On our recent webinar, Digitizing the Supply Chain for Remote Workforces, Tom and I were very happy to be joined by Stave CEO, Greg Clock. The goal, as always, was to help our Prospects and Customers get the most out of their ServiceNow environment. Today’s business climate is being disrupted by several factors – some good (Digitization) and some not-so-good (Covid-19). Businesses are scrambling to fill the gaps in their supply chain and operations to accommodate a more remote and mobile workforce. Stave has been building software to address the Digital Transformation Chasm to allow for smarter workflows long before it became an imperative.
Let’s talk about the main points we were looking to highlight during our webinar.
Supply Chain vs. Procurement
First, some table-setting. We wanted to get on the same page with everyone about a couple of terms we see interchanged and/or misunderstood: ‘Supply Chain’ and ‘Procurement.’
Procurement includes all of the activity around managing vendors: vetting, onboarding, offboarding, communicating, managing contracts, etc. Indirect procurement is all about the operation of the corporation; all the materials, supplies, and services needed to operate. Direct procurement includes all the materials you need to produce products you sell in the market.
Supply Chain is the bigger picture that includes procurement activity along with managing the assets that are obtained through that procurement system: commissioning, decommissioning, maintenance, chain of custody, stock levels, and the activity around those assets.
As Tom discussed, an area we like to call “the messy middle” – Indirect Procurement where there are often few policies and procedures in place: Stave utilizes powerful, clean workflows to provide structure and smart workflow policy to your system.
The Age of Remote Work Calls for a Digital Supply Chain
According to Gallup, the percentage of employed adults saying they had worked from home specifically out of concern for the Coronavirus rose from 31% in mid-March doubled to 62% today.
The numbers clearly show that most Companies today are working to develop a blended “work from home; work from office” policy and in fact many companies today are completely revamping their Corporate Real Estate efforts to anticipate future office space required for non-essential Corporate functions. Our belief is these numbers will continue to settle but one thing we know for sure; a great number of employees who are required to be in an office 40 hours per week will drastically change downward. This creates tremendous opportunities for smart; Digital Workflows.
Remote Work Brings New Challenges to the Supply Chain
The market is shifting rapidly to remote work. And these new remote workers – a lot of whom have very little experience with remote work – are facing new challenges. According to a recent PwC survey of remote workers, 50% said the main reason they went to the office in the first place was to collaborate with co-workers – a fact that is leading to a lot of digital transformation to accommodate those collaboration needs. The survey also showed that 28% of workers said they used their offices for equipment like printers or meeting equipment and 22% said their work had yet to be digitized for them and they are still dealing with paper documents to communicate
Here we see in pretty stark detail what a lot of organizations are facing. Workers – not used to remote work – trying to figure out how to collaborate, do their jobs, and get the equipment they need. That’s causing problems for the whole organization, not just the workers.
Greg gave some very relevant examples of these disruptions. There are companies that have really never thought about remote work until now. They’ve operated under strict non-remote work guidelines. These are companies that have built a team culture that relies on the team being together physically every day. And all of their operations and activity around the supply chain are based on that paradigm.
Salesforce, headquartered in San Francisco, announced this month that they don’t foresee allowing anyone to enter the corporate headquarters until at least August of 2021. One of the most difficult-to-predict problems they’ve had is how to manage elevator use and ensure compliance with State mandated distancing measures. If no more than 2 or 3 people can ride an elevator at once, how early do you have to get to work just to get to the floor you work on?
Intel is facing all of the same issues mentioned but took the issue to a new level regarding employee talent acquisition and retainment. Employees that originally moved to Silicon Valley to work for the tech giants are finding that they can do their jobs just as effectively from their kitchen or home office as they did from the company office. Silicon Valley being a very expensive place to live is leading a lot of folks to pick up and seek out a more reasonably priced place to live. As an executive in this situation, you begin to worry about employee loyalty. If they can work from anywhere for anyone, are we still their top choice? As a result, we’re seeing specific remote-work based benefits being implemented by tech companies trying to retain or secure top talent.
To the surprise of some, companies are seeing productivity not only maintain, but increase during remote work. So, we should expect this trend to become even more of a norm going forward.
Supply Chain Challenges Brought on by Remote Work
The shift to remote work brings challenges to all parts of business – and the Supply Chain is no exception. There are many challenges a remote workforce can present to logistics and supply chain ecosystems: hardware, software, electronic accessories, and more all need to be tracked and maintained. Inventory levels need to be kept accurate and re-ordering made accessible – all while eliminating as much physical contact as possible. This is where Stave comes in. We’ve been thinking about these questions since before everyone was made to by a virus.
No-Touch Asset Tracking
Tracking assets in an environment where you have assets scattered across your workforce and in their homes presents many problems. But it also presents opportunities. Business leaders can now implement systems that allow decision makers to make real-time decisions to positively affect the supply chain and production. Digital records enable you to identify, isolate, and address issues within hours.
But it’s not just about technology – people, process, and culture has to change with the technology to maximize the positive effects of digital transformation.
The power of the technology hinges on – yes, how effectively you adopt it into your culture – but also on centralizing the huge amount of data your organization generates into one system of record and the visibility you get because of that. You can now inform your decisions with accurate, recent information about your supply chain. You can identify exactly where your bottlenecks are and what’s causing them. You can identify vendor or supplier issues and communicate them from the system. And a lot more.
The Virtual Stock Room for Remote Workers
Before offices closed, if a corporate employee or office worker needed more pens, paper clips, Post-its, ink, etc. they would make a quick trip to the trusty corporate supply room. That option has been eliminated for remote workers. So how do you replace such an often overlooked but vital component to your workforce?
One way we address this is by shifting our thinking from a physical stock room to a virtual stock room. Let’s look at a couple of examples for how this can be addressed.
Using Smart Kiosks, employees can order the items they need, and then stop by the corporate lobby or other location to pick up their items from a kiosk – no face-to-face interactions necessary. QR Codes can be leveraged to streamline the workflow, to make sure the transaction is recorded, and the asset assignment is updated properly. Because your assets are all tagged with a unique code, the inventory system updates itself with the activity logged when the code is scanned.
We are also finding this no-touch method effective for dropping off items that need repair or provisioning where the technician can pick them up later to perform the tasks needed. Employees can use the kiosk to find out what they need for certain activities, find out what’s in stock, check out materials, etc. All of this activity is gathered and reported in the system.
Punchouts (think ‘shopping carts’) are a way to integrate third party vendors with ServiceNow. Organizations can set up a Virtual Supply Closet with pre-approved; most common supplies and materials. Employees visit the Virtual Supply Closet to order what they need. That order is communicated and completed through the ServiceNow platform where approvals are made and budgets applied. Once approved, Stave generates a purchase order for the material and sends it to Amazon (or other vendors) for fulfillment. Then the shipment is direct-shipped to the person who ordered it or to a central pick-up location (like a smart kiosk). This entire process is digital with smart workflow approvals, etc. Simple click and check out!
This gives the organization a lot of control over rogue spending and duplicate ordering while accommodating a remote workforce.
At Stave we want to help you look to the future and realize the opportunities that reside there. We’d be proud to partner with you if you share that drive.
Ready to get started? It all starts with a discovery call with our product experts. Everyone’s Supply Chain ecosystem is unique, so let us have a look at your processes and unique business challenges. We’ll apply our industry learnings to smartly solve your problems.