What SAP says about innovation in the freight space

May 21 / US
What SAP says about innovation in the freight space

As a senior director of corporate business development at SAP, Hari Ashvini is always on the hunt for innovative partners. This means advances in technology while not sacrificing the ultimate customer experience. Ashvini has dubbed Uber Freight a “quiet revolution” in the freight space and has high hopes for the collaboration with SAP. “Uber Freight brings incredible capacity when it comes to shipping,” he says, “And SAP’s challenge — which we accept gladly — is to take that capacity and make it consumable for enterprise customers.” We caught up with Ashvini to chat more about what the SAP-Uber Freight partnership means for the future of logistics.

Tell us a little bit about your role at SAP.

I’m a senior director in the global development team at SAP. I focus on emerging partners, which is about bringing innovation and market disruptors from the industry into the core SAP suite of products as well as delivering innovation to our customers.

How do you see technology further impacting the shipping and logistics industry?

The shipping industry is largely a manual-process industry. The use of technology has been relatively low, and what we are seeing now is the massive option of different technology products related to AI and machine learning, and new service providers, such as Uber Freight. So the influx of technology is growing, and there’s still a lot of room to grow.

The thing that excites me most about the technology aspect of logistics is the ability to keep up with change, and I’ll give you an example. If there was a time when a load was canceled for some reason or there was nobody else to pick it up, there was no way in the past to actually book a load again and get it out to your customers. Now, with technology, we are instantaneously able to solve the problem. It’s a very small example, but it has a huge impact on how the business is conducted.

In your opinion, what does the emergence of on-demand logistics mean for the shipping industry?

To me, on-demand logistics globally is a matter of scale, and scale is what customers want. You look at a large shipper, and they have three or four options. One option is their own contracted vendors, some of them have their own fleets that they use for certain purposes, but at some point, they do tap out of capacity. With on-demand shipping, they have this broad network that they can tap into any time they want so that there is no capacity issue.

How are SAP and Uber Freight working together to drive technical innovation?

I am very excited about the partnership between SAP and Uber Freight. Uber Freight brings incredible capacity when it comes to shipping, and SAP’s challenge — which we accept gladly — is to take that capacity and make it consumable for enterprise customers. We want our customers to be able to consume the capacity with close tie-ins to their existing business processes, whether that be in supply chain, logistics, manufacturing, or all the way down to their financial systems. So it is really bringing together the best of both worlds.

How do you think the SAP partnership with Uber Freight will optimize the customer experience?

If you look at it from the drivers’ perspective, there’s a human aspect to this, which is that it makes their lives better. They’re able to spend more time with their families because it’s more predictable and their trucks aren’t running empty. That makes a big difference for the truck drivers’ lives.

If you look at it from the customer’s perspective, they often get into times where warehouses are overcrowded, truck drivers wait outside the warehouses, and there is a huge problem with that for the customer itself. Sometimes their production systems may not have things lined up and ready to go in the time they expected them to go. So how do you adapt to change that comes from a backend aspect of the business and that impacts the delivery of a certain product? Having the flexibility and having the option to say, “Hey something changed and I’m able to adapt to that change very quickly” is a huge aspect.

When thinking about the future of where this partnership can go, what’s your hope?

SAP is in almost all of the businesses in the world, and right now we are starting with supply chain. We have plans to roll out the solution of Uber Freight and SAP to a number of different industries where it may be applicable. SAP also has the world’s largest network from a procurement perspective, and I think it’ll be huge to see how we can tie Uber Freight closer into that space.


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