Leaders in Tech and Ecommerce

Richard Lord Vice President Sales APAC Kinaxis

May 28, 2020 Alcott Global Season 1 Episode 28
Leaders in Tech and Ecommerce
Richard Lord Vice President Sales APAC Kinaxis
Chapters
Leaders in Tech and Ecommerce
Richard Lord Vice President Sales APAC Kinaxis
May 28, 2020 Season 1 Episode 28
Alcott Global

Richard Lord is the Vice President, Asia-Pacific Japan Sales at Kinaxis and he is leading the expansion and growth of the company in APAC. Richard has more than 25 years of experience working in APAC in different capacities from setting up and growing business from scratch to expanding global business in the region. During our conversation we discuss how Kinaxis is planning to expand to different markets in the region and what is Richard’s perspective on each.

Founded and headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, the origins of Kinaxis date back to 1984. The product that’s evolved to today's RapidResponse platform was first introduced in 1995 and now represents, one of the fastest-growing and most innovative supply chain planning systems of record in the marketplace. Kinaxis works with global clients like Ford, Nissan, P&G, Unilever, Schnieder Electric, Nikon, and many others across industries like aerospace and defense, automotive, consumer products, high-tech and electronics, industrial and life sciences.

Discover more details here.

Some of the highlights of the episode:

  • Planners can make the best decisions for the company – as long as they have the data and visibility
  • Planning using unlimited digital twins to determine future actions – it’s like looking into the crystal ball
  • Working with P&G for contingency planning – reducing their planning time from 1 full day to an hour
  • How supply chains are expanding and diversifying in South East Asia, LATAM, Eastern Europe
  • Why is Kinaxis hiring more than 12 headcounts in crisis time? 

Follow us on:
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Show Notes Transcript

Richard Lord is the Vice President, Asia-Pacific Japan Sales at Kinaxis and he is leading the expansion and growth of the company in APAC. Richard has more than 25 years of experience working in APAC in different capacities from setting up and growing business from scratch to expanding global business in the region. During our conversation we discuss how Kinaxis is planning to expand to different markets in the region and what is Richard’s perspective on each.

Founded and headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, the origins of Kinaxis date back to 1984. The product that’s evolved to today's RapidResponse platform was first introduced in 1995 and now represents, one of the fastest-growing and most innovative supply chain planning systems of record in the marketplace. Kinaxis works with global clients like Ford, Nissan, P&G, Unilever, Schnieder Electric, Nikon, and many others across industries like aerospace and defense, automotive, consumer products, high-tech and electronics, industrial and life sciences.

Discover more details here.

Some of the highlights of the episode:

  • Planners can make the best decisions for the company – as long as they have the data and visibility
  • Planning using unlimited digital twins to determine future actions – it’s like looking into the crystal ball
  • Working with P&G for contingency planning – reducing their planning time from 1 full day to an hour
  • How supply chains are expanding and diversifying in South East Asia, LATAM, Eastern Europe
  • Why is Kinaxis hiring more than 12 headcounts in crisis time? 

Follow us on:
Instagram: http://bit.ly/2Wba8v7
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2WeulzX
Linkedin: http://bit.ly/2w9YSQX
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2HtryLd

Speaker 1:

Hi Richard. Glad to have you on the podcast today.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, Andy . It's great to be here.

Speaker 1:

And I wanted to start with the short introductions , um, both of your set of interconnects , but we'll start with you. You've been with the company for for quite a few years. You focused on APEC in different capacities for a long time. Please do tell us more about your journey in the last few years and the how you , you ended up as the VP of APEC for Connexus .

Speaker 2:

Okay. Um, yes, most of my career has been in APAC . Um, I've been lucky enough to help a number of different companies to launch their solutions and services from scratch in the region and , uh, grow those up and become successful. And with Kanaxis , uh, I originally started with them when we were called web plan back in 2001 and launched the business in the region at that time. I did leave for a while and then came back. And , uh, it's great to be able to continue the growth of the company in the region. Uh, started in Japan originally and I speak some Japanese , uh , and then expanded and lived in Hong Kong for a while, lived in Korea for a while and spent quite a bit of time in almost every country in the region over the last 25 years.

Speaker 1:

Excellent. I didn't know you speak Japanese. I mean that's very helpful when opening up Japan and it's not an easy language to pick up. And coming back to Kinaxis now I know connects it has been around for a long time, 1984 to be more precise from, from what I dig up from the internet and the company spread across North America, Europe, Asia , um , close to 900 people strong if I'm not mistaken. I wanted to ask rich , what are the things that excite you personally about Connexis ?

Speaker 2:

Well, yes. The company was launched in 1984 by a group of planners and technologists who were not happy with the sequential planning systems they had at the time and they wanted to be able to simulate the future and get answers to questions about what direction to take the business in. And so everything that the company has done and we've changed names over the years , um, since that time has been towards improving and perfecting that capability from a real planner's perspective and what's

Speaker 1:

got good . And now going to the topic of today, it's a hot topic. Everybody's thinking about it. Everybody now actually we are in the midst of trying to see how we can open up the global , uh , the global economies on , in each market, the Cove in 19 crisis and its impact on supply chains globally. Um, to start with an overview, what is your perspective on where we are today and how we got here and why so many organizations are struggling with supply chain visibility? and then what are the things that excite you personally about connects ? Right. Okay. So let me, let me answer that part of it next. Okay. Well , whenever you're ready, you just go ahead.

Speaker 2:

So what sets Connexus apart, and I always have since the beginning, is that we have a very unique philosophy compared to all the other solution providers in the market. And that philosophy essentially boils down to the fact that we believe the planners in the company can make the best decisions for the company. They just need all of the data and visibility necessary in order to make those decisions. And our competitors use what we would call a black box optimization approach where we try to put in all the variables that exist in the supply chain, crunch the numbers and we get an answer as to what to produce when, where, etc . Um, but it's a black box. We can't drill down and understand what trade offs were made and , and why those answers came out. And if it doesn't feel right, then we just have to check all those variables again and then rerun. And it's a very long time consuming process and typically it is done in silos. So they'll start with demand and run that, pass that to production system, run that and then go to the supply system and look for all the supply constraints and a , and then a back and forth process. Uh, our approach is , is very unique because we know all those variables can actually be put into the system first of all. And the planners understand that and a lot of decisions get made , um, in negotiation right across the supply chain, within the company, outside of the company, you know, between planners. And so all of that needs to be factored into those, those decisions. And then once , um, once the calculations are run and we have some answers, we need to be able to drill down and say, why, why was that answer what we, what we have here. And so that's the way we've designed the system. Um, and what it allows us to do is include everybody in that decision making process. So we're all looking at the same version of the truth and to very quickly ask questions and get those answers and know what is the right path forward for the company today. Based on our goals as a company. I think the best way to describe this, I guess in layman's terms would be, it's like having a crystal ball and so you can look in this crystal ball and ask a question, what if this happened in the future? Or what if I take this approach to solving an issue now in seconds? We can see the impact of that decision or that event on every detail aspect of the supply chain, whether it's demand supply, production and be in the middle of that is if it is, if it's happened and see what you know, what the whole landscape is and so then we can quickly understand based on our company goals again and compare multiple scenarios all at once and the number we can compare is unlimited. So people talk about digital twins, we have digital unlimited, and then we can really determine quickly what is the best way forward and there's simply no other solution in the market can do that, can do this and this is what excites our customers. And then I get excited from them. Does that answer your to

Speaker 1:

your question? There's a very interesting, and when you say, cause I hear that digital twin topic come up quite a lot, you know, discussions , um , and digital unlimited sounds a bit different and I imagine it is because so many scenarios can be made on the platform. Now bringing the discussion to the hot topic of the day, which is the covert 19 crisis, I imagine that the data that um, happened or the data that is available for Q1 or even Q2 , uh, to be in the machine learning algorithm is not the best data because it's so out of the ordinary. How does the connections platform help or um , bring support and clarity in times like this where a crisis appears, there's a lot of data that hasn't had or it doesn't have , um , um, I wouldn't say a pattern in the past. How does the platform come in and say, these are the scenarios that you should consider?

Speaker 2:

Well, this is a problem that, you know, to some extent we've always had to deal with, which is forecast inaccuracy. And I think in times like this you can rely less and less on what your forecast is telling you. And you need to be able to depend more and more on what , um, your planners and the business people believe will happen. And then run scenarios. So run scenario ABC as what if possibilities and look at how you need to respond to be able to address any one of those. But whichever one you think is going to be the right , um , solution. And so it's , it's not about trying to predict as, as much as it is responding as quickly as possible to the realities of what you're hearing every single day. Does that make sense?

Speaker 1:

Yes. Go ahead and let's go through , um , a specific example if possible. Um, how are you helping your clients, maybe one or two to cope with the current situation and what are some of the questions and requests that you receive most often? Is there some specific example we can talk about?

Speaker 3:

Okay ,

Speaker 2:

sure. Um, so let's talk, let's talk about one of our customers then. Um, P and G would be a good example if I can get my system to quiet down here. No. So, so Proctor and gamble is a very good customer of ours. Um, they have always had challenges in their monthly, weekly, daily supply , uh , demand and production planning processes. And when it comes to critical events , um, let's say it's a hurricane or whatever, the supply chain could be disrupted and really , uh, hurt the business and the, the ability of the business to keep the supply chain open and products flowing to , to customers. And so they made a lot of changes in their processes to be able to do a contingency planning for emergencies and to make sure that the business can stay open no matter what happens in any part of the world that they're operating in. And then they had to put in systems in place that would support that kind of response management, that control tower to get visibility across the entire company. And then that response, very fast response management that they needed. And they selected rapid response to do that. And , um, what they told us was that prior to implementing our solution, they, they would basically spend all day just looking at the results and problems that happened the day before and how to fix those problems. And they had very little time to look forward and, and do contingency planning and what if simulations into the future. Um, but with rapid response, they were able to , um, reduce the amount of time that they were responding to fires that erupted from the day before to about an hour or every morning and then spend the rest of the day looking forward and actually doing planning cycles multiple times a day as , uh, information from the field came in. And so , um, you, you may be able to find , uh, interviews of the P and G has done and they've talked a little bit about us. Uh , there was an article in Forbes as well, but they've just had tremendous results and tremendous ROI with implementing our solution. And I haven't had a chance to talk to the , uh , D digitization leaders or supply chain leaders there since the covert breakout. But I am sure based on what I heard from them about how we were able to help them during the , um, big hurricane, I think it was Irma event a few years back. I'm sure they are able to , uh, adapt to this covert situation very effectively and it's helping them to plan forward now and to make sure that their business continuity, that everything is up and running and they're getting everything that they can to the consumers moving forward.

Speaker 1:

Good. And from, from one day full day, spending it to review results to an hour every morning and then looking forward. And I think it's , it's quite an achievement for a huge organization like , like Proctor and gamble. Um , now talking about , um, regions, talking about APEC, where you're focused on , um, are there certain supply chain trends that you see maybe within the client portfolio or in general in the markets in APAC that you see for the next month and the longterm ? We hear a lot of , um, a lot of people are already convinced of the necessity of turning towards digitization and using strong software systems. But are there certain other trends or what do you see from your point of view?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think we're starting to see some of these trends emerge. So , um, companies realize they need alternative alternative suppliers, alternate sources of supply in different countries. Um, as a way to guarantee business continuity , um, given what's going on between us and China right now. Uh , I think we'll see a little bit of a shift to other countries in the region for supply and for contracting. And so we'll , we'll see more investment in the rest of APAC. Um, and then on the solutions and digital digitization time, I think we're going to see , uh, a shift away, a faster shift away from the sequential planning, which really is just , um, not solving the problems that these companies are facing each day to these very fast. What if simulation type solutions that will help them to properly plan for kind of the new world? And you know, I , I think business will be permanently changed from this. Uh, there's a big shift towards , uh , working from home of course, and I think we'll see a big shift towards , uh, this , this alternate supply alternate contract manufacturing , um, as well in the supply chain.

Speaker 1:

And I think there is a clear shift from relying on one particular marketing in this case, China. And then trying to diversify your suppliers throughout different regions. Closer to me , maybe closer to , to the , um, the biggest markets of despair that you have maybe in the Western part of, of , um, of Europe, North America. Um, is there, cause you work with, with clients all over April , do you see this, this trend of trying , uh , to, to make a bigger diversification of your suppliers throughout the region and relying less on China? Or is this just , uh , just , uh , I dunno , media talk.

Speaker 2:

Um, I have heard of a few customers who are investing more in , um, suppliers, contract manufacturers and planning to build their own factories in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam for example. Um, rather than continuing to invest more in China. So, not necessarily , um, reducing what they've already invested in China and keeping that in place, but expanding in other countries as well just to reduce risk.

Speaker 1:

Hmm . Well it makes sense. Everybody's talking about risk mitigation now and that's where scenario planning comes into play as well. Um, absolutely. Do you see any silver linings because there is quite a lot of bad news out there and a lot of reasons to get upset and I'm trying to figure out what, or are there any sectors that are doing better and are better prepared and have rebounded already or maybe we see some signs there , uh , from , um, from the clients that you work with. Are there any silver linings?

Speaker 2:

Well, I'm pretty optimistic and I have to say that I think in the longterm , this crisis is helping customers to understand how important it is to have the kinds of solutions that we are able to bring to the market. And so I think our, I think our business in the longterm , uh, will benefit from this. And we were , we are going to grow tremendously. And that's why we're investing now to grow so that when we come out of this covert crisis, we're ready to bring on more and more new customers and help them to achieve the kind of results they're looking for. Um, when I look at the short term and , and how the markets are being impacted , uh , I certainly see, you know, all of the stay at home economy related businesses , uh, improving, right? And, and then life sciences , uh, seems to be benefiting a lot. Um, so in any crisis, right, where, where, what really matters to us day to day shifts , um, the businesses that can take advantage of that and supply what we now need in this new world are going to benefit. And , uh , life sciences in particular , uh , as we drive toward finding drugs to treat Covidien and immunizations , uh , there's going to be so much money pouring into that market and , uh, and we'll see. We'll see growth there. I mean, we're winning business in that space right now, which will help them to be able to adapt and grow more quickly than they thought even before. And so we're going to see an uptick in our business in that space for sure.

Speaker 1:

Good . And when somebody from a client from life sciences maybe from, from retail or manufacturing comes to you and says, we are in a crisis, we need something fast. Of course everybody wants things to happen yesterday or they want it as fast as possible. But there is some implementation time that we have to consider with any type of solution. How do you manage client's expectations in times of duration?

Speaker 2:

Well, it's, it's interesting that you mentioned this because this is one of the areas that we're very focused on right now in the crisis. So, you know, our , our top priority is making sure our employees and their families are safe. And we have instituted , um , no travel, no meeting policies , um, for the time being. And we're doing a lot of work remotely for our customers. At the same time, we understand that they need to make sure their businesses can continue to run and they can continue to use our systems and that they can implement our systems more quickly. So , um, or investing in our data centers infrastructure and the management team that , um , takes care of all of that infrastructure , uh, to make sure that the systems are up and running whenever they need them. And it , it , it's very crucial because we're actually seeing a two X increase in system usage and the number of simulations being run as companies try to plan ahead for what they see coming or potentially coming. Um, and then more support people and more professional services people. And then we are structuring projects so that we can focus on a scope that is solving the critical need first and then the nice to have needs in future phases and that will allow , uh , customers to get a , um, ROI and a faster go live of what they really need in order to , uh , drive the business forward today. So yeah, that's something that we're working on.

Speaker 1:

Do you see a shift from the clients requests dish ? Do you see a shift from their perspective of, okay, there was before this, this crisis hit, there was a focus on supply chain excellence. Um, and , um , now it seems like people talk more about agility and resilience, supply chain resilience. Is this something you come across in your discussions?

Speaker 2:

Well, I haven't , um, I haven't heard it presented quite that way, but , um, it makes sense. And I think for us, we've always argued that that agility and that ability to be resilient and plan for different scenarios is part of what supply chain excellence, what the definition of that is. And so it's all just coming to fruition now , uh , for more and more companies. And I think supply chain is now considered, especially during this crisis, more mission critical than ever. And I think we'll see more C level executives being involved and taking control and ownership of these supply chain initiatives. And what they need is, is you know , that agility and resilience that our solution is able to provide.

Speaker 1:

I like this , um , maybe it's one of the silver linings as well as supply chain becoming more important than being mission critical to all organizations. I wanted to ask you, Richard, about , um , importance and meaning of partnerships during this times and in general. I know you also have a few partnerships on your side, I think for flow was one of them. How do you see the idea of , of partnerships , um , both in the supply chain providers, solution providers, but both on the client side. Is this an important thing to have in mind when moving forward and moving through crisis?

Speaker 2:

Well, we're depending on our partners more than ever now. And we take very good care of our partners and we work to develop partnership where we know we're supporting each other. We have each other's backs and so we have different types of partners, but we have partners who are helping customers to quickly develop the process they need to be able to respond to the crisis and to look ahead, right? And to create that more resilient supply chain. And then we have partners who help us implement our solutions within those customers , um, companies so that we can get the tools to them in hand that they can use to make those, those new processes work properly and make that new resilient supply chain a reality. And we really, we , we depend on all of them. And we're going to continue to grow and invest in our partner partnerships and partner community. Moving forward.

Speaker 1:

W when you talk about growing and investing, which I know you're um, you said earlier, APEC is important globally, you're , you're doing this even if we are going through a crisis, I wanted to ask you about APEC in particular. Um, is there a certain market or certain markets that you look at and you say, yeah, these are some markets we want to invest more in or are there certain , um, uh, capacities or skill sets that you're investing in at this moment to make sure you're better prepared when we rebound? And I'm talking here about Daypack .

Speaker 2:

Yes, absolutely. So we have offices across the region in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore and India today. Um , in Japan we have a pretty large operation that's been running since 2003. We have a lot of very good customers there, a lot of great partners and we're continuing to invest in our ability to deliver our solutions to the customers , uh, together with our partners. And so Japan will continue to be a market. We invest heavily in. Same goes for Korea. Korea is one where we've launched more recently. Uh, but we are expanding there quickly and we're continuing to invest heavily in hiring in Korea to be able to again, be able to deliver the solutions to the customers , um, that they are signing up for. Uh, in Singapore we have a number of customers. In fact, Singapore , uh, interestingly as a city has more rapid response users than any other city, individual city in the world. So we have a number of customers there and we have a service and support team there to , uh , help customers in Singapore doing project work. And we are in particular expanding our footprint in that market to be able to serve those customers better and to make that the launch pad , uh , and control tower for growing our business in Southeast Asia. Uh , we're also expanding in Taiwan. We've made big investments in India and we're going to continue to grow our presence in India and our ability to deliver for customers globally and locally as well. And beyond that , uh , I think we're going to see an expansion in , uh, mainland China. And Australia, New Zealand, you know, we don't see a slow down here. And like I said, we're hiring and expanding our investment in the region now. And so when, when this V rebound happens, we're going to be in a great position to be able to bring on more new customers and help them get to go live and ROI faster.

Speaker 1:

That's great to hear. We spoke with with quite a few both on the podcast and um , in general and I'm hearing that you are going to invest in, you are hiring and it's , it's a period where you're preparing for, for the V-shaped recovery. It's um, it's bringing joy to my years to , to be certain about it because our line of business is hiring and recruitment and wanted to ask more about it because you are in the position of spending quite a few hours or quite a few time, a bit of time on um, on interviewing. What are the skill sets and how would you define the candidates that are most interesting for you and for connects is at this moment,

Speaker 2:

what should they have? Well right now I've got probably a dozen open head count across the region that we need to fill this year. And that ranges from sales to post sales roles. Um, first and foremost, if we can find candidates who have experience in the supply chain space, that's very, very helpful because supply chain as its own space , uh, does require a lot of knowledge to be able to quickly hit the ground running and be successful. So that's, that's number one. Um , not always absolutely critical but very, very helpful. Um, on the post-sales side, we typically look for people who have some hands on systems, capabilities and experience. Um, we do have, you know , openings for project managers , uh , as well. But more so on the solution consulting side where if, if someone has supply chain experience has been doing projects in the past and has hands-on system experience, there'll be a great fit for what we're looking for as we expand and grow and hire here.

Speaker 1:

Good. And Richard , when it comes to one on one interviews, definitely experienced supply chain exposure , um, comes as a priority. I'm sure you also look for , uh , values. You look for attitudes, you look for specific leadership skills, how would you prioritize this? And I'm sure Kinaxis has as , um, a list of things that are valued in inside the company, on the softer part of thing , on the soft skills are on the value system. How do you see it?

Speaker 2:

That's a great question. Um, and I guess something to keep in mind as I answered that is our culture out of our corporate headquarters in Canada is really a family culture where we all work together and support each other and it's just an amazing place to be , uh, into work. Um, and so what I look for in terms of those qualities in a candidate , uh, as we hire are a positive mindset, an optimistic outlook, a high energy , uh, professional demeanor and ability to communicate. Um, and that mindset that says there'll be a good team player as a good part of this family and be able to work in teams , uh, and help each other so that we can achieve success and ROI for customers faster. And it's all about making our customers successful first. Because if we do that, then our success will follow.

Speaker 1:

And now that we understand how things, I mean your outlook on hiring, your commitment to investing in the region, I was wondering what should we expect? What do you think your personal opinion ranger, what should we expect in the next few months? And this is supply chain related or economic global economy related and one is what should we expect them to is how should we prepare a supply chain professionals?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's another great question. So I guess when I look ahead and we see the impact of this crisis and the shift to the stay at home economy work from home economy, very little travel happening, we can see that sectors of the economy are going to be really, really changed dramatically and we're going to see a wave of bankruptcies, a restructuring, et cetera . But at the same time we as professionals need to stay positive and optimistic and look where the opportunity is now rising because wherever a door is closing, other doors are opening up at the same time. And that's what we need to look for and focus on. And I think, like you mentioned before, this shift towards supply chain being critical to the company's core business and executive level focus, we're going to see a explosive growth in supply chain products, processes, tools, and it's just a great opportunity for everyone in the supply chain space. So Q2 is going to be tough, but we're going to see a tremendous rebound. And when that rebound happens , uh , we should all be ready to work hard and, and make this recovery a reality. Let's make it a V shape recovery instead of a long drawn out recovery.

Speaker 1:

I agree. And I'm always hoping for for that. V-shape and um , we just fought for the last question and this is more on the personal side of things. Um , because you had an , you have a very successful career. You've done , um, you've , uh , you've opened up a lot of businesses in the region. Uh, some of our listeners are at the beginning, beginning of their career. Some are already well , um , well into it. And maybe thinking about changing things, what would be a piece of advice that you would give from your own , um, your own experience of how somebody should think about their career progression?

Speaker 2:

Okay. So for anyone who is trying to build a career in APAC as a region, I think first of all, they need to stay open minded and know each country is unique. They have their own culture, their own language, their own business practices. And the , what they do in their country isn't wrong or worse than what someone else does. It's just different. And so we have to stay open minded. Secondly, we have to be patient and work hard to learn what those practices are in each country and make sure that we can follow those local practices. So yes, we can bring in global ideas and adapt those, but we need to be able to localize , uh, those, those ideas as well to fit expectations in that market. And then thirdly , um, we can't do it all at once. We really need to go step by step and learn one market at a time or approach one market at a time. Otherwise, what I've seen in the past is we just get too spread out and not able to do a hundred percent perfect job in each place. So step by step approach to the market and it takes time. But in the end , um, we'll, we'll have a business that our customers can depend on and we'll have the relationships of trust and will , will earn those , um, those positions as trusted advisors to our customers.

Speaker 1:

Rachel , thank you for sharing that. Um, I appreciate you taking the time to , to be on our podcast today. I think there are quite a few lessons , um, at least for me personally, I would take forward and it was great to hear the , um , optimistic approach. The fact that you're hiring, you're investing, you're looking forward to , uh, to the recovery part. We're doing this at the moment, so thank you again.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. It was great being on the show and look forward to working with you as we grow the business. Andre, thank you. You too.