Insights / Industry Perspectives / “To improve the supply chain, CEOs should build resilience into their supply chain strategies” — An interview with Dejan Pokrajac, Senior Engineering and Delivery Manager at HTEC Group


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“To improve the supply chain, CEOs should build resilience into their supply chain strategies” — An interview with Dejan Pokrajac, Senior Engineering and Delivery Manager at HTEC Group

“To be able to break the vicious circle these companies found themselves in, they need to step above the frame and search for ways to find empty trucks and keep them fully loaded. They need to go beyond their mini-network and explore thousands of opportunities out there to find efficiency.” 

The pandemic has brought the supply chain to a standstill, causing some of the biggest transportation and logistics companies to search for ways to reimagine their supply chain to be able to survive. On the other hand, this hurricane was also a major opportunity for both suppliers and shippers to start feeling comfortable about the discomfort and explore different ways to get ahead of the curve. We talked with Dejan Pokrajac, Senior Engineering and Delivery Manager at HTEC Group, about the pain points companies face, and the opportunities they need to seize to reset their supply chain for the next major shake-up. 

H: What are the top 3 aspects of your work that drive you the most? 

D: Being a part of HTEC is a unique opportunity to get exposed to the most ground-breaking projects from different technology and industry domains globally. This brings us to another value – a chance to work with some of the smartest people, leading world entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators, who want to change the world through innovation.  

Finally, I strongly believe that HTEC is a great playground where creativity and excellence converge, a place where innovative ideas are born, fuelled by our people’s ambitions to continuously learn and grow. This, from my perspective, is one of my main drivers, as it allows me to work side by side with a bunch of inspiring minds, great leaders, and leaders in the making.  

Imagine the impact you can create when you are working on product innovation in perpetuity, and you are helping these products grow and build a better future for all of us.”  

To learn more about what growth means to our people, read the entire article here.  

H: Based on your experience working with clients, what are the greatest trends you are seeing related to collaboration between supply chain partners, the factory and engineering? 

D: There is a clear distinction between companies that do not want to change their processes as they feel comfortable with their existing system, and the ones that are turning their attention to technologies to help them get behind the wheel. The truth is that no matter how big or small, even the most efficient and well-organized supply chain systems will become obsolete at one point in the future. This is when they realize they need to start from a clean sheet of paper, create new processes, and design supply chain technology and infrastructure for the future. 

It is exciting to see how more and more transportation and logistics companies are realizing, especially now after the pandemic, that there are structural opportunities to build a more resilient supply chain. Things are moving forward. Companies are looking for solutions that would help them collect data from different streams into one centralized place and use this data not only for planning and predictions but also for smarter decision-making. And the future is here. From building a technology layer that analyzes demand streams of shippers and identifies optimal network coordination to developing a platform that provides companies with insights into location, routes, and fleets’ capacity in real-time and building robotic warehouse systems to boost the efficiency of pick/pack operations, there are numerous ways organizations want to leverage technology to move supply chain control to the next level and increase the efficiency of transportation, visibility, and safety.    

H: Based on what you have seen, what is the current position of companies that digitized their supply chain operations prior to Covid-19 compared to those that did not? 

D: With Covid-19, all supply chain issues surfaced. The crisis forced a lot of shippers to shut down. While there were companies that figured out the ways to respond to it and make an anti-fragile system that would help them serve the growing, 5 times bigger demand than prior to Covid, there were also many of those that were trying to work things out, glue the system together and survive. The McKinsey study on the impact of this extended disruption found something very interesting: while 75% of companies surveyed faced problems with their supplier base, production and distribution, 85% said they struggled with “insufficient digital technologies” in the supply chain. In our Fast Forward podcast, Anshu Prasad explained that some of their colleagues had to even shut down 30 % of their supply chain overnight when the pandemic broke out. Anshu also pointed out that since supply chain systems are rather brittle and fragile, companies need to build an anti-fragile system to be prepared and find their way out once the hurricane starts instead of bandaging their way through and hoping for a better future.  

Covid is a crisis because it forced a lot of shippers to shut down...there are some people who figured out how to respond to that, who had built something antifragile so they can actually be in a position to serve five times the demand. There were a lot of people confused, running around even more with their heads on fire, trying to figure out how to just glue things together and survive. And I think that’s a lesson for me, for Leaf — don’t try to tell me when the next hurricane is going to happen. Be more hurricane-proof.” — Anshu Prasad, CEO of Leaf  

Watch the podcast or read the interview with Anshu Prasad here.  

We saw that every storm that happens causes acceleration, and things are no different for the supply chain. The change is happening, but it is surely going to take a while. Manual work is still enormous. For example, one simple thing is the documentation signing process that is still manual, time-consuming and painful, but I am happy to see that some great solutions on the market are emerging. To improve the supply chain, CEOs should build resilience into their supply chain strategies. Supply chain disruption caused by the pandemic is a crisis, but an opportunity, too. 

H: At HTEC, we have witnessed first-hand the growing demand for technology-powered innovation and optimization of the transport and logistics industry. How does HTEC help companies address these trends? 

D: Over the years, HTEC has had the opportunity to work on some of the most innovative projects, helping companies bring their ideas to life, from concept to commercial impact. Besides bringing a wide range of projects to fruition, these partnerships have also brought us another great value – deep tech domain expertise and knowledge about the complex challenges in logistics and transport space. We learned a lot about logistics problem space in past years but also how to integrate with accelerators like Project44, Fourkites, Trimble, and Onfleet to speed up product time to market for our clients.  

One of such projects is OrbitMI platform that digitalizes our client’s (Stena) entire tanker shipping business, offering their personnel ways to increase their productivity and make informed decisions based on vast real-time fleet data. Another successful project innovation was born out of our partnership with Leaf, where we worked together to build a technology layer that would help the client optimize route management, save costs, and improve customer satisfaction on many levels. From leveraging AI for demand forecasting and robotics and automation for business optimization to building secure digital payments and customization, we empower companies to make tectonic shifts and build more resilient next generation supply chains. Besides having proven knowledge in the latest technologies including data science, machine learning, and AI, our team of experts are highly skilled in business optimization and digital and secure payments, which are important steps in the shipment execution process.   

H: Which technology, in your opinion, will have the biggest impact on the supply chain of the future? 

D: IoT, for sure. Covid-related circumstances have provided companies with an opportunity to build on the momentum by adopting new technologies. While some companies might stick to their old proven processes and systems, others are increasingly acknowledging the value logistics tracking and transparency could bring to their business. And this is where IoT comes to the stage. And, to have smart usage of the data gathered, we will have to leverage data science, machine learning, and AI. 

Devices that enable data collection from more interaction points, factory automation, shipment tracking via GPS, and machine-to-machine (M2M) and machine-to-people (M2P) communications – all of this can be powered by IoT. Imagine having access to data collected in real-time from carriers and shippers and using it for better and more efficient analysis and decision making. The greatest benefit here comes from the quality and a huge amount of data. Waste is reduced and processes are optimized.  

On top of this, 5G will be predominately used for better network connectivity spread across large geographic regions. Many global giants, like Verizon are investing in 5G to enhance the capabilities of IoT. The wider spectrum powered by 5G increases the overall bandwidth of cellular networks, allowing additional devices to be connected. Plus, 5G impacts IoT by enhancing AR and VR experience. All of this could unlock more value for supply chain disrupters such as Leaf or Stena and open up a plethora of new business opportunities. 

H: Where do you think the supply chain is going? Are today’s issues here to stay, or will you be thinking about different challenges in two or three years? 

D: Transportation and logistics industry is built on the notion of competition. A lot of people are fighting as hard as possible, there is a huge competition, especially in the USA. This leads to a lack of coordination and consequently empty miles, which are a waste of fuel, money, and time. To make things worse, both suppliers and shippers stand to lose much from many empty miles. On the industry level, about third of our trucks run on our highways empty, which is a global problem, even if you are a really big shipper, or a buyer. The fact that more than 70% of US carrier companies have 1 to 3 trucks and that 1/3 of trucks are driving empty shows how challenging it is to have full visibility and proper data acquisition.   

To be able to break the vicious circle these companies found themselves in, they need to step above the frame and search for ways to find empty trucks and keep them fully loaded. They need to go beyond their mini-network and explore thousands of opportunities outside this network to find efficiency. As Anshu Prasad points out: “Optimizing for the little mini-network that you see, you’re going to miss the ocean…And how much of the pattern now can you see in your mini-network so you can operate that better, more intelligently with better reliability and lower costs. But then, outside your network, and roughly even for some of the very large shippers that we’re working with by millions of dollars of trucking every year, there are a thousand times as many opportunities outside of their mini-network as there are inside to find efficiency.” 

It will be great to see who will win the game and connect them all in a smart network that will help us address all the challenges in planning and execution I’ve mentioned above. I hope that once businesses create this data network, there will be more and more products on the market that will help create a more resilient and optimized supply chain with a much higher level of visibility and predictability. 


To learn more about how we helped companies reshape their supply chain, read some of the success stories: Stena: Reimagining B2B Transporation through a Transformative Freight-Trading Platform, Leaf: Next Generation Supply Chain.