In an episode of our podcast, Leaders in Supply Chain and Logistics, we talked with Avon’s Chief Supply Chain Officer about the use of leading-edge tech solutions in the supply chain, the skills required to stay on top of the developments in the industry, and many more interesting things.
There doesn’t seem to be any doubt in Vikram Agarwal’s mind when it comes to what’s one of the most important, if not the most important, skills that people looking to enter the supply chain industry need to have. It’s astute business acumen, the type that gives rise to a strong skill set and a good sense of leadership.
“We are not doing anything in the supply chain, which is different from what the business is doing,” Vikram explained. “And if we are doing something which is supply chain for the sake of supply chain, I think we should stop it.”
That’s the reality of supply chain operations today, because, as Vikram noted, the supply chain of today is not a silo.
“In this world, with all the connectivity, with all the growth criteria, with all the boom and bust of companies coming in, companies going out, unless in the supply chain we behave as true businessmen, we will not be able to understand what we can do within the supply chain.”
Business acumen is only a part of what hopeful supply chain professionals would need in order to have an up-to-date skillset. If we’d look at the new tools Avon has been rolling out in select markets, it becomes instantly clear that the organic intelligence we possess simply doesn’t cut it anymore, at least for some tasks.
So when it comes to demand forecasting, Avon has been using a bespoke AI solution with the capability to learn from the previous performance.
“It’s a very complex algorithm, with lots behind the engine, which primarily looks at all kinds of factors – the weather, the economic situation of a town, and so on,” says Vikram. “You factor all of that in and you get the output over there, which is reasonably accurate.”
The role of tech – and the need for tech-related skills – doesn’t stop there either. One of the major trends Vikram sees in store for the supply chain industry is detailed personalization of manufacturing.
“Our thought process on that is that if somebody says that ‘I want a fragrance, which should be custom designed by me, I want a little bit more of this kind of notes and a little less of floral notes’ and so on, then we should be able to concoct it for her in a bottle design of her choice and a cap of her choice and the declaration of her choice,” said Vikram. “And probably even her name monogrammed on it.”
And while we’re waiting for the global deployment of the technology needed for that kind of level of customization, which Vikram believes is already there in parts, you might as well heed Vikram’s words and work on your supply chain skills because supply chain still requires traditional skills. And if you just so manage to be a “catalyst of a role model to bring more people like themselves and to develop more and more people down the line who think and who behave, and who have the same superlative skillsets,” as Vikram puts it, you might end up being just what the industry needs. So no pressure.