Marcos Clowes FCILT FinstSMM is a Business Process Management expert, a Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Logistics and Transport, a Fellow of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and works as the CIO and a Vice President of Logistics and Transport Experts in the UK.
How do you define BPM as you use it in your business practices?
Business process management (BPM) is a discipline in management in which people use various methods to discover, define, model, analyze, measure, improve, optimize, control and automate business processes.
In project management, business process management is the use of a repeatable process to improve the overall outcome of the project.
We have of course utilized BPM in our own business practices and processes to ensure that our processes are as efficient and lean as they can be with complete focus on the voice of the customer.
Are there specific activities, applications, or processes that fall under the umbrella of BPM?
A business process is an activity or set of activities that will accomplish a specific organizational goal. BPM often involves automating tasks within any given business process, although BPM is not a technology in itself, and process improvements can happen outside of automation and without technology.
A business process or business method is a collection of related, structured activities or tasks by people or equipment which in a specific sequence produce a service or product for a customer or customers.
A BPM application is a tool that allows organizations to manage, automate and optimize their recurring business processes. Business process management applications generally consist of a customizable digital form to collect information for the process and an automated workflow of tasks to process the information.
For example, the freight logistics and transport world is changing rapidly due to customers wanting everything delivered direct to their home and as quickly as possible. We constantly need to apply BPM and scrutinize the processes to reduce or eliminate bottlenecks and delays within the supply chain. We moved from expedited delivery to overnight, overnight to same-day and now, some services deliver within the hour. It is no longer enough to adapt when the customers demands change. We need to be able to predict what the customer will want in the future through predictive analysis and forecasting.
What have been the most significant things you’ve found and resolved by employing BPM to areas of your operations?
We have been able to reduce the number of steps in a process through implementing effective BPM and applying lean/Agile methodology to save more than £40M for our clients and generating more than £50M in released capital.
Customers expect product availability, and fast! Freight logistics and transport must predict and adapt the supply chain processes in advance of customer needs. It’s no longer acceptable to have a delay in response between customer demands and the ability to deliver on those demands.
Can you give me an example of a project in which you applied BPM to gain an advantage in your business?
We applied BPM to a client's business that had acquired a multitude of other freight transport and logistics businesses. Many of the business processes were duplicated and many were traditional and antiquated. Through effective implementation of lean principles and BPM we were able to increase the company profits by more than £3M and to release £13M in capital through the consolidation of businesses and property sales.
For example, many of our acquisitions had their own logistics network. We mapped each network and created a BPM flow for each, we then analyzed where duplication occurred and removed the duplicated elements to reduce the number of vehicles, sorting facilities, and people required to complete the end-to-end supply process.
What are the most promising technologies you see being put to use in the transport industry and what kind of results are you seeing?
The freight transport and logistics (FTL) sector is experiencing a new wave of digital technologies, which is bringing dramatic advances in what the industry can do and has the potential to be the dominant mode of monitoring, understanding, analyzing, evaluating, and planning sustainable freight transport and logistics.
To understand the opportunities offered by these emerging technologies in managing supply chains and freight flows, an extensive review has been conducted, using a wide range of academic and practical resources. This has led to a high-level synthesis of digitalization in freight transport and logistics, as well as a detailed exploration of major technological trends. Seven emerging technologies were identified, which are likely to have a major impact on the worldwide freight transport and logistics sector.
- Cloud computing
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- Social media networks
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Big data analytics
- Immersive technologies
- Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)
These technologies enable smart and digitalized applications and are able to support various practical, sector-specific activities, such as digital rail, smart motorways and smart port programs. These and similar digital applications have great potential to enhance the sustainability of freight transport and logistics in respect of its physical, environmental, economic and social dimensions. However, with the exception of cloud computing and IoT, there is limited empirical evidence at the moment to demonstrate the value created by these technologies for freight, mainly due to their early stage of deployment in this sector.
What do you see as the biggest bottleneck in supply chain operations, and how do you see it being resolved?
The FTL sector is currently experiencing a paradigm shift, with coinciding transitions in the fields of energy use, digital technologies and behavioral changes towards e-commerce and business to consumer delivery. These changes have a dramatic affect in the way in which the FTL sector operates. This shift must be fully understood to harness the opportunities and benefits it brings, while mitigating potential bottlenecks and disruptions.
Is this a case of BPM or just simple observation and problem solving?
BPM really needs to be at the forefront of these bottlenecks and disruptions. Applying technology to a current process or set of processes without first understanding the existing processes and making necessary changes and removing unnecessary steps first through using BPM and lean/Agile methodologies can certainly be a recipe for disaster.
What advice would you give to IT executives looking to enhance their operations?
I would highly recommend investigating and understanding BPM and how it could be applied to your business as soon as possible. In this era of emerging technologies it is very quick and easy to be left behind.
Are there specific BPM practices you would recommend?
Business Process Management is the practice of developing, running, performance measuring, and simulating business processes to affect the continued improvement of those processes.
I highly recommend applying the Pareto principle first of all, whereby 20% of business processes will give you 80% of the results you are looking to achieve.
The other 80% of processes can be addressed once the 20% has allowed you to achieve 80% of your desired results!
Business Process Management is concerned with the lifecycle of the Process Definition, reducing steps in the processes using lean/Agile principles and applying Business Process Management on an ongoing basis to stay ahead.
BPM is excellent for managing complex interactions, unstructured activities, and coordinating that in the context of business processes. This is a real shift and one that is becoming more and more critical to the way that organizations can further impact their performance.