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How the Cloud Aids Supply Chain Recalls

Cloud computing uniquely enables product and food recall processes across supply chains

This week brought an excellent example of how cloud-based services can meet business goals better than traditional IT and process management approaches.

In conjunction with GS1 Canada, HP announced a product recall process Monday that straddles many participants across global supply chains. The pressures in such multi-player process ecologies can mount past the breaking point for such change management nightmares as rapid food or product recalls.

You may remember recent food recalls that hurt customers, sellers, suppliers and manufacturers -- potentially irreparably. There have been similar issues with products or public health outbreaks. The only way to protect users is to identify the risks, warn the communities and public, and remove the hazards. It demands a tremendous amount of coordination and adjustment, often without an initial control source or authority.

The keys to making such recalls effective is traceability, visibility and collaboration across many organization boundaries. Traditional "one step up, one step down" methods -- the norm today in addressing the tracing of any product -- has its limitations in providing required visibility into products across their lifecycle. Without viable information about how food or products get to market, you can't get them out.

Hence, developing an accurate, single picture of the "life story of a product" is something the industry and the consumers have struggled with continuously, according to Mick Keyes, Senior Architect in HP's CTO's Office. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

That "life story of a product" became the nexus of the initiative to create a "cloud traceability platform," which arrived Monday. The GS1 Canada Product Recall service runs on the HP cloud computing platform for manufacturing to provide users with secure, real-time access to product information so that recalled products are fully traced and promptly removed from the supply chain.

This enables more accurate targeting of recall products. Security enhancements help make sure that only authorized recalls are issued and that only targeted retailers receive notifications. HP will be creating a number of additional specific services that leverage cloud computing to meet specific industry need in other sectors, such as hospitality and retail.

I recently moderated a sponsored podcast discussion on the fast-evolving implications that cloud computing has on companies in industries like manufacturing. The goal is not to define cloud by what it is, but rather by what it can do, and to explore what cloud solutions can provide to manufacturing and other industries.

In addition to Keyes, I was joined in the discussion by Christian Verstraete, Chief Technology Officer for Manufacturing & Distribution Industries Worldwide at HP, and Bernd Roessler, marketing manager for Manufacturing Industries at HP

Here are some excerpts:


Keyes: In the whole area of recall, we're looking at value-add services that we will offer to regulatory bodies, other industry groups, and governments, so they can have a visibility into what's happening in real-time.

This is something that's been missing in the industry up to today. What we're offering is a centralized offering, a hub, where any of the entities in the supply chain or nodes in the supply chain -- be they manufacturers, be they transportation networks, retailers, or consumers -- can use the cloud as a mechanism from which they will be able to gain information on whether our product is recalled or not.

In the last few years, we've seen a large number of recalls across the world, which hit industry fairly heavily. But also, from a consumer point of view or visibility into where the food comes from, this can be extended to other product areas. It improves consumer confidence in products that they purchase.

It's not just in the food area. We also see it expanding into areas such as healthcare and the whole pharmaceutical area as well. We're looking at the whole idea of how you profile people in the cloud itself. We're looking at how next generation devices, edge of the network devices as well, will also feed information from anywhere in the world into the profile that you may have in the cloud itself.

We're taking data from many disparate types of sources -- be it the food you actually eat, be it your health environment, be it your life cycle -- and be able to come with up cloud based offerings to offer a variety of different services to consumers. It's a real extension to what industry is doing.

Roessler: Cloud services to consumers are distinct, different things, compared to cloud services in the enterprise. From an industry vertical perspective, I think we need to have a particular look at what is different in providing cloud services for enterprises. ... Some dimensions of cloud are changing business behavior of companies.

Number one is that everybody likes to live up to the promise of saving costs by introducing cloud services to enterprises and their value chains. Nevertheless, compared to consumer services like free e-mail, the situation in enterprises is dramatically different, because we have a different cost structure, as we need not only talk about the cost of transaction.

In the enterprise, we also need to think about, privacy, storage, and archiving information, because that is the context under which cloud services for enterprises live.

The second dimension, which is different, is the management of intellectual property and confidentiality in the enterprise environment. Here it is necessary that cloud services, which are designed for industry usage, are capturing data. At the moment, everybody is trying to make sure that critical enterprise information in IT is secured and stays where it should stay. That definitely imposes a critical functionality requirement to any cloud service, which might contradict the need for creating this, "everybody can access anywhere," vision of a cloud service.

Last but not least, it is important that we're able to scale those services according to the requirement of the function and the services this cloud environment should provide. This is imposing quite a few requirements on the technical infrastructure. You need to have compute power, which you can inject into the market, whenever you need it.

You need to be able to scale up very much on the dependencies, however. And, coming back to the promise of the cost savings, if you're not combining this technology infrastructure scalability with the dimension of automation, then cloud services for enterprises will not deliver the cost savings expected. These are the kinds of environments and dimensions any cloud provisioning, particularly in enterprises, need to work against.

Verstraete: By using cloud services and by changing the approach that is provided to the customer, at the same time you do a very good thing from an environmental perspective. You suddenly start seeing that cloud is adding value in different ways, depending on how you use it. As you said earlier, it allows you to do things that you could not do before, and that's an important point.

Gain a good understanding of what the cloud is and then really start thinking about where the cloud could really add value to their enterprise. One of the things that we announced last week is a workshop that helps them to do that – The HP Cloud Discovery Workshop -- that involves sitting down with our customers and working with them, trying to first explain cloud to them, having them gain a good understanding of what a cloud really is, and then looking with them at where it can really start adding value to them.

Once they’ve done that, they can then start building a roadmap of how they will start experimenting with the cloud, how they will learn from implementing the cloud. They can then move and grow their capabilities in that space, as they grow those new services, as they grow those new capabilities, as they build a trust that we talked about earlier.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. View a full transcript or download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard.

Free Offer: Get a complimentary copy of the new book Cloud Computing For Dummies courtesy of Hewlett-Packard at www.hp.com/go/cloudpodcastoffer.

More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

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