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A supply chain innovation entrepreneur: My interview with Marie Varrasso

3 min read

When it comes to supply chain innovation and technology, a lot of retailers are still unaware of what it truly means. We interviewed Marie Varrasso, an experienced leader in supply chain management and operations. She is also one of the speakers for the upcoming ASCI2019 Supply Chain Leaders Summit, developed by Akolade in partnership with the Australasian Supply Chain Institute (ASCI). She shares her experience on what true innovation means in the supply chain.

You’ve had a very varied an interesting career in the supply chain! What have been the biggest changes over the last 5 years in the sector?

The realisation of companies, in particular retailers, of the rise of online shopping and the need to create an omni-channel experience for the consumer. Internet shopping is not a new concept, it has been around for 20+ years and Amazon is testament to that. I would also say technology as the enabler within the supply chain has fundamentally changed the way we run our supply chains and the way we service consumers. As an industry, C-suite leaders have tended to look at supply chain as a “cost of doing business”,

“I believe this perception is changing today and the industry is now being seen as a “value add” to an organisation and is being used as an organisation’s competitive advantage.”

What is the most exciting thing about working in the retail supply chain, after your time at Nike?

The most exciting thing has been the learnings I have gained an understanding of what the future is for retail supply chain. It has become obvious to me that the supply chain needs to truly become seamless and frictionless if organisations want to win at the moment of truth with their consumers. There is much “disruption” out there in the form of technology and innovation, and none of these will disrupt or can disrupt like the consumer.

“Until we embrace the notion that it is the consumer who is the true disruptor, we will not gain a competitive advantage within our businesses.”

You’re a bit of an expert in supply chain innovation – where would you suggest someone starts their journey of implementing supply chain technology?

There is a plethora of technology out there, therefore speaking from a pure operations perspective, we need to start to break down where we can make a difference for our organisations. Know your organisation’s long term and annualised business strategy and determine how this translates into your supply chain strategy – from there empower your teams to create the tactical projects to get after the strategy. Start small.

Four key areas I would investigate to transform a supply chain:

  1. lean & continuous improvement – what I call daily innovation
  2. automation
  3. big data
  4. collaboration across the business ecosystem: customers, suppliers, cross-functional teams

What is the biggest misnomer people have about supply chain technology?

That supply chain technology is one big scary area: too hard and too costly. This simply is not the case.

“Understand not only the return of investment for the organisation, but also the return on the experience for the consumer.”

Where would you like to see the most growth take place in the supply chain?

Two key areas:

  1. Use of Technology as an enabler to the supply chain.
  2. Sustainability. We can and should do more. The consumer demands it.

What do you consider your most successful innovation to be to date?

“Small can achieve Big Outcomes.”

Gaining Australian Carbon Neutral Certification for a 20 year old distribution facility can and does make a huge difference to an organisation. Besides the obvious bottom line benefits in dollar savings to an organisation, aiming for such a big audacious goal means we are doing the right thing for the environment. We also contribute to sustainable local and international projects, and ultimately the consumer demands us to act in a responsible way. Today, I would argue this should be part of the fundamental basics of any organisation, sadly, most warehouse facilities are way off and think it’s just too hard.

Catch more of Marie Varrasso’s insights in the upcoming ASCI2019 Supply Chain Leaders Summit happening on 17-19 September 2019 at Pullman Melbourne on the Park. Register here!

About Marie Varrasso

With over 20 years’ experience as a Leader within Supply Chain Management & Operations, Marie Varrasso has worked for globally recognised organisations as Director Supply Chain & Logistics for Nike Pacific and Director of Distribution at Oxford University Press. A passionate Supply Chain Director with an innate belief in putting the customer at the centre of all supply chain processes whilst focussing on “safety first”, innovation, continuous improvement & collaborative partnerships with all stakeholders. Marie’s knowledge areas include Supply Chain Innovation, Logistics & Transportation, Performance Management, S&OP and Planning. She has also spent time in Oxford, England and Singapore. Marie holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree (Honors International Politics) from La Trobe University, Melbourne


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