GEP kicks off digital convention by seeking lessons on coronavirus crisis and DuPont’s insights for practitioners

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The online GEP Innovate 2020 conference kicked off Tuesday with a message from GEP leaders and industry heavyweights that the procurement technology suite provider works with.

GEP President and co-Founder Neha Shah paid particular attention to social issues as well as the coronavirus disruption.

“This crisis has underscored the critical need for agile, resilient and sustainable supply chains,” she said in her opening video message. “All of us have a great opportunity to help shape the trajectory of our companies, our industries and  … change the world.

“With true innovation and digitization and data … we can create a supply chain that is more just, a supply chain with a reduced impact on the environment and a supply chain that can benefit those who have been left out and left behind.”

GEP Innovate seeks lessons from crisis

GEP CEO and co-Founder Subhash Makhija led a discussion with leaders from DuPont and Aptiv, an automotive electronics manufacturer.

Raj Gupta, Aptiv’s board chairman, asked DuPont CEO Ed Breen what he’s been seeing with the coronavirus pandemic and what he’s learned from dealing with the business disruption.

Breen said his first concern was the health of employees, then the state of the business. Remote work has ensured social distancing, but he fears that the work-from-home model is not sustainable in the long run. He expects a hybrid model to take hold, even when it’s business as usual eventually.

He said DuPont’s main goals were to protect its cash flow so it could respond to the crisis and keep its options open. He said DuPont raised $2 billion in a bond deal, but that sum hasn’t really been needed.

Breen also stressed that areas of growth — like new product development and R&D — were not to be cut.

“We’re not going to stop our spending on growth initiatives,” he said. “We want to come out of this strong — especially as others are cutting spending.”

Technology and procurement

On the technology and procurement front at the GEP Innovate session, Breen said DuPont instituted cost-cutting measures across parts of the business in response to the crisis, reporting that technology helped realize $1 billion in savings from procurement. He said GEP has assisted in adding artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in many parts of its operations, including manufacturing plants.

He said a protective covering made for construction also is used in medical clothing and protective gear. He said GEP technology helped increase production much more than previously thought.

“GEP is helping us immensely with putting digital tools around the world, and they’re not overly expensive to put in,” Breen said, mentioning AI and predictive modeling, as well as intelligent process optimization tools that improve the yield at production facilities, and technology that improves quality analytics. “A lot of it is AI and machine learning that wasn’t available five years ago. So digital tools that you used five years ago are not the same as what you use now.”

GEP Innovate 2020 sessions continue on Wednesday and Thursday. Look for more coverage from Spend Matters.

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