We honor Asian Pacific Heritage Month with the fourth installment of our series celebrating team members of Asian Pacific origin who bring our manufacturing and supply chain excellence to life, every day. Latonia Knox, global head of inclusion and diversity at Flex, kicked off the celebration in a blog post marking Asian Pacific Heritage Month.
Today, we spotlight our Global Procurement and Supply Chain team, which includes supply chain experts, data scientists and software developers. They provide and develop analytics solutions for the greater Flex team to improve the supply chain processes and decision-making, including pricing and design.
We sat down with Prabhakar Thanikasalam, Senior Director, Global Procurement and Supply Chain, to learn more about the role of advanced analytics in the modern supply chain and how we’re helping customers benefit from this technology.
Here is an excerpt from our conversation with Prabhakar.
Tell me about your team. Where are you located and what do you do?
I’ve been with Flex since 2007 and today lead a global team of supply chain analysts, data scientists/analysts and software developers. We have a presence in California, Texas, India, Poland and Mexico. We use Industry 4.0 technologies to develop proprietary analytics solutions that provide insight to support the needs of multiple functional groups within Flex. This includes the quoting team, supply chain managers, global commodity managers, business development teams, design engineers, component engineers, manufacturing sites, and more.
It’s great working with people in different regions of the world. I enjoy experiencing other languages and cultures. And everyone brings a different perspective to a problem or to a discussion. It keeps things interesting.
Why is your team’s work so important?
Any movement of the needle on data analytics leads to value creation. I like to remind my team of that. A couple of years ago, I had t-shirts printed up that read, “DATA➔$$$” and gave them to my team members. While I want my team to have fun while creating new solutions, I also want them to be mindful of our driving force, which is to think about the bottom line. And I’m not just referring to Flex. I want my team to think about our customers by developing solutions that help them in some way such as mitigating their risk or lowering their costs.
So, we don’t create for the sake of creation. We believe that innovation is only innovation when we can provide a proven method to create value for someone. For example, picking up your phone to find out if you’ll need an umbrella in the next 30 minutes is only innovation because it enables better decision-making leading to a more enjoyable “planned walk in the park.”
It’s great working with people in different regions of the world. I enjoy experiencing other languages and cultures. And everyone brings a different perspective to a problem or to a discussion. It keeps things interesting.- Prabhakar Thanikasalam, Senior Director, Global Procurement and Supply Chain
What role do advanced analytics play in ensuring supply chain efficiency/resiliency?
Analytics within the procurement/supply chain space makes a big difference as we buy millions of different components. We developed an application called “Price It Right.” As it suggests, it helps our quoting team and global commodity management teams quickly determine what each component in a bill of materials should cost. This includes looking at historical data, real-time market/external data and internal data to determine price competitiveness at part level and then rolling that up into a finished bill of materials to determine final cost. This process is only as good as the data – you must have data from around the world and across industries about current pricing of each component. We have that data, and it helps decision makers determine which components to swap or keep.
Another software application we developed is “Design It Right.” This takes the same concepts and applies it to supply limitations and other potential risks such as parts approaching end of life. By applying this analysis, design engineers can build in resiliency by proposing other solutions or alternatives. This analytics helps Flex teams to prioritize and manage the millions of parts and more than 16,000 suppliers at any given time.
My team and I are especially proud of these two achievements. We run, on average, 150 to 200 new business quotes through these systems each month. It’s a lot to keep up with to ensure we’re providing the very best data possible. Over the past few years, we’ve not only saved Flex tens of millions of dollars, we’ve been able to generate value for our customers.
What other responsibilities do you and your team have?
Another key area of focus for our team is to continuously increase the scope and maturity of advanced analytics within Global Procurement and Supply Chain. The capability of my team has grown to include offerings in predictive analytics (machine learning). We incorporate this into our solutions and our team’s analytics output. This provides new insights leading to new innovations within our team and Flex processes overall.
I’m also responsible for supply chain data and availability, including the continuous push towards “fresher real-time” data – the corporate IT team are great partners in this quest. These data solutions form the basis for Flex Pulse, our cloud-based visibility platform dedicated to coordinating everything in the supply chain. It stretches across multiple industry segments ranging from automotive and high-tech devices to digital health and consumer goods. They also are the foundation of other key business intelligence solutions within Flex such as value chain planning.
Does anything keep you up at night?
I’m a numbers guy and want the data before making decisions. I wouldn’t say this keeps me up at night, but it keeps me thinking about those t-shirts: “DATA➔$$$.” Helping to evolve the decision-making at Flex to be more data-driven, more resilient and more predictable – for me, that’s success!
But what really keeps me up at night is my young family and, in specific, our infant son. We have a two-year-old daughter named Brinda and our son Ravi. Before having children, my wife and I were backpacking leaders with the Sierra Club. We are both certified to lead multi-day/overnight hikes in the wilderness. My hobbies are a little different today.
Brinda, my eldest likes the outdoors, so I enjoy taking her on walks or runs in parks and on trails. And I’m good at diaper changing. It used to take me a minute and now I can change Ravi in 30 seconds. I suppose I gathered the data necessary for the task, analyzed it and then improved upon it. You could call that data in action.