As we all learn to take a seat for virtual conferences, ASUG was quick to set the stage for the first ever ASUGFORWARD. During this multitrack and multiday virtual event, day one kicked off with the highly anticipated and attended Supply Chain and Manufacturing agenda.

“Supply chains have been upended at a speed, scale, and velocity that has never been experienced before,” said track emcee Tom Wailgum, who also is the ASUG communications director. “And the demands on manufacturing in so many industries are without historical comparison.”

Attendees tuned in to learn not only how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the supply chain line of business, but also how other organizations are pivoting and scaling during these uncertain times. They heard from various customers as well as experts across industries on best practices, innovative technologies, and creative tactics that have helped keep supply chains moving now and evolving for the future.

How SAP Technology Prepares Organizations to Fight COVID-19

On both days of the Supply Chain and Manufacturing sessions, ASUG CEO Geoff Scott spoke to a top-level executive on issues ranging from how the pandemic has affected their business operations to how each business leader will move forward in a post-COVID-19 landscape.

On the first day, Scott spoke to Marcello Damiani, chief digital and operations excellence officer at Moderna, a biotech company that is currently working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. They discussed how technology is supporting the company’s efforts. Damiani shared how the company is working to scale up its operations and how it’s grappling with the difficult supply versus demand equation. “We built a digital landscape across Moderna and we captured lots of data,” Damiani said. “The data has helped us improve our learning as well as with scaling. It helped us drastically improve the quality of our science and what we are doing.” He added, “Technology in its truest form is working to allow us to work quicker to get a vaccine.”

On the second day, Scott spoke to New England Biolabs CIO Sharon Kaiser, who is also an ASUG board member. They touched on how being agile is the key to keeping operations running. New England Biolabs makes reagents that are essential in COVID-19 research and testing. In light of social distancing, the company needed to act quickly to make sure its scientists and researchers had the space and tools they needed to keep on track. “We’re finding creative ways to get our researchers back into labs,” Kaiser said. “We’ve been following a cloud-first philosophy for more than five years, and so our software can be accessed anywhere.” She noted that the company is leasing lab space from universities that aren’t using them at this time. Because it has the technology to work from any lab, its researchers don’t have to skip a beat in the work they are doing.

SAP Customers Manage Supply Chains in the Cloud During Uncertainty

Over the course of two days, attendees heard from various SAP customers on how technology has helped them overcome challenges—both on the manufacturing side of operations, as well as on managing supply and demand discrepancies. As organizations learn to adapt to social distancing requirements, they’ve had to reimagine not only business processes, but also workforce and customer expectations.

On day one, attendees heard a panel discussion led by Alan Manuel from Protera, along with Carl Bachor from AWS. The two talked to Lee Johnson, CIO of Tidewater Marine, about embracing technology and improving profitability during a project where Johnson had to find $45 million in merger synergies between Gulfmark and Tidewater. “There was a lot of complexity associated with managing this project,” Johnson said. “We had to have an agile and bold project plan in order to meet the milestones.” Johnson was tasked with simplifying the business by leveraging best practices and tools. “In the end,” he said, “the company met its goals by eliminating 40 manual processes across 13 functional areas, In addition, we had 100% of our onshore workforce teleworking during the crisis, we now have 45TB of data in AWS, and we have an 80% reduction in final closings.”

On day two, Thomas McKee, CIO of Kennametal explained how the company backs its “smart factories” on Microsoft Azure. He touched on employing a modern workforce by giving workers real-time access to insights; enabling an intelligent supply chain by gaining end-to-end visibility; and designing a factory of the future by modernizing plant operations with Microsoft Azure IoT to gain performance insights and increase production efficiency. “The insights that data provides us makes us able to quickly pivot and find a root cause, and make decisions that not only improve the manufacturing operations,” McKee said, “but also serve our customers better.”

Checking the Pulse of the SAP Ecosystem

The virtual event went on without a glitch, and attendees remained engaged over the course of two days. Den Howlett of diginomica wrote, “ASUGFORWARD will go down as one of the best of the Spring 2020 events season, well ahead of others so far.”

The platform allowed both ASUG and speakers to interact with attendees and ask questions throughout various presentations. Questions asked included, “In what areas would using your SAP data to manage change be the most helpful to your organization?” It’s no surprise that this question received some of the most engagement throughout the two days, considering data was recognized as a key player in keeping the supply chain moving during times of uncertainty. More than half the respondents said that using SAP data to manage change in production and non-production environments to enable or improve testing processes would be most useful.

Another question asked was, “How has COVID-19 affected your organization’s plans to migrate SAP workloads to the cloud?” Almost half of the respondents indicated that migration plans have stayed the same, while only 3% said their plans have  accelerated.

It’s still too early to tell when and how SAP customers will come out of this pandemic. What we do know, however, is that the organizations that have a cloud-first strategy in place or have already constructed many of the elements of an intelligent enterprise have an advantage in remaining both operational and profitable during times of crisis like this one or whatever may be next on the horizon.

ASUG members can log in to watch both days of the Supply Chain and Manufacturing sessions on demand and listen to the Ask the Experts panels held at the end of each day. ASUG members will have unlimited access to all of the week’s sessions, while nonmember registrants can view them until Sunday, June 28 at 11:59 p.m. CT/Monday, June 29 at 12:59 a.m. ET.

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