A human-centric approach backed by the latest digital technologies can help B2B organisations meet the rising demands of customers and supply chain challenges, says Jamie Rogers, Head of Operations for Panasonic Connect Europe.
Customer expectations are rising and business challenges are increasing. It could be considered the perfect storm. The Amazon effect in the consumer world, where customers can buy anything at any time and receive it the very next day has spread to the business-to-business marketplace. There is a demand for the same levels of transparency, service and communication. Combine this with the added complexity of B2B products and the challenges of global supply chains and it’s not hard to see why some businesses are struggling to live up to these increased expectations.
Who could have foreseen that one of the world’s biggest cargo ships would get wedged in the Suez Canal – freezing almost $10b a day in trade? Or that a pandemic would bring a halt to component production, interrupting many manufacturing industries from cars to smartphones and unbalancing global freight and logistics operations.
But it was Einstein who said: "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." And who am I to argue with Einstein?! The reality is that businesses must constantly look for new ways to meet and, if possible, even exceed their customer expectations – whatever the circumstances. Those that don’t will eventually end up out of the conversation.
To remain relevant and add value, industrial manufacturers and B2B organisations must develop an even deeper understanding of their customers’ needs and deliver exceptional experiences - without sacrificing hard-won efficiencies in cost and lean/agile practices.
The opportunity is to combine a human-centric approach, backed by the latest digital capabilities, to achieve the right balance of cost, whilst improving customer responsiveness and experience.
At Panasonic Connect Europe, we are looking to apply this thinking right across our business and with the acquisition of the world’s leading end-to-end supply chain platform, Blue Yonder, into the Panasonic Connect family, we can revolutionise our customers’ experience.
Our sales teams are continuously evaluating and re-evaluating the experiences that are most relevant for our customers. These can vary within the organisation itself. For example, the CEO through to the engineers, procurement and sales teams can all have their own expectations. Our sales teams aim to treat businesses like individuals. Get to know the customer and the ‘personality’ of the business. As a result, we aim to arm our sales teams and partners with the tools and operational transparency they need to satisfy our various customers’ changing and wide-ranging needs.
One area of focus is the inherently volatile supply chain. Challenges, such as global freight rates and logistics capabilities can be mitigated with proactive communications and greater transparency.
Here we are using machine learning and AI as a method to side-step or mitigate these disruptions and time lags to minimise any supply chain impacts to our customers. For example, by using AI to analyse global demand, we can make real-time adjustments to component ordering and production planning. This automation of the production process helps to provide both procurement efficiencies and smooth the order and delivery process for the customer.
In another area of the supply chain, we are using deep learning applications to analyse the movement of sea freight, to more accurately predict the inbound arrivals of products and provide ever more accurate delivery times for customers.
Hopefully, with these types of advancements, we can further accommodate supply chain disruptors into our analysis and improve our planning and production process – benefitting our customers. The more we can predict the unpredictable – the more time we can spend preparing for the unexpected!