How Supply Chains Can Be Differentiators with Jaison Augustine

In this episode, Jaison Augustine, EVP & Business Unit Head - Shipping & Logistics at WNS Global Services, joins Host Brian Glick, CEO of to discuss ways you can use your supply chain as a differentiator. Tune in now!

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Jaison Augustine, WNS and Brian Glick, on the Supply Chain Connections Podcast

Using Your Supply Chain as a Differentiator

In this episode, Jaison Augustine, EVP & Business Unit Head - Shipping & Logistics at WNS Global Services, joins Host Brian Glick, CEO of to discuss:

  • What's changed in the shipping industry over the past 30 years
  • The importance of having the right people in the room for your transformation plan
  • Why lengthy paper trails can cause major problems for supply chain pros
  • The best practices large companies should follow when digitizing operations
  • Why industry-wide standardization has been hard to accomplish
  • How WNS helps shippers and forwarders stay ahead of the technology curve

Jaison serves as the EVP and Business Unit Head of Shipping and Logistics for WNS Global Services, a leading provider of global Business Process Management (BPM) solutions. Over his 30 years in the supply chain industry, he has specialized in business development, offshoring process transitions, and 6-sigma methodologies to support supply chain transformations.

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Episode Transcript

Jaison Augustine 00:00

I think the CEOs of smaller companies are so hyper focused on growth, and they realise that there are only so many hours in a day, do they want to review functional design documents for the new technology solution that's being built in house, or do they want to go sit in front of a customer and expand their market share? Right? As long as you know what outcomes you want to drive from your technology assets and process digitization plans, you know, get the right people in the room who will do it for you.

Brian Glick 00:37

Welcome to Supply Chain Connections, as always, I'm your host, Brian Glick, CEO and founder at Today we've got Jason Augustine from WNS on the show, Jason is a longtime industry insider who has worked from a number of different perspectives, both carriers doing process automation and into emerging technology. And we're gonna have a really interesting conversation. And yes, it is the hot topic, we will be talking about generative AI and ChatGPT. So stay tuned for the opinions of some people that have been doing this a while. And now, on to the show!

Brian Glick 01:17

Jason, welcome to the show.

Jaison Augustine 01:19

Hey, thanks, Brian. Looking forward to this chat.

Brian Glick 01:21

Awesome. So why don't we just get started with, why don't you introduce yourself and a little bit about your background?

Jaison Augustine 01:31

Sure. I am Executive Vice President and business unit leader for the shipping and logistics business at WNS. We are a business process management company, I have completed 17 years at WNS, and I set up this business unit from scratch. My background is almost entirely in the shipping industry. I used to work for container shipping companies in the past, including American President Lines, CP ships, and CSAP. So all I have done is work within this industry or around this industry.

Brian Glick 02:09

Awesome. So over that kind of period, I think you've gotten to see things from different vantage points, right. So, you know, inside of a carrier, you know, working for a service provider. What's evolved in that time, when how's the conversation changed?

Jaison Augustine 02:25

Yeah, great question. I think about this very often, from the time I walked into APL's offices in the south of India, in my hometown of Kochi, you know, just to set some context, the early 90s, when I joined, the US GDP was 5.9 trillion. And the inputs were about 390 billion, the exports were about 300 billion. Fast forward 30 years later. Now the the GDP is 25 trillion. And import export figures are you know, 3 trillion dollars and exports are 2 trillion dollars. The changes I have seen are, obviously the huge growth in international trade and globalisation, and how companies have evolved and grappled with dealing with that kind of growth and evolution to the use of technology, which is where I spend most of my career and focus, the challenges somewhat have remained same, but the complexity in the environment has grown. So 30 years ago, you could assemble a laptop, pretty much in one factory and you know, locally sourced, you know, parts and supplies today have become this multi tiered supplier network with multiples of sub assemblies with a global sourcing model, which has rarely directly played into the complexity of the environment. And then the regulations that have grown around it with social causes, making sure that, you know, sources are not so you know, procured from either, you know, child labour, you know, kind of situations or environmentally conscious parts and supplies, all of that has really caused a lot of challenges in the environment. Meanwhile, companies in the industry have tried to use technology the best way they could, and I could literally tell stories about how EDI was going to change the world. Although EDI was invented in the late 60s and became popular in the early 70s, the industry started using it in the 90s. And before they started deploying EDI extensively, the internet came and they said "Oh, you know what, wait a minute, we can ride on the internet bandwagon, and that's going to solve a lot of the problems". All kinds of new standards came up, you and I spoke about XML kind of becoming a big deal and they said, "Wait a minute, we don't even need to manually update this data", the Internet of Things, you know, we'll have all the physical inventory and equipment to talk to each other and solve the problem. You know, Blockchain became a big buzzword a few years ago. And all of these robotic process automation. And now, of course, ChatGPT is going to, you know, bring all of these technologies together and solve it for us once and for all. Right, so so that's my vantage point, Brian, we could jump into what I think about how this is going to materially impact our lives and the industry. But it's been a fascinating point. Yeah.

Brian Glick 05:32

Before we go there. I do want to ask you very specifically about ChatGPT and generative AI, not because it's the buzzword, and I've been on two panels this week and had to answer questions on it, and both of them. But before we get there, I want to contextualise it with what WNS does, because it's very, very pertinent to your business, what you know, kind of automation and those types of things. But can you give everyone a little bit of context? Because you're probably the biggest company in the industry that a consumer would have never heard of.

Jaison Augustine 06:06

Yes, thanks for that. So WNS, you know, we run and transform business operations for our global customers. So as the head of the shipping and logistics business unit, we serve, my business unit serves service providers in the shipping and logistics industry, anybody who moves or helps move cargo from point A to point B, which includes the container shipping companies, the freight forwarders, the nvoccs, all the trucking companies, express companies and everybody else in between railroads. And we take pieces of organisations that these companies traditionally ran in house, and use our process expertise, technology, and digital tools and analytics to transform and impact business outcomes.

Brian Glick 06:58

Awesome. And I would imagine, also, inside of that, and this probably shifted over the years, because, you know, it is a lot of people, right, also supporting those business processes. So, you know, if you look at what chat GPD can do, and I literally, before we got on this, we're looking at a product release. And I asked ChatGPT, to write my LinkedIn posts for the product release. And honestly, it was better than what I would have written myself, you know, it has some value in some specific areas. I mean, how do you predict it, you know, where it will be helpful and where,maybe, it might be a little overhyped.

Jaison Augustine 07:32

So you're right, all of these tools are going to be helpful in the context of our business, we are always conscious of staying ahead of the technology curve. So we are participating in the deployment of technology rather than being impacted by it in a negative way. You know, I don't think anybody has a precise answer what it is going to do. I like what Charlie Munger said recently said, it's not going to cure cancer, right? It's still, right. I mean, everybody uses it sees the language models that can help you generate content and articles and writings. That seems like a very obvious, but how is that going to impact the complex business environments in which we are trying to solve problems? You know, bringing it back to the industry, the single biggest problem that we look at is the huge paper trail and information trail that accompanies every piece of cargo that moves. For an international shipment, you have to deal with 30 original documents, about 30 to 40 different entities from boats to terminals, to customs, to suppliers to trucking companies and warehouses, different parties, shipper, consignee, notify party banks, insurance companies, and managing that entire information trail within commonly accepted standards globally, and the act of the complexity of different countries and how they operate and so on and so forth. How ChatGPT or generative AI too, is fed all this complex data sets, to then come up with near 100% reliable output that you can bank on and, you know, depend on seems like it's a little while away. So maybe you can use it in pockets that may be helpful, for example, a booking request comes in for a trucking company or a shipping company via email, ChatGPT seems like it's well suited to read that extract the relevant information using its algorithms and feed it into the ERP system without a human having to do it. And then an amendment to that request comes in it can make the connections and make those amendments. So I think that's where companies like WNS, with its knowledge of the industry and the process is going to be an almost an integral step to ensuring that these technologies can be deployed so that their power can be harnessed in areas that are most impactful. So we are actually, you know, building use cases right now, just like we did a few years ago when our PA was going to do all of these things. Maybe ChatGPT to have a private meeting with our PA, you know, it's kind of crazy, right? I mean, before you get one technology to fully, you know, flourish and do well, something else comes in. So I believe the answer lies in the power of generative AI are working with some sort of a low code, no code solution that can quickly create these solutions that can solve specific problems. And it has to be done with the expertise of industry specialists like WNS.

Brian Glick 10:55

Yeah. And that brings up a kind of an ongoing debate in this industry, about inside disruption and outside disruption. And what the role is of, say, generalist technology companies versus you know, companies like, or WNS where we have kind of really deep knowledge. And, you know, some people might argue that that burdens us with, you know, we can't see past you know, what, where we've been, and others would argue that, you know, what you were just saying about having to deal with 30 original documents and having to understand all of this context, and regulatory really makes this an industry that is hard to disrupt from the outside, wondering kind of where you fall in that argument, or where you see the balance there.

Jaison Augustine 11:39

Obviously, I have a biassed opinion. So I know, full, you know, full disclosure here. I don't understand why nobody else finds this industry sexy. You know, I believe this is the coolest thing ever. And everything that we deal with? Well, I think that back to some degree COVID brought us into the limelight. But everybody said, oh, there is such a thing as supply chain. And when I hit that buy button on Amazon, you know, I mean, all the stuff happens. And because there are supply chain delays, and you know, disruptions in China or Vietnam or somewhere else, I'm not able to get my furniture on time, right. So there is some visibility there. I believe there are so many unique aspects to this industry. It requires specialists, it is just like every other field. I mean, if I have a problem with my shoulder, I'm not going to a general orthopaedic surgeon, I want to go to a shoulder surgeon, because he's just far more adept, you got a lot more experience as dealing with that piece of the anatomy. Likewise, I think companies like and WNS is a good example where we we we are in this business, our customers want to integrate with, you know, ERP systems like cargo wise, or, you know, very specific solution set. By the time a generalist IT company comes and figures out those connections and nuances, we already have ready made solutions that are ready to go plug and play, right. So I think we have a tremendous advantage over the general solutions providers, we can still take technologies that are available to tailor that to our specific industry requirements. But I cannot imagine the industry getting solutions at the pace at which companies like and WNS are able to provide.

Brian Glick 13:35

We had a company the other day, we were working with who was not necessarily I say, their staff were not necessarily industry insiders, and they were talking about doing similar stuff to what you guys do. And they wanted us to map a buyer field to a ship to field and my team just, I mean, it got a little almost heated, because we're not going to do that, because, you know, the buyer is not necessarily who receives the physical product, right? The buyer might be Walmart, Bentonville, and the product might be going to Walmart, Los Angeles, and, you know, then we started explained to them, well, you also have to understand that, you know, on something like a DDP Incoterms, the shipment might not even be going to the same entity that's purchasing the product, if they're, you know, doing a port handover or a direct delivery to their customer, and that 1000 foot hole that sits behind every word that's on every one of those 30 documents. It's actually kind of to your first point, that thing that keeps me interested when I got into this business 23 years ago now 24 years ago, almost said, I'm gonna do this for three months, and I'm going to find something more interesting. I have yet to find a thing that's more interesting. So do you have any ideas though? I'd be looking for it still.

Jaison Augustine 14:54

lt'll be long gone, to some degree, but you're absolutely right. Every field has its own complexity. I mean, just to expand your example, the bill to party, I mean, you know, Bill of Lading has five or six different entities, and each of them plays a very specialised role, right. It's not just a name and address, you know, it, it has severe implications to where the cargo is going. So it has operational impact, it also has severe implications on who's going to pay for it, and therefore, the revenue recognition and where the monies are going to come from. And these are things that are intuitive to industry practitioners like us, by the time you train somebody else to understand that the nuances, you know, I think that's going to be a far more tedious journey. And I would expand, you know, the, it's not just a generalist versus a specialised company like and WNS. It is also sometimes I think, the IT divisions within our potential and existing customer organisations. Sometimes they overestimate their own abilities to do things in house, you know, it's a natural tendency to say, hey, you know, I can digitise or build this technology solution in house versus going to a partner, I believe the best practices for these companies to focus on expanding their customer base and creating solutions in the physical movement of cargo and Supply Chain Solutions, and so on and so forth. And leave the digitization effort and automation of tasks and getting most out of their technology investments with the right partners that they bring in from the outside.

Brian Glick 16:48

So you work with a lot of very large customers, who probably in my experience, are maybe the most guilty of having, let's say, some extra ego in it, that may not necessarily be earned ego, but when I talk to smaller companies, you know, they sometimes I think are intimidated that the resources that these bigger companies having to think that the bigger companies are kind of way ahead of and often further than they really are. I was just wondering kind of your thoughts on, you know, without naming names, obviously, but like, are the big companies way ahead? Are they doing all the AI and you know, everything's automated and nobody works all day, and it's beautiful, or, you know, kind of what's the reality in a large enterprise?

Jaison Augustine 17:29

Someday I will write a book where I'll name names. So when Brexit happened, a very big company, $100 billion in revenue, you would imagine, you know, they saw Brexit coming for many years. And it required all of this new documentation and paperwork and customs clearance across the UK Border. They were completely unprepared. And the Ask from WNS because people, their partners was to hire 700 people to start doing customs documentation work, you know, which was never a requirement. Till a day ago, that just astounded me that there was absolutely no preparedness for something that was brewing for quite a while. So to answer your question, sometimes the largest companies, given their list of priorities that they are focused on, are not always the quickest. Some companies are better than the others. But so I think it's a question of not so much about size, it's about being nimble, being open minded about where the best solutions can come from. And, you know, to give them the benefit of the doubt, there's also a tricky situation for some of these companies with all kinds of ransomware. And those kinds of challenges. And nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the equation, if there were some sort of a breach in their systems and brings the companies to a grinding halt and say, Who made the decision to partner with XYZ? You know, which opened up the vulnerability? The answer is, there's nobody out there, you know, taking for our lunch breaks, because everything is working smoothly. I don't think there's a single company out there. But it's a tricky web of complex decision making. But there is strong resistance to always partnering with an outside company because they always try to see if they can do it in house first.

Brian Glick 19:39

Yeah, I think there's also, you know, having worked both big and small, you know, I think about back to the literally the first day of, there were three of us sitting in one room. What you were just saying about a nobody wants to be the person who made the decision that ended up with us getting hacked or nobody wants to, you know, rock the boat too much, you know, because their job is stable and the company makes $100 billion this year, me adding an extra half a million dollars to that isn't going to actually move the needle all that much. And so it gives a real opportunity for the smaller companies to do responsible risk taking, right? There's a safety sometimes in the fact that you know that if in a small company, you're probably not going to get like a person who's never met, you is going to decide to fire you because of that decision. Right? You're working directly with leadership, you're all making the decision together, you're all in the boat together. And you know, you're all hopefully paddling in the same direction. But it does allow for a lot of agility that as the companies get bigger, just it's very, very hard to maintain that.

Jaison Augustine 20:47

Yeah, and I think the CEO's of smaller companies have so hyper focused on growth. And they realise that only so many hours in a day, do they want to review functional design documents for the new technology solution that's being built in house? Or do they want to go sit in front of a customer and expand their market share? Right? As long as you know what outcomes you want to drive from your technology assets and process digitization plans, you know, get the right people in the room who will do it for you. So I think there is a little bit of a dichotomy there. And I think the other thing that you and I recognise really well is this industry is stubbornly resistant to agreeing to common standards, right? I mean, you know, you guys, give us this life altering ability to interconnect complex systems environments, using your technology, almost like a USB C port from, you know, one system to the other. So for the foreseeable future in our lifetimes, right, I think that is not going to significantly change. So we have to work with individual organisations and sub segments, and help them as much as possible, get the best out of their digital initiatives and technology investments, and hopefully, create a competitive advantage for them in the eyes of their customers. I mean, that's really what we're trying to do here. So the industry comes in adopt some sort of common standard, but it's a hard thing to do, given the global nature of the business and complex regulations, and economies and countries that they have to deal with.

Brian Glick 22:28

So as you might imagine, I've given that standards question a lot of thought over the years. I'm sure you did. It is kind of the core of of our thing. Yeah. But kind of, if you look at industries that do genuinely have common standards and operating practices, so you know, I think Sabre and the airlines who are swift and banking. Is that a goal for this industry? I guess not even just Is it attainable? Is it something that we should be trying to attain? What do you think about? Is that a path for this business?

Jaison Augustine 22:59

So going again, you know, I always date myself, it's too late for that when GT Nexus in travel form, in the mid 90s, I believe, a late 90s. Max Hopper, the founder of Sabre was on the board of GT Nexus, right? The intention was very clear, saying, Hey, what the GDS systems accomplished for the airlines, what is it 45 years ago or something? Let's do the same for the shipping industry. But obviously, that did not come to pass, the shipping lines themselves kind of sabotaged themselves and did not retain a lot, I think it continues to be some sort of a goal. Now dcsa has come up and the shipping lines have now signed up to 2030, as the year that they will now completely accept a digital bill of lading. Now call me a sceptic, it seems like it's easier to sign up to a seven or nine year horizon where something is going to happen, rather than you know, put an immediate date because it's beyond the tenure of all more CEOs who are signing up to these pledges at this point in time. I think some bit of it will happen, Brian, as it gets easier. But I don't think the interoperability that banks have, you know, to send money to each other, and continue to build on that are the kind of common platforms that airlines operate. And I think we are still a far cry from that. And also, it's a different modes of transportation. And the global nature of our business makes it unique in some ways. And I don't think it's a priority of the CEOs. They believe this chaos and the ability to manage the chaos better than the competitor is really their advantage.

Brian Glick 24:47

Yeah, and, you know, when I talked to the shippers themselves and everyone ultimately gets paid by the shipper, as the team at the Journal of Commerce likes to remind us every year at TPM, you know, they see their supply chains as differentiators now So, you know, where I think there might have been an aspiration in the 70s 80s 90s? You know, if you look at automotive to say, Okay, well, we're all going to sort of do this supply chain thing together, because it doesn't really matter. It's like an electrical grid. It's just the thing that we're all going to turn on. Nobody thinks that way anymore. Right, you know, one automotive companies ability to get a product to market faster matters now, and, you know, certainly Walmart and Target and Amazon don't want to run the same supply chain. So my belief is that the standardisation stuff stifles innovation, because once it happens, it's codified, right? Like you look at something like airline ticketing, there's a lot of innovation in airlines and hard products, soft products, all of these things. But it's not at that ticketing process, because it's set in stone now, right? And it will be forever. I think it's really important for us to remember that we do now provide a differentiating service collectively to the shippers and that in that world. You do want to have things be different. And standards kill that. That's why we're just not big believers in standards for everything right? Certain things like God invoicing should be standard. There's no reason that Invoicing is standardised, but the overall supply chain, that to me is not the goal for that.

Jaison Augustine 26:23

I think there are too many moving parts there. And it requires expertise to navigate through that complexity. I mean, even if you were to accept that some of these emerging technologies are going to be game changers. I mean, you know, I'm old enough to remember how many of these technologies were presented to us as life changing. And some of them did, you know, I mean, you know, there's so many technologies that did change lives, but the complexity kept on growing, so then we kind of running as fast as you can, to pretty much stay an interesting snippet of analysis, one of the big shipping companies released their quarterly results. And if you look at the technology innovation that they have implemented, in their lifetime, is quite, quite huge. They've adopted all the modern technologies, but their productivity per employee seems to have actually degraded. So it's kind of strange, you would imagine, you know, this doomsday scenario, that technology is going to replace the human being, and everything is going to be run by robots. It doesn't seem so I mean, it may be certain tasks are automated, but more complex tasks got added on the side, that requires more human beings, right? And it's a paradoxical situation. You know, in any given case, you know, content writers are under threat now, right? Maybe that, say, hey, you know, your LinkedIn post, if you had an assistant do that, or if you were spending hours doing that, in the past. Now, that's kind of automated, but doesn't mean you're going to have a four hour work week, because, you know, you're spending more time doing more value added things and the environment is getting more complex. I think that's really my view of it. I think human beings are going to be absolutely critical, in fact, more important, you know, the more complex the technology gets, the more powerful the technology gets, I think it unleashes the creativity of the human mind, of how some of these technologies can be deployed more effectively.

Brian Glick 28:34

To further that point, 10 years ago, I didn't even have the LinkedIn posts to write in the first place. Right? So if you think about the things I had to do at the beginning, my graduate show up, I had to do the shipment, and I had to go home, right. And now I have to manage social media and all these other things. So yeah, the world just the demand side seems to increase to match the supply side. When it comes to people's time. We never seem to crack that nut. We're running up on time here. But explain what Malcolm is an explain kind of where that fits into WNS and where it fits into the industry, because I think it's a really interesting application of technology. Tell me a little bit more about that.

Jaison Augustine 29:16

So the problem statement that Malcolm tries to address is what I touched upon earlier, the complexity of all the paperwork that comes into managing a shipment if you look at the shipment lifecycle and the parallel information lifecycle, so Malcolm had to pick a point where we could begin and then we always knew Malcolm was going to be much more broader end to end solutions. It was positioned as a freight automation platform. And we started our first use case on the LTL side, where this velocity when the truck pulls in into the terminal every evening at 4pm. It has an hour or two before all that information. was captured, you know, and it can connect the next truck that needs to take it to its final destination. And all the billing work can be accurately managed. So we began there we deployed we are four or five deployments, very successful. And now we are saying, hang on, you know, if Malcolm can digitise the bill of lading, using AI, and it gets better, all the rules that you mentioned, it learns over time. And then it needs to be connected to different ERP systems. And that's where comes in. Because he said, Hey, do we want to build the pipes? Or can we go to a company that already has that ready made, and we can just, you know, slap it into Malcolm and boom, you know, suddenly, we become much more powerful than what we originally could have done by ourselves. So that's where our partnership comes in. Now, what Malcolm is doing is expanding it to all the different interfaces that come into a shipping or logistics company. Recently, I was at a conference where the CEO of Werner enterprises said they get a million emails a month. Right? Now, what are these emails, it's a booking request, it's a rate inquiry, it's a dispute. It's an Invoice query, it is a service inquiry, it could be an amendment request, it's a shipping, you know, all kinds of documents are coming through that it needs to be directed through a workflow to the right streams within the organisation. And then everybody wants to manage customer interface using Salesforce, we believe Malcolm can be the traffic cop directing all this traffic, which comes in millions of interactions, predominantly email and chat, and then direct it to the right workflow, manage the customer interface, or Salesforce seems to have gone out a big market share from a CRM point of view. And I think this is where our use cases for Chad GPT and low code, no code solutions are also being tested. So at the end of the day, you don't want to compete with the ERP systems out there. You don't want to compete with CRM systems, we believe we bring in the process expertise, and the plugin solutions to channelize. All this information flow far more effectively, than a company is trying to do it themselves.

Brian Glick 32:23

Again, there's so many adjacencies, between what we do at and what you guys are doing with Malcolm, it's always really interesting to kind of put our minds together on that stuff. But that traffic cop analogy, and that coordination piece is so critical, right? We see so many times where the balls just get dropped in between processes, and the salesperson sells something and operations doesn't deliver it or we do it and we never bill for it. Right? All of those things. It is so so important. Where can people find out more? Where can they find you and the company online?

Jaison Augustine 32:57

I'm on LinkedIn Otherwise, hit me up on LinkedIn at Jason Augustine. Jaison spelled with an "ai".

Brian Glick 33:06

And we'll put that in the show notes. So yeah, absolutely.

Jaison Augustine 33:09

We'd love to have a conversation. We are passionate about this industry. And this is all we lie awake and dream about at night.

Brian Glick 33:20

Well, I feel like you and I could do it another three hours, but it's a pretty good spot to wrap. So thank you so much for being on the show. Thanks, Brian. This was good. Thanks so much, Jaison, for such an insightful episode. Again, I wish we could have gone another couple hours there. And we'll probably have to get Jason back on. As he mentioned, we'll get the links into the show notes for his LinkedIn. And WNS as a whole. Be sure to check out the channel blog. We've got a lot of great content coming out, including some updates on what's going on in the co2 emissions tracking space, both in the US and Europe and how technology can be applied to that problem. So check us out and I will look forward to talking to you next time on Supply Chain Connections.

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written on June 7, 2023
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