As well as running the Digital Supply Chain podcast, and the Industry 4.0 themed series of podcasts, I decided to also spin up a new series – themed around the topic of Women in Supply Chain. This series will strive to highlight the stories of women leaders in Supply Chain to attempt to address the current imbalance in their representation on panels, podcasts, etc.
We had an awesome conversation covering topics as diverse as the impact of digital goods, the transition of our energy systems to clean energy, sustainable supply chains and the circular economy.
Listen to the podcast using the player above ☝🏻, and/or see the full transcript below 👇🏻:
Sheri Hinesh [00:00:00] And when you think about sustainability through the lens of supply chain and even digital, 50 to 80 percent of the revenue spend happens in supply chain. And so, do, up to 85 percent of the environmental impacts, social impacts of supply chain. so, who better then than us as supply chain practitioners who have that end-to-end interconnected view of the world of business, of the communities where we operate to really do something epic?
Tom Raftery [00:00:32] Good morning. Good afternoon, or good evening wherever you are in the world. This is the Digital Supply Chain podcast, and I am your host Tom Raftery
Tom Raftery [00:00:41] Hi, everyone, welcome to the Digital Supply Chain podcast. My name is Tom Raftery. This is the first of a new series that we’re going to run on Women in supply chain. And with me, I have two of the highest profile women in supply chain today, Deborah and Sherri. Deborah and Sherri, would you like to introduce yourselves?
Deborah Dull [00:00:59] Hello, I’m Deborah Dull. Thanks, Tom, for having us on. The most important supply chain related introduction about me is that I have a deep love for inventory.
Tom Raftery [00:01:12] Fascinating, fascinating, and that laugh there is from Sherri, Sherri, would you like to introduce yourself?
Sheri Hinesh [00:01:17] Hello, world digital supply chain, folks. My name is Sherri Hinish, and my vision is to change the world through sustainable supply chain, evangelizing the SDGs and making the world a better place. The world that we share. I’m also affectionately called the Supply Chain Queen. And I have a podcast with Deborah called The Supply Chain Revolution, where we share provocative points of view that challenge paradigms for progress, say it three times.
Tom Raftery [00:01:50] so, Sherri for anyone who is unfamiliar because this is a digital supply chain podcast, not a sustainability podcast, so, people might not be aware. What are the SDGs?
Sheri Hinesh [00:02:04] Sure, so, the SDGs are a framework where we can achieve as the human race can achieve economic and social and environmental prosperity in the world that we share. And with everything happening right now with Covid-19. This is really important for us to understand that we’re all connected. And the SDGs are 17 interconnected goals that would help us to achieve a better world by 2030. so, this is really about the decade of action. How can we encourage a world that has no hunger, where we have economic growth and prosperities in the community where we operate, that supply chain touches? Responsible consumption, responsible production, where we protect life below water and life on land. And it’s really a beautiful vision. I’ve devoted my life to really sharing this picture and framework of a better world, that’s super tangible that people can connect to and that we can really mobilize each other in a meaningful way in the world we share. We have to get there. We have to get in the canoe. Deborah and I always talk about this like get in the canoe. We can do it and we need inspiration right now more than ever Tom.
Tom Raftery [00:03:30] No, I get that completely, I’m a former sustainability analyst for seven years or so, before I joined SAP, so, you know, you’re completely speaking my lingo here. But tell me, I mean, maybe, maybe. Deborah, jump in here. What does sustainability have to do with supply chain?
Deborah Dull [00:03:46] Great question. so, one of the topics that I love most, which is related to but different than sustainability, is the idea of a circular economy. And I’ll explain what that is briefly. But the answer to your question is that the way the world operates is through supply chains. so, every supply chain manager impacts the planet and impacts sustainability. And when you talk about financial sustainability, environmental sustainability, social sustainability, the choices we all make in our day to day impact that where we buy, how we buy, how we manage our suppliers, do we make bridges or do we hold people negatively accountable, for example? All comes back to the human connection that Sherri talked about, certainly. And when we talk about the concept of a circular economy, I think supply chains are uniquely positioned to really catapult the businesses and organizations that we support. And what I mean by that is if we look at the way the world works today, we take an item from the planet. We make something very efficiently, we use it. And then typically that item gets thrown away. And there’s a new economic model that says, hold on a second. All those items we’re throwing away, there’s actually more money to be had. We could squeeze more out of those materials and everybody makes more money. And so, if we think about the way to circulate and loop all of these materials and resources, even like heat or organics or plastics or metals, it’ll come down to supply chains, ability to find, circulate, move it, track it, bring it back. Is it socially responsible? Is it safe for human consumption? And I can’t think of a discipline more impacted than supply chain. And the flip side, who can impact more than supply chain can? We certainly have to work across material scientists and economists and those who design these systems. But if we look at the US workforce alone, 37 percent of jobs are supply chain related. And so, we have this massive cohort. And given that we’re such a new field, I think we haven’t really been considered like that at a global scale. And these days, though, it’s hard to read the news or turn on the radio without hearing the word supply chain every five minutes, which if I take my rose coloured glasses on here, I see it’s just a tremendous step forward for our field.
Sheri Hinesh [00:06:14] And Deborah, you make a great point. That supply chain is truly the conduit. And when you think about sustainability through the lens of supply chain and even digital, 50 to 80 percent of the revenue spend happens in supply chain. And so, do up to 85 percent of the environmental impacts, social impacts of supply chain. so, who better then than us as supply chain practitioners who have that end-to-end interconnected view of the world of business, of the communities where we operate to really do something epic? In the next wave in the supply chain revolution. This is this is our purpose right now, so, we’re super excited.
Deborah Dull [00:06:58] If think about Tom, if we think about the impacts of digital digital supply chain. so, actually, fun fact. I wrote my master’s thesis on the digital supply chain. But at the time this was *mumbles* years ago, it was actually about digital goods. so, I talked to Amazon, the Kindle team, I talked to the Netflix team. I talked to Sony. And so, when they were moving digital goods around the world. And the reason why this is so, important is the cloud is a real physical place that’s supported by real physical supply chains. And so, as we who are in software make decisions about product or as we as consumers make decisions about how many copies of our vacation photos we keep. That has a physical impact in the cloud. And if we make choices, that requires twice as much storage space. That’s twice as many servers, twice as many spare parts, twice as many supply chains, twice as many power requirements, twice as many mechanics engineers to repair. And they’re going to be driving there. so, you duplicate the whole thing. The other interesting factor is how much energy A.I. takes in chugging through their algorithms. It’s something like 30 percent of the world’s power right now is being taken just to help AI think. And these are elements that I don’t think are highlighted enough but relate very much to digital supply chain. Regardless of the way you define digital supply chain, whether they’re digital goods or the digital backbone that supports the physical supply chain.
Sheri Hinesh [00:08:36] You know what’s crazy, so, right now, a lot of people are talking about this pivot to virtual and how we connect digitally and how the CO2 impacts. And I know, Tom, this is right up your alley because you post a lot about climate change. And I saw a quick and dirty study from IBM, and I think it was Jeremy Waite that positioned that the pivot to Virtual actually has the same impact as people driving every day. so, when we start to think about digital supply chain in the world, we share digital waste. And are we really being as lean and effective in this new way of working? Where’s the opportunity? so, I would I would love to hear your point of view, Tom, around that. What are you hearing and seeing?
Tom Raftery [00:09:23] so, I missed that post and I would have assumed that working virtually working from home, for example, like all of us are now thanks to Covid-19, would have had a lower environmental impact. But you’re saying that Jeremy’s post said that, no, it’s similar because the technologies we’re using require large amounts of technology which are carbon intensive?
Sheri Hinesh [00:09:51] Yet our energy grids are still dirty and highly reliant on fossil fuels. so, depending on where you are in the country with your energy mix, you still have this very comparable impact. so, I thought it was a really, you know, in terms of education, I think this is really the pulse here. And the opportunity is we need to accelerate the transition to renewables. And if we can do that, if we can do that, you know. What might that look like?
Tom Raftery [00:10:23] The cool the cool thing is that I’ve done a lot of work on this. The cool thing is, speaking of renewables, that the transition to those is happening not fast enough, but it is happening. And it’s happening not because people are suddenly turning into tree huggers. It’s actually happening because the renewables are a) cheaper to roll over than any fossil fuel alternative and b) faster to roll out. There’s a new offshore wind park being built in the UK on the Dogger Bank. It’s 3.6 gigawatts. That’s three and a half nuclear power plants worth of wind, offshore wind, and it’s being built in two years from start to finish. There is an equivalent. There’s an equivalent called Hinkley C in the UK again, Hinkley C is a nuclear power plant. It’s 3.5 gigawatts. so, comparable power output. It’s going to take 10 to 15 years to build it out. Whereas the wind park the offshore wind 2 years. so, right there and you know, nuclear has a place. I know some people are against it. It’s a polarizing generation, but it is carbon free, essentially, once you’ve built the nuclear plant, it’s carbon free. But it doesn’t scale. It does not scale. Renewables scale massively. There’s. Because, again, down to economics. There is a solar farm being financed right now to be built in the north of Australia. It’s called Five B. I think if I remember correctly, it’s being it’s being financed by, amongst others, Mike Cannon-Brookes from Jive. And it’s going to be ten gigawatts, 10 gigawatts, 10 nuclear power plants worth of solar with 22 gigawatt hours of storage. so, 22 nuclear power plants worth of storage in the Northern Territory in Australia. They’re going to draw a big cable off to the right to power the city of Darwin. And they’re going to draw an even longer cable north three and a half thousand kilometers to power the city of Singapore. And again, it’s down to economics. It’s because it’s the cheapest way to do it. Australia has vast, vast, vast tracts of unused desert which can be used for these kinds of projects, which can be used for turning Australia into a hydrogen economy. You know, they can just put a massive mass of solar plants, generate as much hydrogen as possible and sell the hydrogen off into the global markets for electricity generation or for transportation.
Deborah Dull [00:13:07] It’s amazing. I’m so, glad you brought that example up, Tom. And just to reiterate the brilliance and excitement around circular models. One of the tenets is a shift to renewable sources of energy. And, you know, there’s two questions to ask yourself on. If a model is circular or if it just falls under CSR, and that’s is it making you more money? You can go faster, and you could be cheaper if you’re looking at something like a circular business model and in supply chain. I don’t know how many more levers we have left to pull to get faster, cheaper. We’re pretty fast and we’re pretty cheap, free in most cases or nobody’s paying for it at least. We have a cost. so, we have to start thinking of other levers to pull to add additional value back to organisations we support. And so, the examples you’re giving are brilliant because we’re going faster, it’s cheaper. And then if we think about, let’s say, a spare part to support one of these farms that’s going in, we could start from scratch, start from the metal, from the earth. But that takes more time and it’s going to cost you more if you can refurbish and use B channel parts or even your own parts refurbishing or shocking, I see a world where all similar parts will be refurbished and shared and within a single industry it’s going to be much, much faster and it can be much, much cheaper because you’re not starting from virgin raw materials anymore. so, I think it’s a fascinating model. And the biggest message to get through this is you can make more money as a company. And it just so, happens that it’s also great for the planet. so, it helps to span this gap of the sustainability drive that we all know needs to happen. And the sheer economics of running an economy that we’re all becoming very aware of these days and I think is just a lovely example. so, thanks for sharing.
Tom Raftery [00:15:03] Yeah. And you mentioned something earlier, Deborah. You were I mean, you used the expression that a lot of people use of “throwing things away”. And I remember, I can’t remember when it was or where it was, but I remember reading some point somebody saying that “There is no away”. Away is not a place. It doesn’t exist, you know? You know, so, throwing things away doesn’t make sense. It is not a thing.
Deborah Dull [00:15:30] You are just moving it to someplace else. Yeah, exactly. I actually think in the next… After we mine the ocean for plastic and let’s not be mistaken, that’s exactly what companies are doing now. We are we are now mining the ocean. We will move to landfills. I’m guessing in the next 10 years because we are running out. We’re running out of gold. We’re running up copper. It is still on the surface of the planet. To your point, unless cities are burning and a lot of people say, oh, cool, you’re burning garbage to create energy. But that’s actually not great because you’re losing all the value in the material. So, yes, you’re getting a short-term boost of energy. But actually, in reality, that’s the closest thing to “away” that we have is to burn something and you can no longer get it back again. so, much better is to find a way to retain the value of that item and reuse it as many times as you can.
Sheri Hinesh [00:16:21] Yeah. What we’re what we’re talking about here in describing is really this shift where supply chains who have traditionally been viewed as maybe transactional. And this cost improvement, you know, riddle it down to as efficient as possible. They’re really transitioning to an innovative catalyst that is a strategic partner at the table. And in the future of work. In the future of business. Competitiveness will be defined how your supply chain can execute and innovate. And that’s where we really believe that that’s where the future’s heading. All of the things that are described in in circular economy and sustainability. Yes, you can do well and do good, but there is a business case to be made for why. How you connect people is equally as important when you think about purpose, economy and experience economy. People want to show up at work and not leave their values at the door and be a part of something that’s truly transformation on EPIC. And this is the opportunity that supply chains have because we are so, in the end and we are a tapestry of different professionals. You know, when you when you say supply chain, what does that even mean anymore? It could mean data science. It could mean sourcing and procurement. It could mean your own distribution. Logistics. It could mean inventory. Deborah loves inventory. If you ever meet Deborah Tom face to face and bring up inventory, make sure you have a stiff pour of whisky because she will talk to you for hours.
Deborah Dull [00:18:03] Digital inventory is also super interesting. I had a whole section in my thesis on it. Punch line. It basically comes down to master data, which is also a very interesting topic. People roll their eyes, but it’s not, so. It’s often considered the inventory of a digital digital goods supply chain. If you’re moving around digital goods, it’s your master data and that the way you manage your master data is similar to managing inventory and you can use a lot of the same principles. Super fascinating. I love this stuff. That was not even a whole stiff pour Sherri. so, that was like half a finger.
Tom Raftery [00:18:42] I had no whisky ready. Jeez, Deborah, come on. You could’ve warned me.
Deborah Dull [00:18:46] I know next time that’ll be a different one. We do something called drink and learns on our podcast and we invite you to come to a drink and learn where we drink and learn. And it’s really super fun. And you’re you’re open. You’re openly invited Tom anytime.
Tom Raftery [00:19:00] I appreciate it. Thank you. I have listened to your podcast, so, I’m aware of some of these things. Thank you. But for people for people who haven’t listened. This is a good learning experience. And I’ll put a link to your podcast in the show notes as well. Just in case, you know, people are not aware of, but they can follow through and subscribe and do subscribe folks like and do subscribe to this one, too. Just just in case you’re not already subscribed. We’re coming towards the 20-minute mark. We’re at 18.50, right now. Is there any final thing you want to say to people who, you know, have been listening so, far who’ve made it this far into the podcast? Any last messages you want to leave with them?
Deborah Dull [00:19:36] Absolutely. Look. OK. You’re pointing at me, so, we’re all. And we’re all we can see each other right now. so, my final words are, look. There’s enough bad news happening in the world. We are all probably indoors for something going on two to four weeks depending on where you are in the world. And there is another way to connect with each other. One use of this digital technology that, yes, is using energy and a server somewhere in the world is that you can find a new community. We have something that we call the supply chain rebel who really describes if you feel different than those around you. If you feel like you’re pushing back, if you feel like perhaps you don’t have a community connect to. We are your community. And whether you are feeling too old, too young, not experienced enough, too edgy, too soft, whatever the too is that you’re feeling in your surroundings where your people. so, do come join together with us. We have a great time and we really look forward to connecting with you all.
Sheri Hinesh [00:20:42] Yes. Thank you, sir. Thank you so, much, Tom, for inviting us. The disruptors, the Rebels. And in final message, like Deborah said, find us supplychainrevolution.com. I have admired Tom’s work and his point of view for many years. And I salute you and your fabulous swagger. I love the hat. I love your brand. So, we’re we’re just really thrilled to find others. And I think right now the the opportunity is there are others out here like you and we can unite, especially across digital platforms, social platforms and really change the world. I think that sometimes people forget the impact that you can have in the world we share. And that’s really this message that we would hope you walk away from, that you can change the world.
Tom Raftery [00:21:36] Super, super, Sherri. Deborah, thanks a million for joining me on the show today.
Deborah Dull [00:21:43] Thanks, Tom.
Sheri Hinesh [00:21:43] Thank you.
Tom Raftery [00:21:46] OK, we’ve come to the end of the show. Thanks, everyone, for listening. If you’d like to know more about digital supply chains, head on over to SAP.com/digitalsupplychain or simply drop me an email to Tom Dot Raftery at SAP dot com. If you’d like to show, please don’t forget to subscribe to it in your podcast application to get new episodes right away as soon as they’re published. And also, please don’t forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find show. Thanks. Catch you all next time.