As I meet with business and IT leaders across various industries, I increasingly see how much they value their business’ relationship with customers. Like any relationship or partnership, how brands interact with their customers is essential to forming a foundation of trust and loyalty.

Organizations must deliver their brand promise to customers to establish that deep connection, and it is a lot easier to do when you’ve gained supply chain agility by embracing digital transformation.

The technological developments of recent years have given us greater resilience, flexibility, and visibility into what brands can deliver and what customers expect, but how can brands embrace digital transformation to go even further to enhance those relationships?

I had the chance to discuss this topic with Sally Eaves, professor in Advanced Technologies, and global strategic advisor and special guest Steve Birgfeld, VP of Information Technology and Services at Blue Diamond Growers, as part of SAP’s Live Chat series on Tomorrow’s Tech Today platform. I am pleased to share a few key takeaways from our engaging conversation about how brands can achieve end-to-end visibility of their supply and distribution chains to create the type of customer experiences that drive loyalty and profitability.

SAP Innovation Awards: Digital Transformation Insights with Experts

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SAP Innovation Awards: Digital Transformation Insights with Experts

Something for Everyone

Whether it is delivering a quality product or providing an essential service, every brand makes a promise to their customers. Birgfeld described how delivering on a brand’s promise helps Blue Diamond build that trust, and it is part of the reason the company is the world’s largest almond processing and marketing cooperative – and a 2023 SAP Innovation Award winner.

Growers “trust us with their almonds,” he said. “It’s up to us to deliver them accordingly. So [there is] a lot of focus on quality, integrity, and innovation. And that innovation also applies to the technology we use to enable that.”

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With two lines of business – branded nut snacks and ingredient sales to other consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers – Blue Diamond deals with variables like weather issues, wildfires, and droughts. But the havoc the COVID-19 pandemic played on its supply chain was unforeseen. 

Suddenly, what was a demand-driven, normal business became a constraint-driven one. Birgfeld explained how a three-week wait to receive cargo turned into a five-month delay. What could have been a disastrous situation was salvaged by an attitude I find common among SAP Innovation Award winners: the digital transformation journey is a journey, not an end destination.

Running Simple in the Digital Economy

With more than 3,000 growers, 1,800 employees, and consumers in more than 75 countries, the need for Blue Diamond to shift from disparate, manual processes to streamlined and integrated ones was critical. The company needed to create a world-class supply chain solution to improve its forecast accuracy and distribution channel, among other areas.

Fortunately, Blue Diamond had already migrated its ERP to SAP S/4HANA for its core capabilities, empowering the company to embrace the digital economy. The company also leaned on SAP Business Network to help connect, transact, and partner with other businesses on shared processes and information, replacing uncertainty with end-to-end visibility.

Together, Blue Diamond and SAP would develop what Birgfeld called “an intelligent, data-driven cooperative.”

Synchronized Planning Vision

By achieving a consolidated management view across its business, the company reduced supply on hand by 20%, expanded order fill rates to 99%, and saved US$1 million in logistics costs. Having the data in one centralized location condensed scenario planning for a typical situation from six hours to 20 minutes.

“It enabled our customer service reps [to] respond immediately to the customer on where things stood, and we could do course correction accordingly if there were issues,” Birgfeld said.

Sustainability also improved, since the streamlined operation meant that fewer trucks had to be used along the supply chain.

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As a 2023 SAP Innovation Awards judge, I saw firsthand how Blue Diamond Growers grew with SAP S/4HANA.

 After setting the bar high for next year’s SAP Innovation Award winners, Blue Diamond Growers is moving forward, utilizing SAP’s financial planning and analysis (FP&A) tools to better align financial, inventory, and demand data and extending SAP Analytics Cloud to help improve analysis, planning, forecasting, and visualization.

“Our real vision is…a synchronized planning capability,” Birgfeld said. “And SAP is a great enabler of that.”

Inside Innovation

SAP’s Live Chat on Tomorrow’s Tech Today platform is a new limited series that highlights the latest innovations in emergent technology integration across a range of sectors and themes. In each episode, SAP innovators come together with experts from a variety of backgrounds, sharing stories that can inspire all of us. While each organization may differ, each interviewee shares their version of the same story – overcoming a unique challenge with the type of innovation we all aspire to achieve.

To learn more about SAP Innovation Awards and discover the incredible stories of innovation, visit www.sap.com/innovationawards.

Sven Denecken is SVP and chief marketing and solutions officer for SAP Industries & CX.

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