Part 2: A Supply Chain Q&A with Maplewave’s SVP of Global Development

Transportation by sea, air and land

This blog is Part 2 of A Supply Chain Q&A with Maplewave’s SVP of Global Development, you can find Part 1 on our blog page.

In Part 2, we’ve posed 4 more questions regarding supply chain resilience, the impact of COVID-19, and what the future looks like to Brad Lapin, SVP of Global Business Development at Maplewave.

Brad is an experienced telecommunications and logistics visionary specializing in inventory optimization and bespoke solutions for telco. A strategic thinker, his entrepreneurial approach transforms businesses into major industry players. Brad was a founding member of MTN(Mtel) in 1994, established Bradian Logistics Solutions in 2000 which sold to Brightpoint in 2008, and headed up Brightpoint Southern Africa and later Ingram Micro Southern Africa before completing a management buyout in 2017.

Q4: What risks can telcos eliminate or minimize by having a strong resilient supply chain?

A good supply chain manager or partner understands the risks associated with the entire supply chain.

For telcos, this begins with manufacturing and includes risks around security, storage, inventory management, and the mitigation of losses. Different industries have different risks, and your partners must understand those risks and have processes and systems in place to manage and eliminate them where possible.

The first risk we always talk about in telco supply chains is physical security. Mobile devices are highly sought-after commodities and often are the target of criminals, irrespective of the location be it in the warehouse, in-transit, or in-channel. We’ve seen and implemented some interesting solutions over the years and this varies from market to market.

Another big risk for telcos is market share shrinkage, created through high demand or lack of product availability. However, if you have a resilient and strong supply chain, you’ve got less chance of your market share shrinking because you’re serving the customer what they want, when they want it, where they want it.

One of the key elements of Maplewave’s platform is our sellout data insights that allow telcos to replenish products that are selling fast and consistently. This is especially important for telcos who are located within the same retail footprint as their competitors. Managing inventory and ensuring product availability promotes customer satisfaction and drives loyalty. It is a no-brainer as to what this does for product lifecycle management and working capital!

Something remarkably interesting I saw last year from a carrier in London, was that the carrier had taken the approach of significantly reducing their accessories to a more narrow selection. They found that this helped boost sales, simply because people were not overwhelmed with the selection of accessories usually found in telco stores. The wonderful thing here is that they also were able to reduce their working capital, you do not want bucketloads of cash tied up in unnecessary inventory.

Q5: What impact did COVID-19 have on supply chains, and what has it taught telcos about their supply chains?

COVID taught people just how fragile supply chains are and just how critical they are to us. We rely on supply chains immensely for food, essential services, health care, and tech. Every aspect of our lives is dependent on supply chains working and working well.

Telcos specifically have always been very vulnerable with regards to product availability. For example, if there is a shortage of glass for the new smart device being manufactured, the impact is immediate. This was heightened with COVID, where we saw a lot of factories flip over and start manufacturing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). This in turn has had a severe impact on components and manufacturing, it caused telcos to re-think, re-forecast, and in some instances cancel orders, as they were unsure of the short to medium-term impacts on product supply.

Forecasting has become increasingly difficult as the market recovers and reacts. The impact of component manufacturing has constrained the number of components available to OEMs and ODMs, and this puts pressure on the availability of products. Leading to the resurgence of second-hand or refurbed devices in many markets. And it is not only manufacturing disrupting supply chains, shipping has been delayed due to lockdown and companies have been unable to keep continuous shipping in place. This is contributing to product unavailability during device sale resurgence, leaving supply chains under pressure to restore a balance.

As online fulfillment reaches an all-time high with consumers buying online, telcos need to ensure service providers and solutions can manage these new volumes. Supply chains need to react and shrink or grow to the market demands.

Q6: For 2021, what will the telco supply chain trends be? And which trends will we see in the next 2-5 years?

The key will be to focus on recovery, in terms of getting products back on the shelf and being able to meet customer demands.

Businesses with resilient and strong supply chains that they can leverage will recover faster and be able to leapfrog the others. I expect some market re-positioning in the telco space and many mergers and acquisitions as consolidation takes place.

I also believe that integration and collaboration between products is going to increase. So, when you look at the IoT space, we are going to see a move to products that have built-in IoT functionality.

The devices consumers will be buying will already have a pre-integration into many other IoT devices. The brand itself will have built this connected world for consumers – and this is already happening, it’s just going to get so much bigger. Flagship stores are already becoming experience stores, where customers can walk in, see a mobile device, and see how it drives everything else in their lives such as TV and other home appliances. They can then immediately purchase those goods and will want them delivered efficiently. This means your supply chain and systems will need to be able to manage and facilitate the distribution of a plethora of products.

Online marketplaces have and will continue to explode, so will the ability to provide products online and ship to home will only increase, this requires innovative solutions to improve turnaround times and meet consumer demands.  There is a remarkably interesting dynamic at play here in terms of how people interact around the world – will your supply chain be agile enough to meet this change?

In the future, supply chain operations will need to have the ability to meet the consumer's demands, provide flexible deliveries, and real-time reporting of inventory and inventory movement. I honestly believe that IoT and blockchains will influence the supply chain massively, at Maplewave we are already investigating this within our world of systems and solutions.

Q7: What is the main thing that telcos should be investing in when it comes to their supply chain?

The one thing I would invest in if I were a telco today is a supply chain solution that provides flexibility, agility, and has an incredible depth of reporting. With these abilities, telcos can react to market conditions and make decisions that enable them to shape what the future looks like based on the current circumstances and future requirements – this truly enables future-proofing the business.

If one has the flexibility to meet the demands of how the market moves, you have power.

If you have visibility on current activities in the supply chain, you have insights and data to enable decision-making.

Telcos need solutions and partners with innovative software to achieve this! Partners that drive positive impact on working capital and reduction in inventory aging and obsolescence through collaborative planning and replenishment.

Interested in all thing's telco supply chain? Connect with Brad on LinkedIn!

Maplewave Company

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