Episode 3: Tamir Strauss and Priscilla Parrish on how to build a smarter supply chain

May 12, 2022

In Episode 3, we have featured a clip from Navigate Smarter, Zencargo’s supply chain conference for professionals. This episode features Tamir Strauss, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Zencargo and Priscilla Parrish, Head of Logistics at Velocity Commerce. 

This session discusses:

  • The technical problems they’ve encountered
  • The raw ingredients required to start a smarter supply chain
  • How the right tools can help add value to the logistics function

Tamir Strauss

Tamir has over 25 years of experience in product and tech, working with companies such as Huma and Snatch before joining Zencargo. Driven by analytical problem solving, strategic thinking and innovating Tamir’s goals focus on improving business processes. 

Priscilla Parrish, Head of Logistics, Velocity Commerce

With a focus on international trade, B2C, B2B, and Amazon, Priscilla is extensively experienced in increasing efficiencies and cutting costs in retail supply chains by managing 3PL partners across the globe using data-driven solutions.

Helena Wood Hello, and welcome to Episode 3 of Freight to the Point, a podcast by Zencargo. Really excited about our content this week. What we’re going to do is share the really fantastic speaker session that we covered in our Navigate smarter virtual summit back at the end of April. For anyone that has listened to the Navigate sessions that we run once a quarter over the last year. You’ll know that the summit is a conference where a number of leaders across supply chain get together to talk about what disruption looks like in the industry and disruption is likely to look like in the future. The session we’re going to cover today is building for a supply chain and I was lucky enough to be joined by Priscilla Parrish, the amazing Head of Logistics at Velocity Commerce, and our very own Tamir Strauss, the Chief Product and Technology Officer at Zencargo. And we got together to talk about what goes wrong in supply chain, how tech can help supply chain professionals reach their goals and have more ambitious conversations, and how we see the role of tech and supply chain evolving over time. I found the conversation super enjoyable and I hope you enjoy listening to it today.
Helena Wood We’re going to talk about building for a smarter supply chain. Priscilla and Tamir, I’m going to hand over to you to introduce yourselves and your backgrounds a little bit. Priscilla, why don’t you kick us off?
I’m Priscilla. I’m Head of Logistics at Velocity Commerce. I’ve been here for just over a year now. And previous to that, I worked for Mountain Warehouse and I was in charge of all of the logistic movements and retail operations for North America.
Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood Fantastic, thank you Priscilla. Tamir?
I’m Tamir Strauss, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Zencargo. I’ve been here for just over 18 months and my background is in various industries. I’ve never worked in supply chain before this but I’ve been in technology for, for many, many years.
Tamir Strauss
Helena Wood Great, thank you. I’m really looking forward to having this conversation. I’m really looking forward to thinking about how we can pull the data and the tech together. So let’s cast our minds back and Priscilla, I’m gonna send this question over to you first. What technical problems have you personally run up against when it comes to trying to build a reliable supply chain?
Besides the global pandemic, that we’ve all run into in the past two years, there’s been a total loss of visibility or even just gaps of visibility where freight is in the world. Road, sea, air, where wherever it may be. There’s been lack of consistent, reliable data. There’s also been disjointed systems where the systems aren’t talking to each other properly, and sometimes it feels where you have to be the translator almost of information. You’ve got be that intermediary person and translating what this system says to this system in order to get that. That always causes bottlenecks and just meaningful data, getting the meaningful information from those systems, that causes a bottleneck and complete failure almost in terms of the process and rooting processes.
Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood It sounds like a headache even before the last two years. And I mean those challenges, I’m sure so many of our audience are going to resonate with them, but for you, what have been some of the most painful consequences of not having sufficient, accurate up to date data? What does that pain feel like?
It’s always going to drill back down to loss of revenue, loss of money. You always follow the money wherever your black hole is and your leaking money. That is where it needs to be supported and cultivated and made better. Plus time, time is
money as well. And when you have inconsistent data, when you have poor vision insight into where your freight is, you’re spending most of your time doing that very manual and finding it. Where is this? Calling people, emailing people, and it could be better. Your time could be better spent on many other things that drive the business forward.
Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood I can completely imagine that not only more valuable things, but probably much more enjoyable things as well.

Great. And Tamir, you mentioned you’ve been in the supply chain industry for just over 18 months now. In terms of what you’ve seen from, the businesses that you’ve spoken to and the way that you’re working with Zencargo, what problems are you facing and seeing? Is it similar to Priscilla or is it different?
Think the way Priscilla described it is it’s very consistent across most of our customers and people that we talk to. It’s the problem of using Excel as your main tool of collating information. It’s the problem of basically having very disparate systems. Your ERP and other systems that your manufacturers are using, and none of these systems talk to each other. So information doesn’t flow, there’s no kind of notion of real time data at all. And everything is usually inaccurate. So your visibility is very, very limited, but even when you have visibility, it’s usually not necessarily the correct visibility. Which ends up usually in a situation where you have to deal with problems with disasters, with emergencies, rather than being able to foresee something might be going wrong and kind
of preemptively address the situation. And as Priscilla said, this has direct impact on the business, higher costs, lower revenues, all these things.

So the problems are very, very similar and the landscape looks quite similar across most of our customers and allows us to do with the fact that there are many legacy systems and supply chain both within the customers, but also everyone else that is involved in the industry. I mean, this started at up to 20 companies are involved in each shipment. And as you can imagine, most of them would have either very different systems or very old systems or no systems at all.
Tamir Strauss
Helena Wood That makes such a lot of sense. And I think it was Bjorn earlier on in his session who I think he might have been guessing this number, but I’m gonna trust his guess. He has estimated that 80% of supply chain professionals are still working in Excel. And Priscilla, I know when we spoke before you when mentioned Excel, the tool we love to love, but love to hate, was such a big part of supply chain. And disparate systems, not only Excel, seem to be a challenge. Tell us a bit more about the time that you see being lost just through Excel alone.
In previous experience, inside both companies I’ve worked for in the past, Excel is a great tool like we’ve said. It can do really amazing things, but also it very manual. One comma in the formula input wrong and if it’s not caught by anyone, it can have a huge impact on the rest of the business, because this is the tool that you’re using to make these huge decisions and to make these financial impact decisions. And a formula that’s wrong can have such a detrimental impact to your supply chain because you calculated the CBM wrong, or the cargo ready date was wrong, or whatever the case may be. I know it’s grown and they’re more interactive and Excel has a lot more functionality than it did a couple years ago, but at the same point in time, it still requires that manual intervention. It still requires very much, ‘This person owns this Excel sheet’, and ‘It’s on this hard drive’. It’s not shared wild widely it’s more of a hindrance when it comes to those types of things than it is a tool.
Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood And of course the tool’s only going to be as accurate as the, the recency and the accuracy of the data you’re even putting into it in the first place.
And it was said many to times throughout the earlier seminars is that the data has to be completely
clean and accurate before you even can attempt to think about improving your supply chain or taking on onboard those innovations, because your data might be pointing to the wrong technology improvement. You know, it might be saying, ‘Hey, go get robots’, but it’s not what you need in order to improve your supply chain.
Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood A lot of the things that we’re saying are causing pain points. I can’t imagine it’s a surprise to lots of people in this session. Lack of visibility, lack of timely or accurate data, disparate systems, multiple suppliers in multiple members of the process that aren’t speaking. I think we know it, and I think we probably have all felt it in some way or another, but it’s often challenging to even think about how to overcome so many hurdles when you’re facing them all at once. I’ll go first to Priscilla, I’m sure you’d love to build on this, but if you were to go back to first principles and, what are the raw ingredients required to build that smarter supply chain kind of from the ground up? And how would you approach that? We’d love to hear your insight there.

So for me, again, it, I was always going to start the cornerstone of anything is going to be completely accurate data. And then from there, it’s also ensuring that you have everything as connected as possible, whether through API, EDI, whatever the connection may be, but you have that systematic connection so that the data flows through very cleanly. And again, network workflows. Your workflow, shouldn’t be customised to your old ways of working. It needs to be to what the end goal is. And the end goal has to be what is driving you to this new innovation.
Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood Makes a lot of sense. And Tamir, what are your thoughts on that? How are you approaching the Zencargo product and our product future with this in mind?
For us, a main kind of goal and trajectory that the product is already on is making sure that we’re able to really, really reflect everything that’s happening as accurately as possible without making any compromising compromises and any assumptions hidden the system that prevent us from reflecting what is actually happening in reality. The workflows are very complimentary to this, but we’ve come to realize that in order to increase efficiency in order to facilitate better operations, better service interaction with the customer, interaction with other third parties that are involved in kind of moving stuff.

We want to be able to create these workflows that ensure consistency and ensure reliability, but also are very customizable because every supply chain of every customer is different. Sometimes even each individual person might be interacting with the system in a slightly different way. And we were trying to get the system to be able to do this at a highly customisable level so that every customer will
get the best out of the system, but also we’ll give them the best kind of service that we can. And the last area which we kind of touched on is, is bringing it all together by connecting as many systems as possible.

This would allow us to enhance automation, of course. So we’re already doing it with, for example, truck tracking. So we have a connection to a tracking solution as it was discussed earlier in this forum. Andwe’re able to, to pull that information automatically so no manual intervention is required. And obviously the data is much more accurate and much more reliable and much more up to date. And we’re doing this across all parts of the supply chain from the ERPs to the manufacturer systems, to the tracking solutions, to customs systems, et cetera. And creating this network of systems that ensure data is flowing in real time or near real time. And as accurate, as clean and as reliable as we can make it
Tamir Strauss
Helena Wood Amazing, thank you. And Priscilla, I was seeing a lot of nodding while Tamir was running through that journey from the digital twin, the customisable workflows, and then connecting your network. Tell us a little bit around, you know, you’ve been using this tool for a while now in your business, what’s different following using Zencargo in the business?
So the insight that it gives, it allows us to be a lot more agile with planning and making sure that we are doing the right thing at the right time. And it is the most cost effective way to do what we’re doing. And I have the benefit of being part of the implementation team of the ERP that we just integrated into many different things. And it was an eye-opening experience for an emerging company, like Velocity Commerce, where they didn’t have the sort of visibility that we had before. They couldn’t tell you in real time, what stage of the PO process and the booking process and where the ship was in the world and what the CBM, they didn’t have that tool. And being able to
basically open up a whole new world for them has been almost, I mean, it makes me feel like a rock star. It makes me look like a rockstar which I can never complain about.

But also it, it makes me better at my job because then it frees my time up to look at other initiatives where we can save more money elsewhere in the chain. As every time you fix something, there’s always something else to iron out and make better. So it allows me to do my job better and it’s actually quite nice to not having to be on the phone for hours, just tracking three shipments. I can go to one, one true source of data. And again, I will harp on about it as much as everyone else has is data for me is the most important thing, because if it’s inaccurate, then I’m going to be wrong. And I look foolish. We don’t do that.
Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood Well, you know, what if the least that we can do is make you feel like a rockstar, it’s a win, but it’s such a good point. Because it’s such a good point because I think, something that we’re seeing time and time again, and the last two years has highlighted this possibly more than ever before, is supply chain professionals are the rock stars often in the back office of the building. And there are so many opportunities for us to add value to businesses through supply chain. And I’m just thinking of the potential for all of the supply chain professionals on this call. Were they equipped with the right tools with the right infrastructure, with the right resources and ultimately the right data? What do you think are the sort of different ways in which supply chain professionals add additional value to the business?
Well, so one initiative that is close to my heart is container utilisation before pre pandemic. 40 foot containers, couple of grand here, it didn’t matter how much you shipped. One of the first things that I did was ask what is the CBM of each and every single product we have and how can we maximise this shipment? What can we do to maximise and make sure we fill that container all the way? And it wasn’t impactful until you show, per container, how much money was lost based on the container utilisation. And for that, that hit home really quickly with a lot of people in the business of, oh, wow, we need to look at them. This is something definitely that we need to make sure that we are monitoring every single shipment, and it made it better. Not only did the box fill get better, but also we
were able to make sure there were no shortages in our chain.

We were accurately forecasting and accurately bringing across the right amount based on just one little initiative. I think a lot of people could benefit just looking at that one portion of it and other things we’ve done. The supplier dashboard that you have is able to score each supplier individually and tell you, this is what your utilisation was. This is how many times you uploaded the PO prior to booking and giving them that scorecard also helps the buying team use that as a report card for their suppliers and say, you failed to ship on time. This many times we would like a reduction or you owe us this much. Tt becomes then a negotiating tool.

Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood It makes so much sense. And I think in terms of just data giving you ability to have new conversations, I bet some of your suppliers are quaking in their boots when they know you’re looking at those dashboards. And Tamir, what do you think about the ability of supply chain professionals to add value to the business? How do you see tools, resource, and data helping them do that?
I think we perceive this in multiple ways. So the optimisation that Priscilla was mentioning around container utilisation is one avenue where you can basically reduce costs either by producing the number of containers that you’re shipping, maybe using ocean instead of air. If something is not urgent, if you had enough information to know when the product is needed, you could actually make that decision and reduce both the cost.

But also when we do these kinds of optimisations, we always think of the environmental impact and how that actually gets reduced as a result of what’s been saved. Not just from a monitor perspective, but from a CO2 perspective, et cetera. And the other part is the ability to actually ensure that there’s the right inventory at the right place at the right time. So that sales don’t get missed. So you actually are impacting the top line, not just the bottom line. I think these are the areas where basically supply chain professionals can shine when they have the right tool when they have the visibility and when they have the right data and basically a solution that gives them the power to make these decisions at the right place at, at the right time.
Tamir Strauss
Helena Wood Which makes so much sense. It’s so lovely to hear us talking about supply chain professionals, shining and being rock stars. I really hope that the last couple of years and I think from a Zencargo perspective, we really believe in the potential of the supply chain professional and the role of the Chief Supply Chain Officer, who has a seat at the table, who influences business strategy. And the time has come for the, the back office to move in and to really take that place. Thank you.

I can see some of our audience have already asked questions and if anyone else has questions that they would like to ask, please get them in, because this is your last chance. Priscilla and Tamir, there’s lots of, of different things, but let’s start with the first question we’ve got in: Priscilla, how does the tech that you have as a logistics team differ from other teams in your business or from previous businesses that you’ve worked with?
The tech that we use in my department I wouldn’t say that it differs very much. It’s just what I’m looking at and what I’m using to extrapolate the things that I need and to get the raw data and make it into something that is presentable to the wider business.

It’s not so much, there’s a difference in tech. It’s just the tools that I have to see what I need to see. The vision and having that insight into what I have it’s almost a different lens for a camera. We’re looking at the same picture, but at the same point in time, I’m using a zoom lens because I only want to focus on this. Whereas the buying team has a macro lens and they’re looking at the very granular detail. So I wouldn’t say that there’s so much a difference in tech, but a different way that we utilise the same tech.
Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood I think that’s such a great answer. And I love your analogy of the camera, because ultimately you’re all looking at the same image, but with those different lenses that enables you to all find success. I think that’s a really lovely way of thinking about it. And so another question for you: someone’s asking what in particular has made you feel like a rock star with the visibility you’ve built in?
Honestly, it’s the tracking and the traceability. One of the first things I was tasked with was providing visibility of stock across the world. And it seems like a very daunting task, but when you have the right tools and you have the right partners, it isn’t because you just connect them up together and make them speak together and all make them speak the same language without having 17 different translators. So for me, that was one of the biggest things by saying ‘I know how much stock I
have in this place at this given moment’. And that was revolutionary for an up and coming business.

And as well as, and I’m gonna say it again, the container utilisation, just being able to show in a financial impactful way: this is how much money we are losing every single time we ship this, because we haven’t added another 50 units, another a hundred units. That resonates with the people higher up because it has financial impact. And I’ve always said that logistics, and I’ve always been told logistics is not a revenue stream. It is a call centre. And my job, I always take it as: Where can I make it more efficient, but cost less or stay the same, but more efficient?
Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood I mean, I could talk all day about container utilisation with you and you could probably talk even more than I could because I know you’re so passionate about it. But you made me think about another question, which is, I wonder whether you’re finding anything challenging in some of the interactions that you’re having in the business now, as you take on that new role. So you spoke about the conversation that says, ‘I’ve got the data’. ‘I can see what’s going on, you’re leaving money on the table’. Has it changed the nature of any of your stakeholder relationships?
At first, yes, it is because change management is always really difficult. So whenever anyone comes in with things that they want to change, or they have really grandiose ideas, you’re going to get some real resistance. But supply chain isn’t linear. It has to be agile. It has to be flexible. It has to be something that can ebb and flow with everything that’s surrounding us. And so with that, at the end of the day, everyone will come along and understand the ‘Priscilla’ way of thinking as it always has been. But it was difficult at first, like trying to explain to people that we are, I’m doing this for a reason. It’s not because I want to just change everything because I’m new it’s because there’s money on the table. And showing: we can move this money here and it frees up this. It then becomes real and tangible and it becomes low hanging fruit, but it’s very valuable, low hanging fruit.
Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood Makes a lot of sense. Tamir, this is a question I think for you. Is blockchain being used for the enhanced visibility between the different parties in the transactions, or is there any potential for blockchain to be used in the supply chain visibility journey?
In theory, yes. Blockchain in this context would be akin to a ledger where you can log all the transactions and where everything is. The main problem, in my opinion, and this is probably open for massive debate, is that in order to do that, everyone needs to be on the blockchain. And to be able to get everyone to adopt the same solution is always going be incredibly difficult. If you think of all the customers, all the manufacturers, all the shipping lines, et cetera, et cetera, everyone will need to use
the same blockchain or have blockchains that are connected to each other, which is another big
conversation to have at some point.

So in theory, yes, it’s a good solution. That means that your storage is mutable and you can rely on information that’s stored in it. But in practice, I think we’re ways away from having so something like that deployed.It’s easier to have systems that are connected and data is clean and we make sure that it’s up to date, et cetera, than to try to enforce basically a standard across the industry.
Tamir Strauss
Helena Wood That’s makes a lot of sense. I’m going to say, if anyone wants to join the blockchain and supply chain debate with Tamir, I would jump on into LinkedIn. I’m sure he’s very willing to have the conversation and he is definitely more qualified than I am. So Tamir, thank you for tackling that blockchain question.

I’m getting a trigger to start wrapping up, but I have one final question that I’d love to ask you both. And it’s one I’d love you to answer as succinctly as possible: tell me what do you see when you dream of and you envisage the future for supply chain and logistics. Maybe Tamir, you can go first.
For me, it’s a world where everything is connected to everything else. Data is available to everyone. It’s clean enough and real time enough and very accurate as in reflecting of the real world, that machines can start helping us make better decisions and optimisation. So you can deploy AI machine learning using these clean data sets to actually start doing predictions and decision support, and in a very distant future actually allow the system to make the majority of those decisions, if not all of them. But that’s a way into the future.
Tamir Strauss
Basically, you’re the one trying to put us all out of jobs. Thanks Tamir. (Laughs)

No, I completely agree with you.
Priscilla Parrish
You can make decisions that are at a much higher level and don’t have to worry about of the day to day basically.
Tamir Strauss
Deal. And I will echo those statements. It’s very much a very connected, very more streamlined world where everything talks to and uses the same language and everything just kind of works. And our job becomes a more of: is this correct? Do I agree with it? Yes. Continue on.
Priscilla Parrish
Helena Wood That makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much, Tamir. Thank you so much, Priscilla. Always a rockstar. Great to have you here. Thank you both.
Huge thank you also to our audience for tuning into this episode.

Huge thank you also to our audience for tuning into this episode. If anyone has any questions or any feedback, please do contact us on LinkedIn. We’d absolutely love to hear from you, but for now, and until our next episode of Freight To The Point, goodbye.