Evren Ozkaya (MSIE 05, Ph.D. 08), an alumnus of Georgia Tech’s Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), has long been fascinated by supply chain management – so much so that he named his startup company Supply Chain Wizard (SCW). SCW is a consulting company that helps other companies with – as its name suggests – supply chain management and optimization.
Ozkaya’s experience with supply chain management (SCM) is deep and wide-ranging, including a stint at the UN World Food Programme as a supply chain expert advisor, and as a current advisor for the Center for Health & Humanitarian Systems, an Interdisciplinary Research Center at Georgia Tech.
In this interview, Ozkaya discusses his passion for and interest in supply chains, his motivation for starting SCW, and the future of supply chain management.
Beginning with your college education to your current company, Supply Chain Wizard, you have been deeply involved in supply chain management. What makes you so passionate about supply chains, and why?
Supply chain management is an intriguing field in every possible way. The more I learn about it, the more I love it.
First and foremost, it is an area that connects everything globally: people, products/services, countries, information, and of course, the money. SCM is like the operating system of the world.
The second reason for my passion is that SCM is complex, and it requires a significant amount of problem solving and analytical skills. This is a prime field for applying engineering skills combined with people and technology skills to solve real complicated business issues.
Finally, I love the integrated nature of SCM and its impact on actual business results such as revenues, margins, and customer happiness. As a “supply chain wizard,” I enjoy this final aspect the most — aligning and integrating all business functions so that companies reach their maximum potential.
You’ve worked in various supply chain-related roles, from NGOs like the UN World Food Programme to major companies such as McKinsey. What have your broad range of experiences enabled you to bring to your own company?
I have worked in every possible area of SCM including: demand management and forecasting; production planning and scheduling; warehousing and inventory management; logistics; network design; procurement; customer service; sales and operations planning; and supply chain organization design.
Thanks to my Ph.D. work (advised by William W. George Chair Pinar Keskinocak) at Georgia Tech and my experience at McKinsey, I have focused on various industries with supply chain and operations projects and research such as health care; medical devices; high tech; consumer packaged goods; logistics; industrial engineering; and private equity.
At SCW, I wanted to bring my knowledge and insights of SCM best practices, while recognizing the need for industry-specific domain knowledge to add real value. I started SCW with the pharma industry as our primary focus, with an eye toward expanding our services to other industries over time. The key value I brought with me to SCW was the ability to see end-to-end supply chain operations and to bring systems-level thinking to any client situation.
Supply Chain Wizard is a fairly young company. Describe what it does and what motivated you to found it.
In 2013, I was driving from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Princeton, New Jersey, when I came up with the company name “Supply Chain Wizard.” I was returning from an invited talk I gave to Carnegie Mellon University business students on consulting skills. I started dreaming about how SCW could be a leading organization globally – a thought leader in the area of SCM and business transformations.
This is my first entrepreneurial experience, and I am dedicated to making it my last one, as I hope to retire from SCW and put my Ph.D. to use by teaching supply chain management at a university during my retirement years.
SCW is currently focused on supply chain traceability and supply chain security in the pharmaceutical industry. We help clients implement the supply chain infrastructure they need to secure their supply chains from counterfeit drugs. This is a major regulatory requirement in more than 40 countries.
Besides our consulting services, we are building innovative software solutions using Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, Big Data analytics, and machine-learning approaches to solve our clients’ supply chain problems.
What is the secret to Supply Chain Wizard’s rapid growth and success?
We are one of the fastest growing companies in our industry, having captured some of the largest client accounts in the industry (including four of the top five U.S. generic drug manufacturers). The primary reason for our success is building a strong foundation of knowledge and expertise into repeatable processes using our software tools. We are not only providing client services; we are also providing software solutions to support our client services team, and eventually leaving behind these software solutions for our clients as a way to have sustainable impact.
Our aim is to digitize our clients’ factory and supply chain operations, so they can continuously improve their bottom line. We are now operating in five countries – the U.S., Turkey, Germany, the Netherlands, and India – serving global clients.
What significant issues do you think will impact supply chain management in the next three to five years?
Supply chains are going digital already. I wrote a recent blog post about “Self-Driving Supply Chain (SDSC): 7 Technology Platforms That Will Take Over Your Job.” The key message of this article was about the supply chain automation that already has started with the self-driving cars movement by Google, Amazon, and other leading technology companies for automated deliveries.
This movement toward automation threatens traditional jobs as we know them, opening the path to a more advanced set of design jobs. We will see a significant push toward the automation and digitization of supply chains in the next three to five years. But this is just the start.
These trends will bring one of the most difficult challenges we see in SCM, which is the supply chain talent gap. We already have a major talent gap in the supply chain field, and these trends will widen that gap, at least in the short term.
Schools like ISyE – that have the ability to generate many talented supply chain professionals – will need to work closely with industry players to address this issue.