Executive Insights: Brian Laung Aoaeh and Lisa Morales-Hellebo, co-founders of The New York Supply Chain Meetup
“No man is an island,” and no company is a supply chain network. Instead, supply chains are, “a network of connected and interdependent organizations mutually and cooperatively working together to control, manage and improve the flow of materials and information from suppliers to end users.”
Brian Laung Aoaeh and Lisa Morales-Hellebo, co-founders of The New York Supply Chain Meetup LLC, operate under the mantra “the past ran on supply chains. The present runs on supply chains. The future will run on supply chains. The world is a supply chain.”
In their efforts to realize this vision, Brian and Lisa have joined with other supply chain professionals to curate and organize events that seek, find, encourage, and include a wide range of views and ideas on the most significant problems related to global supply chain networks. The network is growing, and while it may have started in New York, other cities are getting on board.
As supply chains becoming more complex, demand-driven, and global in terms of the flow of information, capital, goods, and services, Brian and Lisa explained that The New York Supply Chain Meetup was engendering interactions between pretty much everyone with a stake in supply chains. “We think this approach will lead to a greater understanding of the problems and the opportunities open to innovation in supply chain technology,” they explained.
Below, Brian and Lisa expanded on some of the ideas that drive their organization. Take a few minutes to check out their website, and see how you might benefit from networking.
Shipping and Freight Resource: Can you explain how The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation came to be, and how it empowers individual companies in a very fragmented industry?
Brian and Lisa: In August 2017, together with a few other people we know in NYC, we decided to start a supply chain meetup in New York City, we named it The New York Supply Chain Meetup and held an event to kick things off in November 2017. To our surprise about 150 people showed up for the launch – you can read the detailed story about our launch here. . . .
Since then, we have held monthly gatherings which have caught the attention of people in other parts of the world. Some of them asked if we could work with them to start similar communities where they live . . . so the idea of a federation of supply chain meetups arose from those conversations. Our mission is: To nurture and grow the world’s foremost open, global, multidisciplinary community of people devoted to building the supply chain networks of the future — starting in NYC.
Our vision is: To create a global movement; the largest community on the planet of people obsessed with supply chain technology, who are trying to develop new products and build new companies – while learning from each other, and supporting one another.
The New York Supply Chain Meetup now has over one thousand members. This blog post describes why we feel New York City is an ideal base from which a global supply chain community should grow. We are in the early stages of creating sister communities in Singapore and Vancouver, and hope that they will both have formal launches later this year.
Our work so far has been largely bootstrapped by the volunteer efforts of a group of organizers with a high level of enthusiasm for the topic. The community in New York City has benefited from the generous support of Work-Bench, SAP.iO, UPS, and Particle Ventures.
However, we’re still seeking global and local sponsors who share our vision and want to grow the kind of global community we believe should exist in order to spur the grassroots and multidisciplinary conversations we have been having in our community in New York City.
Can you talk about the ecosystem approach, and how it gives smaller companies a platform to compete with bigger ones?
We have adopted Martin Christopher’s definition of a Supply Chain as “A network of connected and interdependent organizations mutually and cooperatively working together to control, manage and improve the flow of materials and information from suppliers to end users.”
As a result, we think less in terms of competition, and more in terms of collaboration, and cooperation, for mutual benefit.
Our mantra – which we have trademarked, is: “The past ran on supply chains. The present runs on supply chains. The future will run on supply chains. The world is a supply chain.”
If you believe that, then you also have to believe that no single company can go it alone, especially if one takes into account the transformations taking place in global trade and commerce; Supply chains are becoming more complex, more demand-driven, and more global in terms of the flow of information, capital, goods, and services that enable the world’s consumption-driven economy.
As a result, we encourage interactions between all the people, organizations, entities, professions, enterprises, small and medium sized businesses, technology startups, investors, and regulators that have a direct interest in supply chain innovation. We think this approach will lead to a greater understanding of the problems and the opportunities open to innovation in supply chain technology.
UPS, DHL, and FedEx can always compete in other ways, but within our community we’d like to see them work together, for example, to create a blockchain standard for their industry on which startups developing new blockchain technology can also build.
Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd, CMA CGM, and MSC can always compete in other ways, but within our community we’d like to see them work together, for example, to create a global trade digitization platform and standards for their industry on which startups developing new technology can also build.
IBM, SAP, Microsoft, and GT Nexus can always compete in other ways, but within our community we’d like to see them work together to ensure that their supply chain software platforms are interoperable and work towards ensuring that their customers get the most out of their investment in supply chain technology and that young startups can build new functionality on their platforms.
Customers expect better service for their investment in supply chain technology, and we believe the ecosystem-driven approach facilitates that, and will ultimately lead to greater profits for the companies creating products and services that increase the functional efficiency of individual value chains within companies, as well as global supply chains.
How far along is the logistics industry, in terms of cooperation and collaboration, and what are you doing to advance those objectives?
Supply chain is much more than logistics. Though, logistics is what most people think of when the words “supply chain” come up in conversation. There’s supply chain management – which is about developing strategies and tactics. There’s supply chain logistics – which is about actually moving physical goods from one location to another.
There’s supply chain finance – which is about ensuring that the capital that facilitates the production of goods and services flows securely from one node in the supply chain to other nodes in the supply chain. We are summarizing things greatly, but the reader should be able to see how that collection of activities can quickly become incredibly complex.
Specifically addressing your question, within supply chain logistics, we believe there is plenty room for cooperation and collaboration in the use and deployment of technology platforms. That being said, we are outsiders who are also new to this in relation to some of the supply chain professionals that we have met in the recent past. So, we too are thinking about this question within the context of the culture that currently exists in the supply chain industry . . .
We expect to develop better insights as time progresses.
What steps is The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation taking to help its members cope with market volatility, uncertainty, and also the increasing pace of technological advancement in a very traditional industry?
Some of the complaints we’ve heard from startup founders who are building new technology for the supply chain market, or new technology-enabled products with the supply chain functionality are:
- How do we find enterprise customers for our first pilot?
- How do we find supply chain professionals who can help us understand how our product would be used by professionals in the industry?
- How do we identify talented people who understand technology but also understand supply chain so that we can recruit them to join our team?
- How do we find professional service providers who understand the nuances of what we’re trying to do and can help us with tailored advice?
From large companies we’ve heard comments like; We’ve been grappling with this problem for decades, and we can no longer afford to do things that way, but we do not know the people doing the kind of research that could lead to a solution. Do you know anyone we may not have heard about who’s thinking about this?
So, as part of The New York Supply Chain Meetup, and ultimately as part of The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation, we are creating a partnership network which will help us tackle those sorts of concerns very directly.
- We have helped one of the world’s biggest shipping companies connect with a leading academic research lab for a potential collaboration on solving stochastic optimization problems in global logistics.
- We have helped some startups initiate discussions with some large enterprises for the purpose of possibly collaborating on business development initiatives.
- We have introduced startups to one another for conversations about integrating their products in order to make them more attractive for industries that one set of founders did not initially consider due to a lack of knowledge of the problem as it manifests in that industry.
- We have already made several introductions between startups and subject matter experts to help them initiate new implementations of cutting edge technology in their existing business model.
- We’re engaged in very preliminary conversations with two separate government agencies – one in NYC and another from Singapore about how they might be able to engage with this global community in order to drive their respective economic development aims.
Remember that our community is less than a year old, and everyone working on this is doing so on a volunteer basis, in addition to being employed somewhere else. This is a labor of love, and we’re each driven by our shared enthusiasm for the future of technology and innovation in supply chain, and how that combination can solve some of the problems that confront our world. We expect the output from our efforts to far exceed the energy we are putting into this.
Looking at the year ahead, what threats and opportunities are you looking at, and what advice do you have for supply chain companies that will be facing them?
As we have already said, we do not consider ourselves experts in Supply Chain. So we’re not going to pretend we can offer any meaningful advice on what people who’ve been at this much longer than we have should or should not be doing. As individuals we focus more on what we can learn and on facilitating conversations we believe will be mutually beneficial to all the participants.
We are not in the business of giving advice. We are focused on creating an environment in which our members can learn, collaborate, and help one another to succeed. As far as our community goes; our immediate focus is on ensuring that the community in NYC puts itself on a sound footing since it is the originating chapter of The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation.
Some of our members have told us that we’ve already exceeded their expectations in the short time our meetup has existed. So we feel it is important that we continue to nurture this community. While we are doing that, we will be working with local catalysts in Singapore and Vancouver to help get those communities off the ground.
Marseille in France, Vienna in Austria, Berlin in Germany, Lagos in Nigeria, Adelaide in Australia, Copenhagen in Denmark, Rotterdam in Holland, and Atlanta in Georgia, have each been suggested as other cities in which we might seek to start nurturing sister communities.
However, the launch of a local community requires the identification of the “Brian + Lisa” of the local community, that is, individuals in that community whose enthusiasm and fervor for supply chain, technology, and innovation is so strong that it propels them to start a community like the one we have developed in New York City.
Once we identify a catalyst or a group of catalysts, we’ll share our playbook and help build bridges between people across different local chapters. We are building a global community of practice focused on supply chain, technology, and innovation. Our goals are to;
- Promote entrepreneurs working on solving supply chain problems,
- Hear how mature companies in different industries are solving their current supply chain problems and planning for the future,
- Nurture collaboration between mature companies and startups to enable the implementation of promising supply chain platforms and technologies in the real world,
- Explore what new technologies can do to hasten dramatic efficiency gains in global supply chain networks,
- Promote academic research on topics related to increasing supply chain efficiency,
- Engage public policy experts and regulators on issues related to supply chain . . . and other ideas our members will think of as time progresses.
We would love to engage with people and companies around the world who share our vision, and who want to be part of the movement we are creating to realize that vision by executing our community’s mission. We are easy to reach online, so we encourage people who want to learn more to reach out to us via Twitter, LinkedIn, email, or . . . By joining one of our communities on Meetup.com and sending us a message that way.
Depending on what estimates you consider, the world economy is at least an 80 trillion dollar entity. All the production that goes into creating the goods and services people around the world consume depends on the functioning of global and domestic supply chains. Some economists estimate that 15% – 20% of global GDP is wasted due to supply chain inefficiencies. The number is much higher in the developing world.
We believe that we are at the dawn of a Golden Age in Supply Chain Technology and Innovation. If a community like ours could collectively lead to a small dent in those numbers, we’ll consider our efforts to have been wildly successful. We believe that is a cause worth devoting the rest of our lives to. We hope others share that belief and decide to join us, no matter where they live, in whatever capacity possible.