Slow Internet is frustrating for anyone in our connected world. We’re used to getting any tidbit of information fast. But for natural products manufacturers and marketers, inadequate communications costs money. Brands need to be able to connect to their ingredient suppliers to their R&D team, and they both need to talk to HQ in real time. Plus, the best minds to build and market products rarely live in the same town, so being able to communicate across the world is imperative to growing a healthy product brand.
Verizon Enterprise Solutions is one company that can help businesses build the infrastructure they need to support their growing business. Verizon Enterprise Solutions delivers critical infrastructure communications, IP technology, security and cloud-based solutions to its business customers. This capability will be displayed at SupplySide West next week, as Verizon is SupplySide West’s first official Digital Transformation Technology Sponsor.
I had the opportunity to discuss technology solutions for the natural products industry with Jay Coblentz, executive director of global segment marketing for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, who explained the communications provider builds long-term relationships with its customers to develop technology strategies.
Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for space.
Sandy Almendarez: How can good communication within the supply chain help get health and nutrition products to market faster?
Jay Coblentz: The underlying network of communications and the infrastructure that runs communication applications on is what drives business. Digital transformation is impacting every industry, whether you’re communicating with your suppliers to get the right ingredients to the right place at the right time, or you’re maximizing the use of your sales people
We’ve seen massive improvements from supply chain customers that adopt machine-to-machine technologies that can track trucks, assets and inventory. We’ve seen great improvements internally, so instead of using monitoring systems delivered by equipment manufacturers, companies can use a homogeneous IP-enabled ethernet network across the factory floor. Companies can take all the data to integrate a holistic analytic engine to drive value and insight into operations.
Then companies can harmonize that data globally, whether it has a plant in China or Brazil. You want operations at different plants to be run as close to the same as possible, and you want to get an apples-to-apples comparison from one facility to the other. The home office can work with that data to supply improvements and innovation back into the business.
SA: How can a good communication structure enable better R&D for natural products?
JC: R&D is an interesting use case for communications. How do you let groups of employees that aren’t in the same place communicate effectively and collaborate to maximize their talent and knowledge? We’ve seen some great use cases where unified communications—with a combination of video, messaging and voice—allow for thought processes to take place, even if the R&D staff is spread across Europe, the United States and South America.
If you think about data sets used in R&D—just the massive amount of computer storage that’s needed—you don’t want to spin resources up full time. That’s the great advantage of the cloud; you can have on-demand resources, and you can take, store and compute information when you need it for an R&D environment. Employees can do their analysis, run their models and conduct their experiments. When they’re done, they can send it back to the cloud. You’re only paying for what you’re using, but you’re getting the scalability and power of a much larger R&D organization.
At Verizon, we use a secure network and cloud, so you’re doing it all within your own firewall, and you’re not exposing that data to the public Internet or an unsafe environment.
SA: What are some ways to streamline communication with ingredient suppliers?
JC: I wasn’t born in this industry, but I did work in manufacturing for quite a bit. If ingredient suppliers are like other producers, much of their work environment was built in the 1980s or early 1990s. The first step is to rebuild the infrastructure. How do you make sure your employees can use the most advanced applications suitable for your business? How do you maximize that utilization without spending the capital that you used to have to spend? As we move into a managed service environment, it enables ingredient suppliers to focus on making these great healthy innovative products for their customers, rather than focusing on building the infrastructure and maintaining the IT equipment. The in-house IT department can focus on internal applications, and Verizon will enable those applications.
Nutritional product suppliers have to react to customers, need a good handle on the supply chain, need to track orders, make sure they’re delivering when their customers need it, and make sure their inventory adjusts to customers’ demands. Customers’ demands will only increase, and brands’ ability to react to that is enabled by technology.
SA: Is a natural product brand that uses Verizon for its infrastructure compatible with its business partners that don’t use your technology?
JC: We can always work with our customers to ensure their networks integrate where they need to integrate. The networks for the big technology companies are made to run together. It’s at the application point where it gets a little more complicated, but we work with our customers to make sure applications work from machine to machine, from wired to wireless, and from cellular to wi-fi. It’s not a rip and replace procedure for most companies; there’s a variety of ways to get a customer from A to B, and we are here to help them make the journey.
SA: How long can a company expect to be ‘offline’ when Verizon is redoing its infrastructure?
JC: They should never be offline. You shouldn’t need to take down critical applications during business hours. Are there times when some things are unavailable? Sure, but you build that into a plan, and you make sure that’s communicated.
SA: How can brands ensure their communication in the supply chain is kept secure and confidential?
JC: We look at security from the top down, using four phases to help a company address its security concerns in a way that’s relevant for its business model.
- How do you respond if something happens?
- How do you put the right policies in place?
- How do you distribute the right policies? And
- How do you secure your environment?
Security—thanks to recent news reports—is top of mind for boards and C-level executives at any company. Having the right partner to help you navigate these issues as well as identify opportunities for improvement is where you want to start. We have a number of services that take a strong approach to security.
We don’t want anything to happen, but if it should, you want to be able to respond; you don’t want to have to go to your board and explain why you weren’t prepared for a security breach.
From a professional services standpoint, you want to identify the policies that will protect your environment. If you’re a nutritional supplier, you may have offices in the United States, production in China and distribution in South America; how do you put the correct policies in place at each location, and manage them centrally to make sure your data is secure? You don’t want your IT departments in China, South American and the United States developing their own polices to manage security because then they aren’t matched, and communication can be more difficult.
Then, how do you keep everything up to date? It’s difficult to do, especially for medium to small businesses. The cloud brought the possibly of staying up to date easier.
Lastly, the connectivity; how do you get information from the cloud to your devices? You want to do that on a secure infrastructure
SA: How can natural product brands ensure their communication is fast, even with facilities across the country or the world?
JC: It’s two phases: it’s having a modern network, and having the right network for your applications.
By modern, I mean IP; everybody should be running on an IP network by now. We see increasing demand for higher bandwidth.
Whatever you are trying to drive information to your employees, customers, suppliers or partners, you want to make sure it gets there in a quality environment and quickly. Having the right type of infrastructure is important.
For more information, visit Verizon Booth #4247. SupplySide West will also be hosting an exclusive discussion with Coblentz, on how mobility, unified communications and the cloud can help improve your business processes, top line revenue and profits in the health and nutrition market.