Hakan Yaren, CIO at APL Logistics, recently gave the keynote address at Axway Summit – North America. APL Logistics is a globally recognized leader in logistics and supply chain management headquartered in Singapore, which operates as part of the Japanese Kintetsu World Express (KWE).
APL Logistics uses Axway’s B2B Integration and Amplify Platform to help its customers meet consumer and industrial demands globally, irrespective of fulfillment channels. Below, Yaren shares some thoughts on the company’s vision, challenges, and strategy.
It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic brought global supply chains to the forefront of the public mind. To put it lightly, prior to 2019, most consumers paid little attention to supply chain and logistics, perhaps having some vague image of warehouses, container ships, and railroads in the back of their minds.
Suddenly, the world’s aging infrastructures and often rigid complexity were thrown into the spotlight and put under unprecedented strain. At the same time, we also saw moments where unassuming heroes of logistics silently orchestrated the movement of life-saving goods across the globe.
At APL Logistics, those successes drive our mission to help our customers move goods and services around the globe as seamlessly as possible. Our focus is on logistics technology, so our IT people play a critical role in making sure that customers’ supply chain operations are not disrupted.
Our values: the art of seamless integration
Because we’ve been in this business for 170 years, we have a lot of industry knowledge and expertise of how logistics – even the terminologies, the nomenclature – works across multiple industries. And we use that expertise to help our customers.
It’s also very important for us to truly integrate into our customers’ supply chain. We take a “Zero Distance to Customers,” approach, so that the work we do is as seamless as possible for them to be successful.
It means that our technology teams are quite emmeshed with our customers to work hand in hand. And we have a multitude of solutions because each customer, each industry, each situation, each problem is unique, so we need to tailor our solutions for them.
A customer once gave us the best compliment we could ever want:
“When you work with APL Logistics, it’s not about you working for us. You’re working with us. You are part of our team. You don’t distinguish between what we do and what you do.”
This is also an Axway value, and an important reason we sought them out.
Finally, we aim to decarbonize global supply chains, a value many of our customers share.
Modernizing and finding differentiators in the logistics world
The reality today is that far too much of the modern supply chain industry is still stuck in a manual, batch process, siloed model. As we have been on our own digital transformation journey, we have had to ask ourselves: how do we get to digital, real-time, connected supply chains?
At APL logistics, we are focusing on three key areas: automation, integration, and analytics. How do I automate the manual? How do I integrate the disconnected? How do I collect data and connect it to gain better insights?
We’re still in the middle of this journey, and I’m a big believer in leveraging your ecosystem to get to where we want to go, and then focusing on what you’re good at.
What we want to focus on is data, integration, and automation. So, we work with technology partners and providers like Axway to help us in this journey on an enterprise scale with their best-of-breed solutions.
One thing that has become quite clear to us is that technology alone does not solve problems or deliver results. It takes a combination of innovative technologies and expertise – specifically in the supply chain realm, in our case – to arrive at the desired outcome.
The old “Process, People, Technology” still works. So, I like to sum up our digital transformation with the following six steps:
- Build a vision and strategy
- Establish an enterprise architecture and a product management discipline
- Modernize with business value
- Destroy data silos, empower with data access
- Leverage best-in-class API platform
- Rinse & repeat
Building a strategy that focuses on the business
It really starts with the business strategy. You have to have a line of sight from the business strategy to the IT outcomes that you want to get to.
We chose to look at it from the customer experience journey. We wanted to identify where we have the most friction with our customers when they want to do business with us and how can we start addressing it.
So, as we approached our own IT modernization, we didn’t just decide to move to the cloud; we wanted to figure out what business value the cloud would drive.
Certainly, the cloud can help reduce SG&A, indirect costs. These are good benefits, but how is this helping our growth? How is this helping our costs to serve from an operational perspective?
Taking this approach to decision-making is how we’ve built our technology landscape. The end goal is the experience layer, but it is built on top of an operating systems layer that is very hard to change.
Where we’ve differentiated is by building a layer in between, which we call our Data Integration Hub.
Helping customers scale with a data integration hub
Customers today have come to expect digital, real-time, and connected experiences. But you can’t break down monoliths in one day.
This is where having a platform like what Axway provides, which allows you to bridge old and new technologies, is critical in the success of leveraging what customers already have to build new digital experiences.
In many cases, our customers have a lot of operating systems, what you could call traditional systems of record. They might have a lot of data tied up in them, and these systems are mission critical, so changing them is incredibly difficult.
In the past, we sometimes struggled because of the limitation of these operating systems, to be able to offer flexible customer experiences, depending on what our customers and what our own operations needed.
So, we decoupled that thanks to the APL Logistics Data Integration Hub. It’s designed to ingest data from any source – our customers, their suppliers, third party resources – and helps customers understand their data and how it can be best used.
Our biggest success comes from our ability to shake hands with other providers. In any given scenario, our customers will have hundreds of carriers, they’ll have suppliers, their factories, their customers… As a logistics provider, if we can connect the dots faster for them, that means revenue for both us and our customers.
Having an open platform like Amplify, which leverages universal API management to discover, secure, and manage APIs wherever they are, helps us do this. Likewise, Axway’s B2B Integration gives us the flexibility we need to connect with anyone.
Delivering experiences, not just products
We operate as a control tower of sorts for our customers’ supply chains.
We provide an end-to-end view, and we help our customers orchestrate their movement and flow of finished goods and raw material in the right time, at the right cost, and at the lowest emissions level possible.
We have many customers in the industrial textile apparel or automotive industry, which require that sort of sophistication and execution. Our architecture gives our customers the ability to make decisions based on cost, emissions, capacity, and other factors.
They can drive based on demand, they can make production decisions a lot more effectively and further upstream thanks to these technologies we provide.
At the end of the day, we’re in this to create value for our customers.
There are financial benefits of course, in terms of working capital, reducing operating costs – especially since for any given industry, transportation and logistics can be one of the significant cost elements, and one over which they have less control. And they gain in operational efficiency in significant ways.
But the ultimate goal is to help our customers improve the customer experience for their own customers.
It’s not about logistics for the sake of logistics. It’s not about technology for the sake of technology. It’s about the business outcome. It’s about the customer experience. It’s about making sure that the product reaches the right person, at the right time, at the right cost.
And it’s why we’re building an IT architecture and teams of people that make integration seamless, working hand in hand with customers to focus on their business and make smarter logistical decisions.
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