Sweet like chocolate: A digital integration strategy for Mars
From manufacturing and consumer goods to healthcare and the public sector the need to track your physical assets, from raw materials to finished goods, has never been more important.
World events have left economies in a constant state of flux, with rising prices impacting every aspect of an enterprise’s operations.
Mars’s vice president of digital Santosh Jamadagni argues that to address these challenges, improvements in planning, logistics, and manufacturing are necessary – and making data from lots of different sources available in real time is key.
Speaking at a recent MuleSoft connect event in London, Jamadagni, who moved to Mars from Microsoft five years ago, quotes a recent Forbes magazine article which noted that modern companies now operate in a world dominated by ‘five Is’: inventory ratios, inflation, interest rates, invasion, and infection.
“That’s the reality and how that shapes our day-to-day jobs is what we need to acknowledge and prepare for,” he says.
For a company the size of Mars – which celebrated its centenary anniversary last year – this mission is supersized.
The firm is best known for the chocolate bars made through Mars’ Wrigley division, but it also owns savoury brands such as Uncle Ben’s and Dolmio through Mars Foods; and has a thriving Pet Care strand as well as its own innovation hub, Mars Edge.
The company’s operations encompass 454 sites worldwide, as well as 2,500 veterinary hospitals.
Explaining how Mars uses the data it collects to deal with supply chain challenges, Jamadagni said: “The volatility we have out there is significant. But we can’t be reactive so we’re looking at how can we be better prepared – because it’s not going to go away in the near future – we have to be ready for that. “
The opportunities for Mars, as Jamadagni sees it, come from embracing these challenges and delivering data-led improvements, including ramping up its investment in real time data across planning, logistics and manufacturing.
Mars is using data integration platform MuleSoft to make its data available across a range of platforms in real time.
“A specific example would be trade promotion management,” he explains.
“So that’s changes in promotion, its impact on pricing – our ability to generate insights, and making those insights available for our customers, so they can make pricing decisions. That’s all crucial. And that becomes especially important now that we are living in the world of electronic commerce.”
Another example Jamadagni gives is in sustainability logistics: “It’s about integrating with customer’s green goals. And how do we connect that to our own green delivery goals,” he explains.
The solution Mars pursued in this instance was to take API-based data from a range of external sources, which it integrates with its transport order information from SAP.
That information is then sent to a “near-real-time” data lake, where analytics are performed.
“We have a CO2 calculator in our database. We get this external data source and integrate it with our enterprise application to see what the CO2 impact is.”
The challenges across all these supply chain uses cases are similar, Jamadagni argues, and they boil down to data management.
“It’s about how we can bring some method to the madness: There can be 100s integration patterns there can be 1000s of data sources. How do we manage this effectively? It comes down to how we are grouping them to manageable integration patterns.”
According to Jamadagni, Mars must also make decisions about where it target its data investments: real-time data processing can be a costly business and not always necessary, as the data head acknowledges:
“Sometimes we swing the pendulum too far and go to the extent of making everything real time – and that’s not good, either. So, being very selective about where to put the money to make it real time really matters,” he says.
Another point Jamadagni raises is the importance of being able to map integrations effectively for external partners to see – a process known as canonical mapping.
“Mapping can bring the costs down significantly,” he adds. Mars uses MuleSoft’s integration platform to document, map and integrate data between partners.
“Then your third-party providers can take that mapping and integrate. It should be as simple as that,” he says,” otherwise you are spending days defining the mapping.
Jamadagni says that MuleSoft – which is a Salesforce-owned company – also enables Mars to lead the conversation with its partners on standardisation:
“The interface allows you to map what you want from your partners. We can take a stand and say, ‘If you are interfacing with us, these are the ways you can do it.’ It’s all about harmonising integration,” he explains.
Jamadagni warned other technology heads that “it takes effort” to convince business internal business stakeholders and decision makers about the value of investing in APIs and the value of business insight gained from real time data.
He advises digital leaders to focus on the concepts of re-use and productivity, which are values that other business stakeholders will understand.
“Those numbers resonate better with business. Explaining the business value through those terms will be a lot more beneficial than trying to explain the various principles of APIs. We have made those mistakes and learnt the hard way,” he says.
It’s also hard to argue with the sweet spot that is delivered through cost savings: Jamadagni ended his presentation with a case study that focussed on the implementation of a control tower network.
The network was built to share daily performance management; asset sharing with other shippers; truck availability and cost2serve optimisation data which he claims has saved Mars $6m in transportation costs and £10m savings in third party logistics over a three-year period.
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