more than 550 million mobile assets globally, supported by 850 service centers and 14,000 employees. In his presentation, he did not offer any specifics regarding the application of technology to CHEP’s mobile assets in order to achieve visibility.
“We can go from monetizing ownership of assets to monetizing information,” Jayaraman said. “Go from optimizing a pipeline to managing shared resource allocation using a digital platform. Go from siloed value creation just for a single firm to creating value for the whole ecosystem.” He presented examples of the switch from physical assets to digital, such as from taxi to Uber and from the hotel to Airbnb.
Jayaraman uses the term Supply Chain as a Service ( the term seems to first appear in the literature in 2013) to describe offerings that will be made possible by switching the focus to digital solutions.
The most promising early opportunity for Supply Chain as a Service, Jayaraman reiterated, is visibility. “Where are my goods or assets and how are they doing. And how long have they been where they’ve been. And even to generate this level of visibility, the first question is, does the customer even care?” he asked.
“One of the key challenges for any of this is that to do anything,” Jayaraman said, “we need to share data.” He said that while various stakeholders are optimizing internally, it is not happening across multiple modalities.
While visibility can help reduce risks for supply chain participants, Jayaraman observed that the customer may have other priorities. “The end customer may not care where exactly things are, but wants to be assured that goods will arrive when they are supposed to arrive, exactly the same way, every time,” he said.
Jayaraman said the multi-million dollar question is whether visibility can be monetized in terms of when, how and who will pay for it. “Initially, maybe it is a cost of doing business, but over time, as we show value through the visibility and information, there is an opportunity for everyone to capture value.”