A source of truth: William Wappler on supply chain visibility

A source of truth: William Wappler on supply chain visibility

The Surgere CEO discusses supply chain challenges and how the film can provide reliable information on the movement of their clients’ assets 

Alex Smith |

Global supply chains have been put under an enormous amount of stress in recent years. A series of crises have caused significant disruption to manufacturers in all parts of the world, ranging from shortages in raw materials to difficulties in transporting products.  

William Wappler, CEO of internet of things supply chain solutions and visibility provider Surgere, suggests that these problems have shown the industry that it needs to be better prepared and more flexible to deal with such challenges. 

“We’ve come to realise that these kinds of catastrophes aren’t just a one-time thing,” he says. “We have to develop formulas and methodologies to get past them. What’s interesting is that we’re demanding answers at a time where technology is finally starting to be able to provide them.” 

According to Wappler, current solutions are limited to providing insight into only parts of a supply chain, such as the movement of trucks. However, technology is developing to the extent that a more comprehensive level of visibility into the supply chain is possible. 

“Supply chain visibility is about the entire transition of products from their inception to their delivery,” says Wappler. “We don’t yet see that end-to-end visibility; the technology is fragmented, tracking only parts of the overall journey. I think what we are going to see in the near future is an interweaving start to happen, leading to the eventual deployment of end-to-end visibility.” 

Surgere is a global leader in leveraging supply chain solutions, with clients in 31 countries around the world and over 2,000 client locations in North America alone. Wappler explains that rather than developing its own solution, Surgere finds the one that best fits the needs of each of its clients. 

“What Surgere has is the expertise to create an ecosystem that fits with a company’s needs,” he says. “It might be that they need passive radio frequency identification, they might need Bluetooth, GPS, or ultra-wide band. Our job is to put the right ecosystem together that gives our clients a reliable source of truth about what’s being transitioned from point-to-point throughout the supply chain.  

A client can then see a range of benefits once their new ecosystem is in place, including some that even Surgere’s team does not see coming. 

“In the past, nobody was able to fully capture all of the information we now deliver about supply chains, and so there are a lot of new use cases being realised,” says Wappler. “Our clients can now automatically receive assets, for example, which means they know exactly where they are at all times without needing people to manually check. We’re also having important conversations about environmental sustainability, as we can let our clients know how full their trucks are or how many reusable containers they’re using, then relate that to their carbon footprint. You have to be able to measure things before you can manage them.” 

Surgere is also a Microsoft Marketplace Partner, and the companies have worked closely together to enable the large quantities of data that Surgere needs to provide its clients with accurate and actionable insights. 

“We’re creating about 15 billion transactions a month that reside on Microsoft Azure around the world,” says Wappler. “Our work with Microsoft’s team has been incredible in this area, because they got a really good sense of the massive scale we’re working on. They put engineers into our shop and together we built an ecosystem so that Azure could ingest all of this data. Our software is able to then take all of that ingested data and apply it in such a way that our community of users can actually understand what’s happening and identify which areas to work on in order to solve their most important and urgent problems.” 

Despite the challenges of recent years, Wappler is optimistic that today’s technological advancements represent a transformative step forward for the way we see supply chains. 

“Those of us who have grown up in supply chain have always wanted to make these technologies a reality,” he says. “The solutions we’ve been dreaming about for such a long time – digital twins, the cloud and internet of things – are finally here. We should all feel optimistic about the future of supply chains as we begin to experience what those technologies can do.” 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription

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