I often take inspiration from the words of Lao Tzu and this particular phrase of his resonates with me when I think about digital transformation:
“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
I am often travelling and on this occasion I found myself on a long-haul flight on Valentine’s day. I wanted to surprise my wife with something beautiful to thank her for being a great partner and mother so I started flicking through the inflight duty-free magazine when a bracelet caught my eye. I asked the flight attendant to see if they had it in stock and after about an hour, she returned saying that she couldn’t find it. So I asked her if she had something else and again, she said she couldn’t find it. It was intriguing as all the products I had asked for the attendant didn’t have in stock, which led to me to believe that they were either sold out or lost. When I inquired as to whether this was the case, her response was that she takes delivery of the goods and did actually have the items in her trolley; however, it seems they were no longer available.
So what happens to lost items? According to the attendant, if an item is lost or misplaced her salary must compensate for it. After about three hours, the attendant returned and happily informed me that she had found the items. This fascinated me and I wanted to understand how these items had magically appeared. Luckily, the attendant showed me the trolley where they were stored – and it is exactly like the food and drinks one with trays that hold the packages. In addition, the items I wanted to buy were quite small and packed loosely so it would seem, she explained, that they fell behind the back of all the trays into the trolley. Not until she had carefully removed and searched each tray in the trolley was she able to locate the goods – a time consuming task for a busy long-haul 747 flight.
Digital Fruit Picking
For me, this whole process of checking inventory using pen and paper, and then the lack of management within the trolleys themselves is time intensive and laborious. In addition to this, not knowing what was in stock impacts sales and the ability to accurately re-order.
Fortunately, in this case, we already have a relationship with the logistics provider and were able to co-create a solution that dealt with the initial problem of monitoring inventory location within the trays, managing stock ownership with confidence and then extending that to the timely replenishment of goods sold – enhancing the overall supply chain of the items from the warehouse to the airline. By talking to the ground staff about the problems they had and relaying that information to the logistics handler, we were able to pilot a simple RFID-based digital solution that tagged each item in the trolley, allowing the attendants to see exactly which tray the goods are in and where – using a tablet. No more searching for items and hoping they’re not lost; but if something did fall off the tray, the tablet would be able to pinpoint its exact location.
Introducing these RFID tags has meant that attendants also do not have to worry about reordering – the whole process is automatically managed at the back-end. This is valuable information as it means more sales of goods and less time spent fumbling around hoping it’s on the trays.
By picking this low hanging fruit of simply tagging goods to monitor location turned into a digital transformation solution that allowed the logistics provider to offer a platform that not only tackled the delivery of goods, but also the location of them once on the plane and in the trolley. Then it evolved into a new retail solution as the items were already tagged meaning sales were easier to monitor and re-ordering seamless.
Co-creation in this form is about working together to find solutions that will inevitably benefit more than just one issue. Taking care of the low hanging fruit enables organizations to quickly resolve issues which impact things like employee productivity and, as in this case, also the loss of stock. But the full benefit is derived when that issue is rolled into an end-to-end digital transformation solution – such as ensuring that RFID tagging enables restocking and re-ordering – which helps to deliver true digital value.
Have you missed some of my blog series on avoiding the 10 pitfalls of digital transformation? If so please read the full series here: https://blog.global.fujitsu.com/?s=Pitfalls