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Q&A: Collaborative supply chains help solve critical demand (Includes interview)

Times of major crisis require innovation and collaboration between businesses. As an example of one key initiative, Arena are developing strategies to help today’s innovators use to tackle some of the most significant business challenges that product managers face today.

To understand more, Digital Journal spoke with George Lewis, VP of Business Development and Strategy at Arena Solutions.

Digital Journal: What is helping to drive innovations that can help to tackle the coronavirus?

George Lewis: The current situation is a wake-up call for those companies that haven’t invested in a nimble, flexible software infrastructure to manage their supply chains and product development efforts. What’s more, organizations that don’t have a flexible culture are at a major disadvantage, too. Today, companies’ most critical asset is the ability to adapt. Every business process – including those traditionally managed in-person, such as design reviews – has to be conducted virtually. That’s especially true as businesses pivot quickly to make products entirely new to them like ventilators and face masks. Those organizations that have moved aggressively to the cloud have an advantage. Those that force employees to rely on VPN and over-burdened IT infrastructures will struggle to move at the speed that’s required. We think the lessons learned through this crisis will have far-reaching implications on supply chains and product development going forward.

DJ: How has Arena Solutions been looking into industry initiatives?

Lewis: Our customers share some common traits: they re-think what it means to innovate and they move quickly, introducing new products that disrupt categories. To do that, they’ve adopted cloud technologies for product lifecycle management (PLM), quality management, ERP and other processes core to product development. We set out earlier this year to tell some of their stories through our new industry initiative.

As it turns out, the lessons from their experiences are very relevant in today’s environment. For example, “Orchestrate the development and introduction of new products across networks of supply chain partners, R&D teams, and customer groups” has particular relevance. In order to be able to pivot quickly, product manufacturers require collaboration across their extended enterprise. Adoption of solutions that enable and foster such collaboration allow companies to react quicker and be more informed as challenges persist.

DJ: How can these initiatives help to fight COVID-19?

Lewis:We firmly believe that providing collaborative cloud-based solutions that can be provisioned quickly is key to helping companies scale production of new products, including those used to fight COVID-19. We are working closely with our customers, including those actively involved in the fight against COVID-19, to ensure their efforts aren’t hampered as they work more virtually than ever. Relying on collaborative, multi-user platforms that can be accessed by anyone from anywhere in the world, is key to ensuring uninterrupted production of critical products.

DJ: What are your overall key findings?

Lewis:One of the key findings of the report was “Innovation isn’t simply the result of one moment of brilliant insight. It results from building a culture, an infrastructure, and a connected experience to bring that insight to life and continuously improve on it.” With the current challenges of COVID-19, those organizations that have the right culture and infrastructure are best suited to react to the crisis. From the connected experience perspective, we all have seen how cloud technologies like Zoom have transformed industries unaccustomed to the virtual workplace, all while allowing people to connect during separated times. Some of our customers like Kinsa, developers of smart thermometers, are weathering the storm by relying on their adopted connected approach, which is incredibly relevant right now.

DJ: How can supply chains be best tracked and monitored?

Lewis:The best way to track and monitor your supply chain is by having a strong foundation for communication with supply partners. It allows for quicker and more informed decisions to be made. In the PLM space, it can mean improved collaboration around approved parts and the ability to find alternate sources as components become unavailable. From a quality perspective, it can mean better insight into conditions that affect quality, or specific reactions to current events to improve manufacturability with minimal human contact. It also means the ability to adapt quickly – provision new suppliers, grant different levels of access to data – without navigating corporate IT overhead.

DJ: What will the legacy of COVID-19 be on business practices?

Lewis:We believe you’ll see a realization among businesses that they can get more done virtually than they realize. While face-to-face interaction is always critical to develop the right relationships, business travel can be costly and cause delay. Needless to say, many folks will have second thoughts about traveling even after this is over. More than that, organizations will have to revisit their business continuity plans. In addition to implementing more flexible remote work policies, there will be a major shift to cloud-based communication solutions that are less likely to be adversely affected and improve communication across the extended enterprise.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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