Sometime during his decade-plus run at the head of supply chain consultancy Prological, a universal truth made itself known to Managing Director and Founder Peter Jones.
“I realized that if you do tomorrow what you were doing yesterday, you’re effectively going backwards,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “That’s not a way to do business, let alone stay on the cutting edge of innovation.”
And innovation is the name of the game at Prological, a company that prides itself on presenting clients with new ways to achieve greatness.
“We have a design process that identifies new opportunities while eliminating waste throughout supply chains,” he says. “Our focus is on finding and then executing that which only your business can do, that is able to distinguish it from your competition. Once we know this, we then design and execute the better strategy, the better process, leading to better business outcomes. This is what we call our clients’ unfair advantage.”
We won’t tell anyone we’ll do something if we can’t, but we do require clients to join us on a journey of innovation.
Jones, a former machine fitter, then trained vocational minister and for the past 27 years a supply chain consultant, started Prological in 2010 as a way to re-imagine supply chains for his clients. His experience and lifelong fascination with engineering have helped him to ensure Prological brings something unique to the table.
“It’s a skill,” he says. “We’ve basically got the same set of ingredients as everybody else, but we create an entirely different outcome, which our clients have been very pleased with.”
This means that Prological has an appetite for innovation and new thinking. In Jones’ opinion, “achieving 92 percent of a newly developed, next-generation innovation is preferable to 100 percent of the conservative idea.”
“Whenever you innovate, you’re on a new path,” he says. “We won’t tell anyone we’ll do something if we can’t, but we do require clients to join us on a journey of innovation.”
And that path begins with the supply chain as we know it. Prological uses evidence-based insights to disrupt and re-engineer a client’s existing supply chain with creative, end-to-end solutions.
Breaking the cycle
For many businesses, change is difficult, and so the safety of a conservative approach often prevails.
“With that mindset, unless you can absolutely guarantee an outcome, there’s hesitation and a tendency to play it safe,” he says. “The only guarantee is that if you are doing tomorrow what you were doing yesterday, then you are going backwards, and that is very dangerous.”
The COVID-19 pandemic made supply chains a household topic as everyday goods suddenly became scarce.
“It really brought supply chains into the C-suite and the board room,” Jones says. “Pre-pandemic, supply chains were still seen as a warehouse issue. It’s a big change that’s still underway and it’s why we’re so busy at the moment.”
Pre-pandemic, supply chains were still seen as a warehouse issue.
Many businesses didn’t survive the pandemic on account of supply chain failures.
“The survivors are all now busy trying to de-risk their supply chains, but because everybody’s trying to do the same thing, there is also a desire to develop a distinctive competency through supply chain,” he says.
Recently, Prological teamed up with The Iconic, a world-leading online fashion and lifestyle platform in Australia and New Zealand, to reforge and expand its fulfillment capabilities.
“The Iconic is a business pursuing innovation every day; it’s at the core of its success,” Jones says. “It’s led by a younger generation; the entrepreneurial spirit is strong. They are driven by a curiosity. Their DNA drives a curiosity that is always open to new ways of doing things. This is why they are so successful.”
After assessing The Iconic’s existing operations, Prological put forward a series of efficiency gains and profit-boosting measures that could be derived from what was already in place. Those new initiatives are now being rolled out as The Iconic expands its marketplace offerings, and have led to what The Iconic CEO Erica Berchtold described as “a significant shift” in priorities for the leading retailer.
“For every 10 ideas we might put on the table, nine might crash and burn,” Jones admits. “But the business with the culture that invites ideas to the table allows that one good idea out of 10 to become the innovation that drives the business forward, and that’s how it is for The Iconic.”
More than a building
The warehouse of tomorrow is a far cry from the square box with an attached two-story office. As businesses have taken on the lessons of the pandemic, warehouses have become more than a place to hold stock. Jones says a key strength of Prological is the ability to develop outside-the-box strategies to modernize the traditional square box.
“This is a place where people work, so it should be pleasant, a good environment to work in. It must be well utilized from an m3 perspective, not the traditional m2 evaluation. The future warehouse is also the power generator, not only for the building and its operations, but also for some of the transport tasks. The next generation of warehouses are going to have much better outcomes for businesses and their teams,” he says.
For now, as industries rush to join the modern era of logistics and supply chains, Jones’ vision of the future remains just that, while at the same time assisting Prological’s clients to also see that future and a vision for themselves, leading them and their teams to a richer future.
As long as we know what the the vision is, then we can ensure whatever we do today puts us on the pathway to realizing it.
“It’s not all about achieving the vision, but it’s critical in today’s business world to know what is possible,” he says. “When we know what is possible it can change us, change what we think, change how we look at the difficulties. Too often businesses start with the constraints. The constraints and functional realities of creating the new future have to be considered.
“However, if we know what future is possible, the constraints take on a different perspective, and all of a sudden, teams of like-minded people will find ways to work with or around the constraints. As long as we know what the the vision is, then we can ensure whatever we do today puts us on the pathway to realizing it.”
Jones is of the view that good managers are generally able to solve unknown challenges with known solutions by following a process. In contrast, the defining activity of leaders is solving unknown challenges with unknown innovative solutions.
“The lightbulb was not invented by designing a better candle,” he says.
“I often quote Gordon Murray, one of the greatest Formula One car designers of all time, who said ‘I’m always trying to find the unfair advantage.’ Our knowledge is a commodity, but the way of thinking is our unique proposition.”