India’s logistics industry has entered a robust phase of cloud-based digital transformation during the pandemic and DTDC, which is one of India’s preferred courier brands with the largest network of delivery destinations, is battling now for blockchain-based technology to continue energizing the supply chain ecosystem.
DTDC is already heavily invested in big data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT), where complex data sets are analyzed to improve supply chain performance, revenue and customer analytics. The company also enabled big data analytics to its middle managers to increase its delivery performance at the branch level in the last mile industry.
IANS spoke to Santosh Abbimane, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Transformation Officer at DTDC on how Blockchain technology can transform logistics supply chain networks.
Some edited excerpts from an interview:
Tell us about your digital transformation journey before the pandemic? Has Covid acted as a catalyst in accelerating your digital transformation journey?
Our digital transformation journey was undertaken in waves from the conventional implementation of SAP ECC for financial accounting. Then DTDC launched the first digital wave by supporting a startup called Shipsy (LLama Logisol Pvt Ltd). With this decision, we moved to digital first and last mile processes. This included transforming not only DTDC, but the now over 13,000 DTDC franchisees and other partners in our ecosystem, over 50,000. This was followed by moving to an online communications suite, completing the business lifecycle by implementing SAP Sales Cloud, SAP BRIM for revenue management and SAP BPC for consolidation, EKA another startup for T&E as well as digitizing P2P processes.
In the latest wave, we also implemented DWHs in multi-cloud environments which improved operations and performance management, auditing, and more. RPA tools where distributed process data is needed and ML/AI tools to improve productivity. Not only do we use ML/AI operations, but also to train staff, including “Smile Ambassadors”, our last mile.
The DTDC retail app and Smile Code-based delivery – first launched by DTDC – has been a huge hit in the post-pandemic era. The IOT-based application ensuring the movement of temperature-controlled vaccines without refrigerated trucks was also a first in India.
After the data center migration, what other future problems are you looking to solve?
We aim to improve in areas such as integrating functional views through Data Lake warehouse configurations, machine learning, and AI-guided route optimization. We invest heavily in intelligent automation of infrastructure managed services, application performance monitoring, and dynamic application security testing to protect and improve the security of our customers’ data.
We also focus on the integration of IOT applications, including vehicle tracking, track and trace, etc. The extension of IOT applications from farm to fork to add value to the agriculture and food processing sectors, etc. We are also working on sustainability and automation initiatives to improve our carbon footprint.
How do you use big data and analytics to better meet your customers’ digital needs?
One area where we’ve seen incredible impact has been the democratization of data. Standard reports are in pull mode, but they can be linked to more complex analysis if needed. We have invested in big data analytics where complex data sets are analyzed to improve supply chain performance, revenue and customer analytics. All of our leadership teams in various functional areas use big data analytics to improve sales goals, customer retention, operational efficiency and financial performance. Additionally, we have enabled big data analytics for our middle managers to increase our delivery performance at the branch level in the last mile industry.
What will the logistics landscape look like in five years? For example, cold chain monitoring devices leverage the IoT to provide real-time temperature data, for example. What other game-changing ideas are in store?
Looking at the big picture, a key issue is that currently supply chains are still distributed. Manufacturing, inventory, storage (both information and goods), transportation, and distribution systems are discrete and have varying degrees of integration. We will see tighter integration at all stages of supply chains.
For example, if you own the warehouse responsible for the flow of goods, there may be times when suppliers fail to deliver goods intact or on time, which can lead to time-consuming disputes and punitive legal remedies.
Blockchain technology will avoid such scenarios as it would allow you to negotiate smart contacts with vendors that clearly define the terms, conditions and mode of operation between the two parties, while further imposing smart data collection and control. via sensors of all assets to generate critical information. on the condition of the goods and the time of delivery which is also an IOT use case.
Moreover, the use of IOT for the movement of temperature-controlled products is already here and DTDC uses it. The use of IOT in healthcare will evolve from surveillance to active management to become the preferred delivery mechanisms for treatments.
I also think IOT involvement will be more visible in farm-to-fork items, even in cost-sensitive markers and further down the value chain.
Supply chains will evolve and use IOT and wireless communications will help track bottlenecks. AI/ML will refine their forecasting models and help manufacturers and service providers plan better:
Unmanned mobile robots in warehouses are a limited reality, they will soon become ubiquitous
Drones for online execution – Predictive models combined with next-gen fleets could reduce execution time. Blockchain technology could become the new operating system for supply chain networks that combines B2B connectivity with software applications.
One of the main emerging trends is that of green logistics. Can you tell us how digitization and cloud technology can help the logistics industry reduce its carbon footprint?
The world is now entering the fourth industrial revolution which will feature major technological advancements in the areas of artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing, 3D printing, and more. The logistics industry has largely embraced cloud computing (a large-scale, shared computing infrastructure available over the Internet) as the engine enabling these technological advances. These advances in turn drive cloud adoption.
The biggest advantage is to automate and use off-the-shelf programs at some of the service providers and available on the hyper-scalable platforms. In a country like India, the monitoring of solar installations (for example on the roofs of large hubs) and the storage of electricity and their integration with alternative but temporary modes of carbon-based energy sources (sets DG) are key requirements for 24×7 operations.
Where solar installations are currently sub-optimal, monitoring electricity usage, DG backup efficiency, etc. can provide an important route to a greener process.
Logistics applications allied with AI/ML route predictions and sensors on electric delivery vehicles could ensure that vehicle routes are scheduled to be back in base for recharging at the right time.
Using cloud-based applications to automatically monitor heavy vehicle movements and therefore driver movements via alerts, is a good way to improve efficiency and fuel consumption.
What has cloud technology enabled you to do better?
AWS allowed us to migrate to the cloud at a reasonable cost, in a phased manner while improving application performance. So we could be sure of what we were getting for the price we are gradually paying. The ability to fine-tune operations to optimize costs was a significant benefit. The active partnership of AWS teams who work with us to scale and achieve cost savings has been a key factor in enabling us to move many applications to the cloud. We also found cost-effective analytics solutions to democratize our data consumption.
In short, AWS provided a scalable platform for our business applications allowing for faster delivery, improved security, faster application startup and portability. From a basic logistics standpoint, all of our first and last mile applications are on AWS, along with the associated reports and dashboards.
Currently, most of our SAP stack includes SAP ECC, SAP BRIM, and SAP BPC. We also use AWS for revenue analysis and commercial first and last mile payment calculations.
What are the essential qualities of today’s CIO/CTO to stay one step ahead?
The baseline for any CIO/CTO should be to work with business teams to understand the required results and focus on achieving them. It sounds easier than it is when you have to consider TCO and ROI metrics.
However, the main contribution of a CIO/CTO is to work with functional teams to push the boundaries of what can be delivered to the customer. for example, in logistics, B2B customers (businesses) demand the same standards as in B2C (say an e-com process). Expectations just aren’t the same anymore.
We live in a world where technology is constantly changing and so are customer expectations, so the CIO/CTO must try to stay ahead of the curve to be effective. The only way to do that is to be a digital change agent. Last but not least, to use a phrase from Thomas Friedman, work with internal customers to ensure that AI is not seen as artificial intelligence but as an intelligent assistant.