The speed of business has exponentially accelerated the supply chain, and our members rely on a variety of vendors’ tools, technology, and services to help them make their departments and the flow of goods run effectively. Our Vendor Spotlight Series aims to highlight innovative companies and their C-Level leaders who are taking the industry to the next level when it comes to LP & security.
We recently caught up with Matthew Wensing, CEO of Riskpulse, a predictive and prescriptive analytics company that helps its clients strengthen their financial and physical operations globally through its sophisticated data-modeling and tracking software.
ISCPO: Tell us how Riskpulse was created and what problem were you trying to solve?
As an entrepreneur back in 2004, I launched Riskpulse to provide a better means of protecting the business world from mother nature. Essentially through tracking and alerts that were very advanced at the time. Google Maps had just been released and we were all fascinated with Google Earth. The vast majority of us had never seen the world at our fingertips like that. It breathed fresh life into the dreams that had gone bust in the late 90’s. Dreams of connectivity and instant access. But alongside the same positive explosion in data availability, I also witnessed the continued, shared failures of the public and private spheres to get people to act in a timely and informed way in response to natural disasters like Charley, Frances, Jeanne, and of course Katrina.
I saw a huge opportunity for us to tie together the data readily available with consumer-friendly views into that data to help inspire people to protect their homes, their families, and yes, several years later, their supply chains.
ISCPO: Tell us a challenge you see facing many professionals in the industry today and how your product/service helps to solve this issue?
We’re in the business of making retailers and manufacturers stronger in the way they move freight and protect their most valuable assets. For the most part, the systems that transact in this space are from the pre-smartphone era. They’re not smart. They just take orders and help a shipper execute them. That’s helpful but it’s a long way from smart. Riskpulse offers a cloud-based service that is a small dose of artificial intelligence applied to your entire supply chain. Where are the risks over the next two weeks and what can you do to reduce them? We provide updates in real-time and a continuous log that clients can use as a ledger of exposure. So the next time someone asks you about risks, you can point to the data we provide and provide them with a full history for every single asset in your network, as well as a forecast based on your unique vulnerabilities. Now rather than looking up today or yesterday’s information you are sitting on top of a growing mountain of insights, with a view into the future. And of course we’re still just at the beginning, but we believe Riskpulse is a better foundation.
ISCPO: How has the industry evolved over your tenure?
In some ways, it’s been fast. In others, as we all know, it’s been slower than necessary. I like Bill Gates statement that “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” I think the lack of change versus our expectations in the short term can disillusion us. Which is why he finishes his thought with “Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”
Whenever I think about the evolution of the supply chain – or lack thereof, I have to remind myself that the supply chain is a network. And it’s a network we’ve spent the last 500 years – since the trading era began – optimizing in certain ways among certain parties. All of that means it has an incredible amount of resilience, but the flipside is a huge amount of inertia and resistance to change. Look at Boston … the roads were horse trails that got paved. Sometimes I think the supply chain’s current era is like that. We are looking at our paved horse trails and asking how come we can’t get from A to B efficiently. Well it was efficient … when we all had horses and needed to stop at four places along the way and round the hill that isn’t even there anymore. So what I see is that we have so much more technology than the supply chain – the actual people and processes at the ground level – can absorb at the same rate. So there’s an incredible amount of impedance between the rate of invention and rate of adoption. Which can manifest as frustration. I’ve certainly seen it and felt it myself. But as a company providing solutions, I think that means there’s a pent-up opportunity to figure out how to deliver value instead of just creating it and handing the keys to the client. That’s a big focus of ours with Riskpulse. Customer success is everything.
ISCPO: What must a company do to maintain a high standard of supply-chain protection?
The basic pattern we see with our clients is a progression that leads them to an increasingly data-informed approach to decision-making. Often times when we first start talking they are, unfortunately, forced to rely on putting their fingers on some kind of large display and frankly, guessing, what the impacts of an event are going to be. They’re making phone calls proactively but they’re calling or surveying their entire supplier base just to find the needles in the many, many haystacks that might have problems hidden inside. This is obviously not a scalable solution. So we start by quantifying risks and in effect move their risk management from analog to digital. And then we log those scores and forecast the next set of scores for their entire supply chain – suppliers, customers, lanes, even their shipments. Then we distill that massive set of data down into a handful of insights that they can act on, weekly, or daily.
But it all starts with quantifying everything you can. Getting all of your risk factors into a format that computers can understand, so they can, in a positive sense, take over the tasks that humans shouldn’t be doing. One time I met an LP professional who had two smartphones. One to look up current weather information and another to page through a store directory and her brain was just there to try to play matchmaker. That was obviously a tragedy in 2013. We gave her an automated solution and liberated her to spend time thinking about the data rather than creating it, which is what computers are obviously the best at.
ISCPO: What are the biggest challenges to the role of supply-chain protection and security, from a holistic industry level?
I think it goes back to the rate of adoption, or better said, the rate of ability for the supply chain to adopt solutions. I have built my entire career on the assumption that I didn’t have to be the most brilliant person in the room to be successful because there is a much more valuable and painful gap between invention and adoption than there is at the cutting edge. So how can we all adopt solutions faster? And how can we create a situation where it’s a win-win rather than competitive?
I think we can take a page from the consumer world and look at companies and solutions like Facebook or email. These are systems—networks, that get better the more that people use them and join them. So there’s a bit of a clue in there … if we can create platforms that get smarter, richer, and more powerful each time someone joins or participates … then you have a very powerful solution to adoption. The early adopters – the avante garde, can join when the value is small and by the time the mainstream encounters it, it already has so much momentum, that all of the typical adoption challenges, which are often just influencers or people with veto power, are overcome because the platform is just too valuable to resist. I think if we can build a platform like that, we will be in a new era of supply chain protection and security compared to where we are today.
ISCPO: Thanks Matt!