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Podcast: Insights into Navigating COVID-19 Planning

18 Jun 2020

Tune into the first episode of Be Ready for Anything, ToolsGroup’s new video podcast. In this series, we’ll be interviewing industry experts about some of the world’s most complex supply chain and demand planning challenges.

In this episode, hear from Linda Fung, ToolsGroup’s Director of Customer Success, about how COVID-19 is affecting supply chain planning, what companies are doing to adapt, and what we can expect to see going forward.


Check out the video below.


Or listen and follow on Spotify.



Katie Van Adzin: Hi and welcome to ToolsGroup’s new video podcast. I’m your host, Katie Van Adzin. I’m the Digital and Content Marketing Manager here at ToolsGroup’s Boston office. Today I’ll be speaking to Linda Fung, our Director of Customer Success. Linda’s been with ToolsGroup for over three years and she has a wide range of experience working in supply chain, including planning, purchasing, inbound logistics, and much more. Thanks for talking with me today, Linda. How’s it going?

Linda Fung: Hi Katie! Things are going well! What about with you?

Katie Van Adzin: Yeah, not bad! It’s finally getting warm, so enjoying that.

Linda Fung: Yeah, for Boston, that’s a big development!

Katie Van Adzin: I know, tell me about it! So can you tell me a little bit about what a typical day is like now for you and your team in the wake of COVID 19?

Linda Fung: Well, I mean, it’s been a very challenging time, it’s been an interesting time, unprecedented for all of us. Our job, honestly, has not changed much. Our primary focus is always to make sure the clients get what they’re looking for out of our tool, maximize that value that we deliver to them, make sure they reach their return on investment. With that, even though there’s some strange and exceptional events happening in the world, we still are focused on that. We still talk to our customers every day. We still serve as the escalation point if customers have issues. And most importantly, if customers are still working on their implementation project, we’re still working with that consulting team to make sure we understand their model inside out. So when we’re ready to take over the account, we understand what’s going on with our customers. We understand their business challenges and their goals.

Katie Van Adzin: That’s great! What kinds of customer challenges have you been hearing about since the outbreak began?

Linda Fung: Specifically in terms of COVID, I think a lot of our customers are seeing the same types of challenges. They’re seeing a very fractured and disrupted supply chain. Globally, they’re not being able to get their product from their suppliers. Internally, their production plants are domestic, we’re still seeing production slow-downs. Customers, their employees may not be able to go to work at their plants because of childcare issues., so they’ve had to cut down on production. Obviously, we’ve seen demand go out the door in some cases, but in other cases, we’ve seen an incredible spike in certain products. So we’re hearing a lot of the same things from our clients over and over again

Katie Van Adzin: That makes sense. Have they told you anything about how they’re adapting or attempting to adapt to the new circumstances?

Linda Fung: Yeah, well, the first thing our clients are trying to do is a lot more people obviously are working remotely where they can. A lot of the planning teams have gone remote. So they’re looking for more tools to enable them to do that. We’re also trying to find ways that we can help them forecast a best case and worst case scenario so that they can plan a little bit better within those confines. And, yeah, we’re also seeing them just try to work a little bit closer with their vendors to try to understand what that replenishment system is gonna look like, when their product is gonna be able to come in, what lead times may look like. So we’re seeing a lot more customers focusing on that.

Katie Van Adzin: And what can ToolsGroup do both, you know, in the near term and going forward potentially after this is somewhat resolved. What can TG do to help them?

Linda Fung: Well, we’re really trying to be very good partners to our customers. We understand that this is a challenging time that nobody asked for. So ToolsGroup has proactively gone out to each of our customers and we’ve tried to, well, we’ve offered our services free as partnerships in order to help them run these scenarios so that they can understand that best-case scenario I spoke about, or the worst case, in terms of their demand or their supply. We’ve also worked very closely with our customers in understanding how we need to shape a forecast for next year. Obviously, the demand patterns from this year, we don’t want to repeat next year, we don’t want it to affect the forecast for next year, so we’re working on ways to work around that.

ToolsGroup also has some very exceptional tools that is going to be very powerful in helping our customers work remotely. For instance, we’ve got some tools called the Demand Collaboration Hub, and that’s a tool that helps demand planners, marketing, sales, essentially anyone with a stake in the forecast come together and collaborate on a forecast. And that forecast gets fed back into SO99. TG has offered a priority implementation on that along with the one-time service fee. We’ve also given away subscriptions for six months and a lot of our clients have responded very well to that. I think that we’ve, you know, within our module itself, within our tool, we’ve got some really helpful tools, and right now we’re just spending a lot of time making sure that our customers have it configured right or can understand how to use it.

Other tools that clients may have or may use, in terms of a disrupted supply chain, is a tool called Inter-Depot Transfer. What that does is, it’s a stock balancing system, so where we get from where there may be a little bit too much to a place where there’s a little bit more need. So we’re helping our clients understand a lot more of what they can get out of SO99, especially during the wake of this time that’s been exceptionally hard to plan for.

Katie Van Adzin: Yeah, absolutely. It sounds like that there’s a lot in there. That’s great to know about.

Linda Fung: I don’t know how much time we have in this podcast, I didn’t want to take you through all of it, take up all your time, but yes.

Katie Van Adzin: My final question for you today is whether you think that COVID-19 is going to permanently change the supply chain and inventory optimization industries. How do you see that playing out long term?

Linda Fung: Hmm. I’m not sure that it’s permanently changing anything, but I think it’s accelerating a lot of the trends. For instance, I think we started already going down, you know, where we’re really promoting being more proactive with your forecast rather than reactive, or predictive rather. And a lot of that, you know and our software is powered by machine learning, which is helping our customers be more predictive in terms of what’s going to happen with their demand pattern. I think that there’s going to be a greater emphasis on that now. I also think that we are going to focus more on supply chain optimization, and you know, that very precious inventory investment we can make, we need to maximize that now. We’re going to have unlimited funds and we’re going to be very careful as we recoup from this devastating time. So we need to focus on how to smartly invest our inventory dollars, and I think that the supply chain optimization is a great way to look at how to get the most bang for your buck. I also think that our customers are going to really be evaluating that safety stock component, whether they’re carrying too much of some things or not enough of the others. I think we’re really going to be focusing on that as well.

Katie Van Adzin: Makes sense. Well thank you so much for all of your advice to our customers and for talking with me today! It’s always a pleasure to see you and catch up.

Linda Fung: Thank you so much, Katie, I really appreciate it. And, you know, any time our customers need, they know they can always reach out to me, Bob, or Bobby. I hope they do anyway! We’re always there for them. We’re essentially on call for our customers all the time and we always serve as their escalation points.

Katie Van Adzin: That’s great, thank you so much!

Linda Fung: Thank you Katie!

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