What Star Wars told PepsiCo about future of supply chains

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
21 September 2017

PepsiCo’s supply chain chief invoked the vision of movies including Back to the Future and Star Wars to illustrate the impact of technology on the profession.

John Phillips, senior vice president customer supply chain and global go-to market at PepsiCo, said digital disruption was happening across the supply chain.

Speaking at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference in London, he said: “Movies can tell us a lot about the future that people can test and then bring to life in their operations and personal lives.”

Phillips said the flying car of Back to the Future would be a reality in Dubai this year and “cousins” of robots in Star Wars were checking store inventories in the US.

Phillips said the connected home would be a major driver of consumer behaviour, including technologies such as Amazon Dash, where people hit a button to reorder a product, voice-activated Alexa, and fridges that contain cameras that monitor food levels. “They create sticky behaviour,” he said, referring to how they keep consumers within a certain ecosystem.

“I would say consumer is leading from an IoT [internet of things] perspective and it doesn’t cost much to bring this into the business space,” he said.

Phillips said PepsiCo was testing cameras inside retail beverage coolers “that allow you to take a picture every time the door is opened”. He said they could monitor a cooler’s temperature, lighting and the health of its compressor.

He described how a robot made by Simbe could patrol store aisles and check 20,000 stock-keeping units with an accuracy of more than 96%.

Meanwhile, a ground delivery drone had the potential to cut last-mile delivery costs by 80-90%.

Phillips said the cost of introducing such technology to a business was low. It costs $30,000 to retrofit self-driving technology to a truck.

“Look for technology that can bring competitive advantage into your organisation,” he said.

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