Valvoline transforms customer relationships with a proactive supply chain
Eric Rossi, Sr. Director of Supply Chain, shares how to drive interactive conversations with partners to avoid lost sales, OTIF fines and unproductive inventory.Watch
In this Supply Chain Now session, the hosts welcomed Katlyn Davis with Valvoline and our VP Client Solutions Logan Ensign for a discussion about sales and supply chain working together for retail success.
Watch the video to hear about their experience:
Sales & Operations Analyst
Katlyn Davis graduated from the University of Kentucky in May of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and two minors in International Business and Sculpture.
After a year of interning for Valvoline her senior year under DIY Marketing, she accepted a role as a Supply Chain Analyst in June of 2019. She oversaw the Walmart, Amazon, and Dollar General accounts during her year and a half in the supply chain role.
In February of 2021, Katlyn stepped into a new Operations and Sales Analyst position with Valvoline’s Express Care team.
VP Client Solutions
Logan is an expert in predictive analytics. At Alloy, he leads the team that works closely with customers to help them maximize value from the platform. They are focused on ensuring fast implementation, delivering trainings, sharing best practices and conducting regular business reviews.
He joined Alloy from InsideSales.com, where he led the company’s highest end service, Momentum PRIME. For customers who wanted to use predictive analytics to transform their sales operations, his team formed long-term relationships focused on optimizing sales process and strategy and ultimately delivering and showcasing value.
Logan’s early career was at RIC Insurance General Agency, where he worked in Corporate Strategy and Sales. He holds a degree in Biology and minor in Economics from Stanford University.
Scott W. Luton
Founder, CEO, & Host
Supply Chain Now
Scott has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was recently named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and serves on the advisory board for the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. He also serves as an advisor with TalentStream, a leading recruiting & staffing firm based in the Southeast. Connect with Scott Luton on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter at @ScottWLuton.
Principal & Host
Supply Chain Now
Greg is a founder, CEO, board director and advisor in B2B technology with multiple successful exits. He recently joined Trefoil Advisory as a Partner to further their vision of stronger companies by delivering practical solutions to the highest-stakes challenges. Prior to Trefoil, Greg served as CEO at Curo, a field service management solution most notably used by Amazon to direct their fulfillment center deployment workforce. Greg is most known for founding Blue Ridge Solutions and served as President & CEO for the Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader of cloud-native supply chain applications that balance inventory with customer demand. Greg has also held leadership roles with Servigistics, and E3 Corporation, where he pioneered their cloud supply chain offering in 1998.
In addition to his work at Supply Chain Now and Trefoil, rapidly-growing companies leverage Greg as an independent board director and advisor for his experience building disruptive B2B technology and supply chain companies widely recognized as industry leaders. He’s an insightful visionary who helps companies rapidly align vision, team, market, messaging, product, and intellectual property to accelerate value creation. Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams to create breakthroughs that gain market exposure and momentum, and increase company esteem and valuation. Learn more about Trefoil Advisory: www.trefoiladvisory.com
Scott: Hey, good afternoon, Scott Luton, Greg White with you here on Supply Chain Now. Welcome to today’s live stream. Greg, how you doing?
Greg: I’m doing quite well. I can see that we both got new haircuts, so that’s good. Getting respectable for the community.
Scott: Well, we have a great conversation teed up here today. It’s been a busy production week, but we’ve been looking forward to this one here today. Diving into the neat story of really next generation business partnership that’s powering supply chain success in a way that really is benefiting the entire ecosystem. We’re going to be diving into the story of Alloy and Valvoline. We’ve been working with them for quite some time, so this is going to be a good one.
Greg: Yeah, it is next generation in every way. I mean, we’re getting to see the next generation of technology and the next generation of supply chain professionals who are more educated than we are. Aren’t you glad we’re already in supply chain because I feel like we couldn’t get in now if we weren’t already.
Scott: An excellent point. It’d be like trying to be an offensive tackle in the NFL. I just wouldn’t make the cut.
But nevertheless, great conversation teed up and I think it’s gonna be plenty of takeaway regardless of what aspect of supply chain or business you’re in. These two organizations really reinvented how they work together and it’s really blown up for everybody in a great way.
Hello, everybody, and welcome everybody, especially those that we couldn’t get to, but we look forward to hearing your input as we wind our way through this great conversation we’ve got teed up. Let’s buckle up and let’s introduce and bring in our two guests here today. We’re gonna be featuring Katlyn Davis, Operations and Sales Analyst with Valvoline, and Logan Ensign, Vice President Client Solutions with Alloy. Hey, Logan and Katlyn, good afternoon.
Katlyn: Good afternoon. How are you guys?
Greg: Good. Good. It feels like we’ve already had this conversation. So now we’re just having it for the rest of the world, right?
Katlyn: So everybody else can see.
Greg: Yeah, exactly. Logan, welcome back.
Logan: Thank you. Thank you. Excited to be on this morning, or I guess afternoon depending on where you are.
Greg: Or evening. We’ve got people watching from 10 and a half hours ahead.
Scott: In different parts of the world, they’re celebrating Friday eve earnestly already. Welcome in everybody, wherever you are.
I’m glad you referenced Logan’s previous appearance on Supply Chain Now. Great podcast, we’ll drop that link in the comments.
Before we get into the heavy lifting – we’ve got so much to talk with both of y’all about here today and Greg and I really been looking forward to this, as has our team – but let’s get to know you a little bit better. Let’s get to know, maybe things you haven’t shared with folks, starting with: it is International Waffle Day, which I didn’t know is a thing, but is a thing and parades are taking place as we speak right now.
So, Katlyn Davis, what is your favorite waffle, whether it’s something you put in it or on top of it? What is it and where do you get it?
Katlyn: That’s tough. I was thinking about this because I did know today’s International Waffle Day. I guess I’m in the know. I think it depends on if you’re going for a hearty waffle, just a good hearty waffle or a fancy waffle. I would say you can’t go wrong with a Waffle House waffle. You can’t go wrong. That’s where I go the most often for a waffle. But I was in Amsterdam about a year and a half ago and I had the best waffle I’ve ever had. That was in Amsterdam with Nutella, strawberries and all the stuff that they put on it. It was amazing.
Scott: Wow, man making me hungry. Stealing our heart, Greg, with Waffle House.
Greg: Nutella is food art that is largely lost on North America, right? I think that it’s hazelnut butter, kinda like peanut butter, so delicious.
Scott: Logan, we’re gonna get you to weigh in. Where is your favorite waffle? What’s in it, what’s on it and where do you get it?
Logan: Katlyn stole the restaurant option there. Waffle House, especially middle of the night, maybe on a business trip, when you see that Waffle House next to your hotel and you think, I picked the right one here. I think I just like straight whipped cream. It’s sort of a family obsession where we’ll have the whipped cream shoot in people’s mouths. So just whipped cream waffles, Waffle House is a good option, I think.
Scott: Those are some exciting times in the Ensign household. Love that. Greg, now we’re gonna go from waffles to…
Greg: Well, wait a second, Scott. Let’s hear what your favorite waffle is.
Scott: Waffle House, all day. So consistent, it’s like Chick-fil-a. You pop in any day of the week and it’s gonna be very consistent. But fried chicken waffles, if you haven’t had it yet, my gosh, is delicious. And Greg, how about you?
Greg: That’s it – chicken and waffles, that is my favorite waffle. I actually have my own semi-secret recipe. I stole a recipe off of where everyone gets recipes, Pinterest, and then added my own secret ingredients. Back in the day, when I would still make them for my formerly young daughters, they really enjoyed it. It will remain a secret forever because I think I’ve lost the original recipe.
Katlyn: I was gonna say, this recipe needs to be released to the masses.
Greg: I’ll have to dig it out.
Scott: Lost to history.
Logan: Deep fryer, Greg, or do you use cast iron or?
Greg: No, no. We have one of the ancient waffle makers where you can’t tell… I have to remind myself every single time, is it light on or light off that means it’s done?
Scott: Those pesky machines and their indicators.
Greg: If I’d planned better, I would have brought it up here.
Scott: Alright, let’s move from International Waffle Day to recent reads. One of my favorite questions to ask folks is, what’s been a recent read that they’ve really enjoyed. We’re gonna go in reverse order, Logan, to start with you. What’s a good recent read of yours?
Logan: It’s a great question. I’m very much into fiction. I don’t know if folks have read The Goldfinch, but that was a fun one to read. My wife goes through about 10 books to my one book and it took me probably four or five months. I don’t know if you consider reading if it’s all through audio books, but that was. I highly recommend it if people are into fiction.
Scott: Awesome. Love that.
Greg: I heard about that book. I don’t know it.
Katlyn: I do.
Greg: I’ve heard a lot about it. I’m gonna have to write that down, which I’m doing nowadays.
Katlyn, of course we want you to answer the question, but we’re going to let the cat out of the bag here a little bit because you’ve got a book that is publishing next month called Fierce: Conquering the Battleground Between Who You Are and Who You’re Destined to Be. Tell us a little about the book.
Katlyn: Of course. I actually have it because the preorders just came in the mail this week. I’m so excited. So I can show you guys. This is a sneak peek, not many people have seen it yet. There’s the front, here’s the back.
I’m super excited. This book is two years in the making. It’s hard to juggle grad school, working full-time, a puppy and writing a book, so it took me a little longer than expected, but I’m super excited. It comes out like you said, April 26, is the release date. It’s about self discovery. I do talk about my journey from growing up in a very poor town and moving to a bigger city. Not a big city compared to where some of you guys are, but a bigger city. Then trying to tackle my dream of working for a big company and trying to navigate the waters of being a young, 24-year-old, trying to figure it out. So yeah, I’m super excited.
Scott: Love that. Well, congratulations, what a huge feat. We look forward to picking up a couple of copies.
And Katlyn, do you want to add a different book, other than Fierce’s gotta be your favorite, but any other?
Katlyn: Of course. Actually, I’m an avid reader. I feel like you kind of have to be if you’re going to write a book. I just finished an amazing read. It’s by Viktor Frankl, it’s called Man’s Search for Meaning. He’s a holocaust survivor, wrote an amazing book. I actually quote him a lot in my book.
The book has a few pillars that I think I need to mention, that I think will be pretty good for this group to talk about. I think you guys have some experience with this. The four pillars I discuss are self awareness, growth, intentionality and confidence, which have played a ton in my career journey.
Once again, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, it’s an awesome read. It’s pretty old now. I think it’s sold tons of copies, but it’s a classic.
Scott: Well, what a great segue, right Greg?
Greg: I think so. One of the things we would love to know is a little bit about your search for meaning. We’d love for the community to hear more about your career journey. We’ve already heard about Logan Ensign and his journey. In his episode, which we’ll drop in the comments, you’ll learn about what is in the background behind Logan. But since we’ve heard from Logan on a previous episode, we’re going to give you a little bit extra time to tell us a little bit about your journey, your Fierce journey, in and through Valvoline. Can you share with us a little bit about that?”
Katlyn: Of course. Like I said, I grew up in east Tennessee. I feel like I should back pedal a little just to provide some context of how I ended up at Valvoline. I grew up in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which if anybody knows where that is on the East Coast, it’s a very touristy town. Dollywood, Dolly Parton, we loved Dolly Parton. I grew up there, and then I moved to Lexington, Kentucky to pursue a degree in Economics. I went to the University of Kentucky, graduated in May of 2019 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics, a minor in International Business and a minor in Sculpture. I guess I just wanted to be a jack-of-all-trades.
I actually started with Valvoline before I graduated. I started with an internship with them in the summer of 2018. Then when I wrapped up that internship in August, they actually asked me to stay on and continue working with Walmart’s eCommerce platform. I worked with them a lot for the last eight months until I graduated.
Then as soon as I graduated, they offered me a position as a Supply Chain Analyst, with my accounts being Amazon, Walmart, Dollar General, Farm and a few new channels. I’ll give the caveat that I started with only Walmart. I started with Walmart and doing a little bit with Amazon, and I kinda picked up some other accounts along the way the last two years. Then actually more recently, February 1st, I actually transitioned into a new role for Operations and Sales. I’m an Operations and Sales Analyst covering Canada and the United States with Express Care.
Greg: I love the way you say – speaking of hitting that fourth pillar, confidence – I love the way you say “only Walmart… when I was an intern, it was only Walmart.”
Katlyn: It was only Walmart. Yeah, Walmart’s definitely a big machine to tackle, I will say that. I would say most of my time was Walmart, which I’m assuming people would make that guess.
Greg: Yeah, but impressive that you, even in a single job, you can handle both Walmart and Amazon, even for a single product line. I mean, that is a lot of pressure. We talked a little bit about, I actually come from the automotive industry. Valvoline is my favorite type of oil, which Katlyn already knows.
Katlyn: Makes me so happy to meet a member of the family, as we call it.
Greg: I was actually a buyer, back in the day, of oil. I had a lot of interactions and it’s interesting, we got to share a little bit about the growth that they’ve had in their supply chain. They’ve always been a really, really strong performer. Let’s talk about that.
Historically, Valvoline has had a really strong commitment to supply chain, and now you’ve taken on a lot of digital transformation growth. A lot of technology initiatives and things like that. That’s how you came, I think, to get associated with Alloy and Logan in particular.
Tell us a little bit about that. Any thoughts, anything jump out at you? When we talk about digital transformation, I think instantly people tense up because it’s big right? And it’s change. And as we’ve talked about here a lot, change is difficult and scary. Any best practices, or any kind of findings that you’ve had as you both have worked together, about how to get people engaged? How to get people over the line to accept and embrace change like that? Logan, you wanna go first?”
Katlyn: It’s what I was gonna say. Let’s let Logan go first because I think he has some good background on this.
Logan: It’s interesting, we’ve been working with Valvoline for the last year and a half and we’d actually started pretty exclusively with the Walmart side of the business. I think Valvoline’s been a great example of all the components of change management and digital transformation that work.
One, it’s really critical to make sure, if there is a technology partner involved, that you’ve got really aligned business objectives. Can we all be on the same page on what we are trying to accomplish collectively. That I think was really critical – to kind of mutually understand what Alloy is bringing to the table, but have that really open conversation about, here are the pain points that are specific to Valvoline and let’s go ahead and work on that together.
I think technology is only a piece of this, right? An organization bringing in big technology investments or really investing in digital transformation, it’s important to also acknowledge that you’re going to have to be flexible in your process and how you collaborate to best take advantage of the technology. I think that Valvoline was a great example of having that mindset. Now that we’ve got new tools, new insights to go attack our problems, what changes can we make internally to make sure we’re taking advantage of that? How do we evaluate our current processes and structures to go and be most effective in this?
It’s not just bringing on a technology partner, but it’s acknowledging you need that aligned vision of what we’re trying to accomplish, and you have a willingness to talk through process and revisit old paradigms to make sure you’re getting the most value out of the investment.
Greg: Katlyn, tell us a little bit about how you did that because it’s really on the organization to promote that. You have to embrace a new business partner as almost one of your own to be able to accomplish that, what Logan is talking about. So share with us how you guys tackled that.
Katlyn: Just to bounce off what he said, I think people are fearful of things that they don’t understand. So I think a big part of this is trust. I think we had to learn, when you bring in a new data analytics platform, it’s not just because… I think people think that everyone is just stuck and they don’t want to move on. I think people do want to move forward. They’re just afraid to trust this new – it’s a huge thing, putting in a new data analytics software and trying to navigate those waters when we already have a system. Like you mentioned, Valvoline is a very old, 150-year-old company and we’re successful. I know I’m biased, but we’re very successful and we’re good at what we do. So I think it was intimidating, but knowing how the times are moving forward, we didn’t want to get left behind in that.
I think the best thing that Logan did, and why our relationship has been so incredible with Alloy, is because they came in and they said, we’re going to show you how to do this. Like you said, we’re going to show you what our mission statement is, why we’re trying to do this, here’s our objectives. Then not just show us how he does it, but show us how we can do it ourselves.
For example, I remember one of my favorite moments was, I’d just started working as a Supply Chain Analyst. Of course, I was so intimidated and I came in and my big project was with Alloy. My first project was trying to onboard this new data analytics platform. For Walmart to start and now, I think Logan can attest to, so many different business units of Valvoline use Alloy now. We’re trying to bring more on, trying to bring everyone on.
So it was very intimidating. But the best thing was, when you guys came in and you did a training with us, like a hands-on training session with us. I remember you saying “Katlyn, okay, you’re going to drive now, and we’re going to show you how to build these dashboards. We’re going to show you how to build this stuff out.” I think that broke the barrier of that fear I had because you showed me that I can do this, and you showed everyone who was there with us that day, this isn’t something that we’re trusting someone else to do. They’re just giving us the tools to be able to do it ourselves. I think that really built up the camaraderie that we have with Alloy now.
Greg: It does, and I think it also introduces learning, Logan, to your team, right? Because you don’t know what they face on a day-to-day basis until Katlyn gets behind the keyboard and actually attempts to do it and goes, “here’s a hurdle that I’ve hit and help me through it.” That helps you learn a lot about their business as well.
Logan: Greg, you’re spot on. We bring some context with other customers we work with as well as a deep understanding of what Alloy is capable of doing. But it’s that partnership that has to happen. I think Valvoline’s been great at that, Katlyn especially, in recognizing, “all right, we are now partners.” How do we collectively problem solve? It’s that conversation of, that’s a unique flavor of a business problem or a piece of your business that maybe we’re less familiar with. Let’s collaborate collectively. I think that’s spot on, Greg.
Greg: It’s funny, I’ve been on both sides of those implementations, right? About a thousand technology implementations I’ve conducted or been some part of. That is one of the most important learnings, is don’t show people how to do it, get people to do it, right? One of the things we did so effectively, I’ve seen done so effectively in trainings is, show them once and then pull somebody out of the class, if that’s how you conduct your training, and have them do it. The growth that everyone sees in that moment is really spectacular, so that’s great.
Logan: I’ll say one of our big core tenants of our product is, we want to be consumer grade. I think sometimes organizations under value that when looking at technology. We want the actual operators, business owners, to be able to drive the analysis and get to insight. That’s a big piece of what we’re about. I think Katlyn’s found that and really became one of our great power users of the platform.
Scott: Power user, I love that
Katlyn: I love that title.
Greg: Maybe you can lobby for that to be your actual title at Valvoline, or amend it yourself, at least on LinkedIn. You can give yourself your own title.
Katlyn: Gonna say, I think I would get some more connections on LinkedIn if that was my title.
Scott: You need a sword with a title like that though, a sword or a staff or something.
Katlyn: I need something.
Greg: Let’s shift to, so you’ve kind of got everybody bought in at this stage. Then the next stage is to grow, to grow in knowledge, to grow in awareness and to grow in performance. One of the things that we talked about previously, and I think is really interesting to see that come to life here, is how do you move a company from being in constant reaction mode to a preemptive mode? Utilizing the technology to help them discover those things that before, they discovered after the fact.
I think Katlyn we talked about this a little bit – in your role, sometimes it can be, how have you hurt the company lately? And that’s how you report it. It probably has felt like that in the past, but when you move into that preemptive mode, you can talk about those things that you’ve done that have made the company better before a crisis hit. I’ll have you guys work together to make that happen.
Katlyn: That’s a perfect transition from the tools and having that customer buy-in, as someone in the comments just said, how important that is because before I don’t think we trusted the system enough. Not Valvoline, but just in general. I don’t think supply chain trusts the system enough to say, let’s forecast in the future and let’s put these stakes in the ground of what we think is gonna happen, because I think it’s so volatile, especially in today’s world. Just demand is so volatile right now. It’s difficult to be able to do that.
But when you have these tools where, as Logan said, I don’t have to reach out to someone else to get the insight that I’m needing. I can go pull that data back and reach out for support if I need support. I think having that connection where I know I’m supported, but at the same time, I’m the one who’s driving the data analysis. I can get these metrics, pull them in and send them to Logan or someone and say, “am I looking at this correctly?” Can we really be proactive and know that POS is trending down so we need to burn through some inventory? Or POS is trending up, we need to have some raw materials delivered a little sooner than we thought.
I think that’s a huge win, especially for Valvoline, because we all know, supply chain, nothing happens instantaneously. If there’s an issue in supply chain, it takes a little while to get it fixed. It’s a long system and very complex system. I think being able to see in the future and just say, hey, I trust this. I trust my data analysis skills and I trust this tool that I’m using enough to be able to say, I’m going to go to my buyer now and say, “hey, I think there’s some issues that we need to be looking for down the pike.” I think that’s huge.
Greg: That is, it’s powerful. Logan, I’m curious because like I said, I’ve done this before, but it’s been a while. I’m not gonna say how long it’s been, but I’m always curious how you get people over the line. The word “trust,” right? Trust in their own skills, but trust in the technology and the data that is being revealed to these power users, it’s critical. How do you get them over the line to that level of trust?
Logan: I think it comes back to, our team is very much focused on value, and how do we help deliver business value for our customers? It’s that alignment that I think goes a long way. I know very little about motor oil and antifreeze and the vertical. But as we get acquainted with our customers, it’s just so important because each industry is going to have different wrinkles and nuances. If as a vendor, we’re looking at implementation timelines and weekly active users, we’re really just missing the mark.
Really what we need to understand is, “Alright, Katlyn, this is a dashboard as a starting place. But I want to sit next to you and understand how this gets to the action.” What are you looking for? What decision are you making? What are the considerations in your head? Because the more I can understand that, the more I can help you.
I think as that conversation reaches that next layer of interest, curiosity and alignment, that’s where we really see big change, and I think, get the most out of the solution.
I remember, and I don’t know Katlyn if you remember, we were in Lexington. It was one of our last trips before the pandemic hit. I had never been to Lexington before we started working with Valvoline. It is a hidden gem.
Katlyn: Thank you!
Logan: Especially for fried chicken fans! It’s just beautiful. You land and the rolling hills and the horses and the white picket fence. It’s just a beautiful place, but I remember being on site and actually there was a massive order. I think it was from Walmart for the high mileage.
Logan: I think that was a fun sort of dynamic to see. Do you remember that much, Katlyn? A big order coming through?
Katlyn: I do remember. I remember thinking this is perfect timing because Alloy is here, they can help us! It happens a lot. I have the memory in my brain right now, thinking back to certain times and even when we’ve come to visit you all. We’ve gotten to sit down together, and we’ve had something and I’ve been able to…
I feel like there’s other platforms that we use that are great that we utilize a lot, but it’s not that personal connection to where I can say, “Here’s exactly what I’m struggling with. Here’s the dilemma, can you help? Like what kind of metric do I need?” I don’t even know what metric I’m looking for to solve this, and you can come to me and say, “Hey, we’ve actually done this with another customer before and it’s really worked.”
I think about phantom inventory, that’s been something we’ve wrestled with a lot and just trying to understand it better. I feel like it’s kind of aloof, in supply chain at least. It’s something that not many people really dug too much into. As soon as we brought it to your attention and said, “Hey, we just want to know more about this. Can you help us dig into this?” Your response was, “Of course! We don’t have something yet, but we’re going to build it.”
The last year and a half, it’s just been so awesome. I think the reason we built that trust with you all is because you’ve done what you said you would do, and you have helped us with that. You have said, “Hey, by the way, circling back, Katlyn, we’ve been working on this dashboard for you. Let me walk you through it.”
I think little things like that, and like you said, the in person meetings where we needed help. We’ve sat down together, almost like you are a part of our team, and really walked through those things together. I think it’s a lot better than just giving someone a tool and saying, “Here, learn how to use this.”
Scott: I want to share a couple of comments, and then I want to kind of move the conversation, kinda upstream and downstream – the whole ecosystem. We’ll touch on that in just a second.
As Gary said, “Getting customer buy-in is key.”
Also in that partnership, Cindy references here that partnership. Clearly, y’all are talking about your relationship, your partnership in a very forward-looking progressive manner, which is like next generation supply chain, which I love.
Azalea: “Broadcasting needs of the consumer through our data that creates perceivable goals and trust. Gotcha, Katlyn. I love that, lot of good stuff.”
Jeff Miller: “I have seen the most successful solutions become those which promote creativity and enable innovation – helping users cultivate new ideas for business capability – going beyond simply improving operating efficiencies by connecting data.” Jeff is about five pay grades above me and you can tell by how he wrote that comment. Greg, you were gonna say something?
Greg: I’m just thinking that the human connection is critical to that happening, what Jeff is talking about. Because a technology can’t convince you that it’s the right technology for you. But someone empathizing, like Logan has done with Katlyn, someone empathizing with the needs of someone who really wants to improve, as we’ve talked about, but doesn’t really know how to get there, that’s a critical connection. You’re gonna talk about this probably here in a little bit, but that connection between companies is absolutely pivotal in terms of creating a successful technology implementation.
Scott: “Blessed be the ties that bind,” one of my favorite sayings of all time, and that really speaks to strong supply chains upstream and downstream.
I wanna pop in this, Azalea’s got a great thought here. We published a great podcast with Crystal Davis which is just a dynamo, much like Katlyn and Logan here. She really urged folks, don’t just focus on the tools, which is a lot of the intangibles you’re hearing here between Logan and Katlyn.
I’m gonna go back to this question she posed earlier because Logan, I’d love for you to weigh in here. Azalea talks about these long runners, folks that have been part of serving the business, supplying the business for 30 or 40 years. She says “Changes, KPIs, standards are one thing, but data and technology does really scare people out there. The attitude toward it on the frontline varies.” When we talk about, you know, long-term suppliers and the type of transformational change that y’all are partnering with them to lead, any thoughts for how you make sure no one’s left behind, so to speak?
Logan: It’s a great question. We run into that fairly frequently. I think that the key here is, I know I sound like a broken record, but if we can understand, how can we help you? Whether it’s saving time or helping find insights that historically have been difficult to find as a piece of that. I think also, just the comment that it’s not all about the tools, which is totally spot on. Being able to, from the top of an organization, articulate and convey here is where we want to go and these are the reasons why, are just really important as we try and help people move from an old way of doing business to a new way of doing business.
Then I think incentives matter. As you think about how organizations are incentivized, designed, their current processes – you can’t just scrap that, right? You gotta work with that and make sure that you’re acknowledging here’s where we are. We use the manta really frequently, “crawl, walk, run.” That’s the journey we go on with our customers in aggregate, but also individual users. On “Okay, how can we help you crawl and get early familiarity?” Maybe we just help you with time savings in the short term. We can be patient as we help people start to get comfortable with technology.
Then making sure we acknowledge their existing processes that are there for a reason. We got best-in-class supply chains that we introduce ourselves to that we need to make sure we are working within those confines, at least initially as we partner with customers.
Scott: Love that, and also love one of your other core values or a big part of your MO, is “iterate to excellence.” I love that, and I’ve seen that play out just in our conversations. Okay, a couple of comments here and we’re going to move right along.
Enrique Alvarez, host of Logistics with Purpose and with Vector Global Logistics: “it all comes back to human relationships…” Human transformation powers the digital transformation. Great point.
Gary says, “Amen, absolutely true, Enrique. Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” One of the all time greats, right?
I wanna change the conversation a bit because most of our conversation to this point is kinda focused mainly on Valvoline and Alloy. But the really cool thing that got my attention, as I said on a previous webinar with Valvoline and Alloy, is how the wonderful improvements that y’all are driving together have been moving downstream to Valvoline’s customers. It’s improving really, the whole ecosystem. That’s a beautiful thing, when you get transformation right. Logan, if you could speak to that a little bit.
Logan: Well, I think some of our early customers and some of the early users have this mentality of, “Oh, Walmart is Walmart. So they’re going to manage my inventory great, right?” That I can trust and defer to them. Ultimately, they’ve got great systems, technology, people, but their portfolio is massive and as a brand manufacturer, you know your business better than Walmart does.
If you think about, as retailers start to give more and more data access to their trade partners, you can ask the question, “Why are they doing that?” What we find is, as retailers provide more and more information to their supplies, they’re expecting their suppliers to step up and take a more active role in downstream store level-replenishment, in flagging potential issues from an inventory perspective, in auditing the forecast, the order plans.
That can be daunting for organizations, maybe, that don’t have a grip on their point-of-sale. But customers who do get a grip on their point of sale data earn a ton of trust with their trade partners. It’s the expectation, and that’s where it starts to get really mutually beneficial. Now we’re co-managing this inventory with our partners, even if it’s not, a Vendor Managed Inventory environment. That expectation is becoming a higher and higher bar for how you manage your business with your major trade partners.
Scott: Love it. So not only is the work you’re doing together, again, benefiting Valvoline, but it’s going right downstream and it’s benefiting the work you do with all your customers, right Katlyn?
Katlyn: Right. I think supply chain, from what I’ve heard in the past, used to be definitely a segment of the business that was more background work. You would do it internally with your business, but you wouldn’t venture outside of that. You would, like Logan was saying, you would support things, but you weren’t at the forefront.
Now in the role that I was in, supply chain, it was a forefront role. You are a huge part of the team. We would travel. I would go to the headquarters of Walmart. I would go on all those meetings with the guys from the team. It was huge to be a part of that when, from what I’ve heard historically, that wasn’t usually how it worked. I think it all goes back to what Logan is saying about the trust and being able… There’s so many times I’ve been able to show Walmart, “Hey, I have some data that I don’t know if you might have it, but you’re not looking at it. I’ve analyzed this and I can tell a story to you of what I think is gonna happen in the future.”
Like you said, we know our business and we can see trends and we can predict things that I don’t think Walmart has the bandwidth to do necessarily. Like you said, they’re huge, so even if they do have the bandwidth, it’s very difficult. I think the fact that I’ve been able to come to Walmart or Amazon or Dollar General, some of these big businesses and show them “Hey, here’s some data that I think you should look into. I think we can both win here because our in-stocks are kinda low. Let’s see what we can do to fix that.” They win, we win and I think that’s a huge thing that I don’t think we used to be able to do in the past. I think that’s something that’s new and changing with the times of supply chain being a forefront place to be when it comes to corporate business.
Scott: They’re customers of their customers of their customers, everybody wins really. There’s two big things here in what Katlyn just shared, and Greg, I’d love you to weigh in, but first thing I heard is: folks, if you’re trying to do anything in business, any of our listeners that may be in school, still trying to break in, learn to tell a story very effectively. That’s what we’re hearing from Logan and Katlyn. That’s important no matter where you go.
Secondly, it’s a lot easier to tell a story and change the nature of those conversations if you’ve got really good data. It’s not this spreadsheet over here and this spreadsheet over here, but it’s that powered… you know, when there’s battleships in World War Two, when they would sidle up against the coast and direct all those guns on one target. The power, the force multiplier, and that’s what we’re hearing here a good bit.
Katlyn: Yeah, I think that’s when analysts fall short a little bit sometimes. Something I’ve noticed, and this is not just supply chain analysts, but the whole analyst world is: we’re great with data analysis, but we don’t know how to relay it to other people. I think if you can’t tell the story and get other people to really understand what you’re saying, it gets lost in translation and you don’t really get the results that you want. I think there’s a huge benefit to having these conversations with the customer because we’re made to tell the story, we’re made to interpret the data the best that we can.
Scott: Excellent. Greg, I know you’re dying. This is like candy to our ears, when we hear conversations like this. Greg?
Greg: You know, this is what I did when I was Katlyn’s age, which was a little while ago. What we had to do was teach the people that used our technology. I worked at a company, it was called E3, now part of Blue Yonder. We had to both convince management to listen to their analysts, who had their finger on the pulse of the supply chain, and also convince the analysts and teach the analysts how to tell that story because they were inherently often numbers people.
What we realized and what we consciously did over a number of years was start to help companies identify a personality type and a skill set like Katlyn’s where they’re both analytical and very thorough and yet able to tell a story. That has become critical because the role is so important to so many companies. I’m sure, Katlyn, you’ve seen this. The executives really value your opinion, but you have to be able to give it to them in bite-sized chunks because they’re going to spend 40 seconds listening to you and then make a multi-million or multi-billion dollar decision.
Katlyn: One hundred percent.
Greg: It’s important to be able to do that, but it’s good to see that we’ve come to this point in supply chain where both the analysts and management recognize and nurture that.
Scott: Excellent point. Again, what we heard Katlyn say there is, no longer is it just supply chain is just something you gotta do. It turns into a huge competitive advantage and you can take it on the offense. All of a sudden, supply chain becomes Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs and that dynamic offense, where you’re changing the conversations as you heard Katlyn talk about, in our conversations with Walmart, right Katlyn?
Katlyn: Right. I think a big part too, I think it was Jeffrey who made the comment about creativity. When people think of supply chain analytics, you don’t think of creativity, but that’s a huge part of it, is being creative enough to say, where can we optimize efficiency here? Instead of just doing the day-to-day and trying to get product where it needs to go, where can we… you know, our forecast accuracy is 97%, how can we get it to that 99? Logistics, how can we cut shipping costs? How can we get there quicker? All these things become a lot more fun and a lot more about the innovation and the creativity and going that extra mile to get there. I think we’re starting to realize in the supply chain world that if you’re not doing that and you’re not being innovative and creative, you kinda get left behind now.
Scott: Excellent point.
Greg: Technology can do all that. The creative part is what we need humans, right? We have a problem technology can’t solve. Let’s get creative and figure out how to solve it. We can work some of that knowledge to technology for the future, but there will always be that layer of creativity where the best that the data or the technology can give you is the state of things right now.
Scott: Excellent point. I gotta reference what Simons says, “The single best thing about implementing is a glint of excitement and the ‘wow’ moments when the end user ‘gets’ it and can see how their working life will be transformed. Elixir.” Simon, that’s wonderful.
Greg: I’m gonna copy that because that’s something you ought to have up on your wall, Katlyn, right there.
Katlyn: I agree, I should.
Scott: I mean y’all are living, this is what we knew, in all the prep for this to show, what’s gonna come out. Because this is how really, what we’re hearing here, is how supply chain partners should work together, right?
Logan, we’ve covered since the last time you came into the conversation, we’ve come a long way, but what’s one really important thing, before we move forward, that folks should really keep front and center from the last few minutes?
Logan: I think the point made on great analysts. I think Kaitlyn is such a great example there of you’ve gotta be quantitative and analytical to sift through numbers and understand data, but a key component of actually getting action and results is being able to tell the story, because ultimately the decision makers and the whole process is managed by people. I think Katlyn’s been a great example.
I remember, I don’t know Katlyn if you remember, that antifreeze clear, blue and red as you worked with the Walmart team there. You probably know more firsthand that story I just was able to kind of marvel at. Here’s the dashboard with some numbers, but this is a really compelling story that needs to be told to get a more serious problem taken care of. Do you have more context there, Katlyn? I didn’t do it much justice.
Katlyn: When you work with Walmart, you remember every detail because you can’t afford not to. It’s definitely a big thing in the arena, so you definitely want to be sure that you know exactly what’s going on when it comes to Walmart. But yeah, I remember exactly what you’re talking about.
We had three different antifreeze SKUs and we were kind of doing some test runs. Trying to see what would work, what wouldn’t work, what the buyer wanted, how they performed. This is something that I truly don’t know if we would have had the opportunity to do if they didn’t trust us. I don’t know if they would have let us because what ended up happening was, we were given a little bit more flexibility. We were letting them know how we’re performing and how we’re tracking and how we’re able to forecast demand for this pilot that we’re running right now. Instead of letting Walmart take on that other burden, we said, “Hey, we’ll do it. We’ll take it on if you let us.”
That was huge because I don’t think that would have been necessarily an opportunity if they didn’t trust our supply chain skills, which inevitably made us trust Alloy a little bit more. Because we had those tools and we had that connection to where I could reach out to Logan or Manfred or anyone over there and say, “Hey here’s, what we’re trying to do.”
I remember the first day I reached out to you guys and said, “We have this huge project and I know what I want and I know what I need, but I don’t know necessarily how to get it.” That’s when you all came in and showed me. That was where the partnership I think really sparked because that was a very successful pilot. It went great. I think it built some credibility with Valvoline and Walmart. I can see us moving forward and doing the same kind of thing.
Logan: And we can only take it so far. Katlyn was critical in being able to communicate back to the buyer, replenishment analyst. I think it’s just a key component. As you look at the really strong analysts or if you’re in an analytics role, make sure that skill set exists and you can communicate all the way to the point of action. This is what it means and this is what we should do. I think that’s where Valvoline has really shined, and Katlyn in particular.
Katlyn: If you don’t have that confidence, it’s just like what you’re saying. I can only have confidence in what I know and understand. But I need confidence in the data before I can go tell that story. I don’t feel comfortable telling that story if I’m not confident about the data. Knowing that I have a partner where I can get that information from and trust it, that helps me to be more confident to go to the buyer and say, “Hey, I think I have some information that you would like to know.” Like you all said before, going to Walmart is pretty intimidating so you want to be sure you’ve got your stuff in order. That’s great, Logan.
Scott: So what’s interesting, funny here really – at least I find it funny, is we’re talking about this glorious story where supply chain’s working and then Enrique brings us back crashing down to earth. “…and then you have a pandemic or wind pushing the Evergreen vessel and blocking the Suez Canal.” Such is life in supply chain. Love that, Enrique.
Greg: You can even, to an extent, consider that. I mean, remember the discussion that we’ve had so often: supply chain is not a cost minimization exercise. This is a massive shift that I think supply chain professionals need to undertake. It is a risk management exercise, and you need to consider the likelihood that something like that will happen. I don’t think there’s a model on the planet that could predict the impact of a pandemic because it’s a rolling impact. First of all, there was one impact. Now, there are more, it’s a rolling impact. But things like traditional disruptions in the supply chain, you can absolutely account for. There are models that can even address that.
Scott: Hey, really quick. We’ve got one more topic we want to hit on and we’re not going to get a chance answer, but Azaleah, I’d love for Katlyn and maybe Logan, y’all connect with Azaleah after the show. She’s on a path to become a data analyst. She’s already a brilliant mind – biomedical engineering. Love for y’all to compare notes and maybe shed some light on that path, that journey.
Greg: Maybe she could take your role temporarily while you’re on your book tour.
Katlyn: There we go. I love that.
Scott: Nice. Nice. Randy says, “Data pulled from disparate systems needs collaboration across functional stakeholders to ensure interpretation (the story) is correct and business users can improve decision and take action.” That’s a great comment.
Greg: What a great segue.
Scott: Yes, Greg, we’re tracking together my friend, because what we want to talk about is that cross-functional collaboration, which is so critical across business, especially supply chain, right here in the information age. Katlyn, given your journey and given what you’ve shared, you could probably be pretty uniquely positioned to address this critical component. Any thoughts on your end?
Katlyn: Yeah, I think something that Valvoline does really well, and I can’t attest to how other companies do this, but it’s like I said before, supply chain wasn’t something that we did in the background and I didn’t have communication.
I’ve met with the Directors every week for each of my accounts and just been really actively involved with the account and with every part of it – with the marketing side, with the supply chain, the customer service, the sales guys. I think it’s huge being able to have all those cross-functional teams because every analyst has a little bit different information or is at least in a certain specific niche part of the data a little bit more. I think having those connections, and I’ve really learned that with my new role being an operations and sales analyst now, there’s things now that I wish I would have trusted people on or I wish I would have reached out more when I was a supply chain analyst because the operations guy, they could have helped me a ton. But I think I didn’t really know that.
One thing that Valvoline is really great about is having those cross-functional teams meet on a very frequent cadence to say, “I have some data that you might not have or that you might not look at as frequently, so let me pull that in and we can all use this to make supply chain better, logistics operations, even marketing.” I feel like that’s something you would never think – a marketing analyst would go with the supply chain analyst. But we worked, and I think Logan can attest to this – Jordan and I worked together every day just to make sure that we had the right data set together.
Scott: Logan, I want you to weigh in here as well, but one of the cool things that I’m hearing here and I think somebody referenced earlier in the comments is, it can be a headache at times right now, in years like 2020 (I’m not supposed to mentioned that year, sorry Greg) or 2021, to be leading or be a supply chain practitioner, right? It can be a labor of love sometimes. Ton of headaches and surprises, much like the Suez canal – who predicted that two weeks ago?
But these changes, these transformations, these continuous improvement projects, where you’re changing the game but also equally as important, you’re making jobs easier for these folks that have a very complex and pressure-filled position, I love hearing that. Logan, weigh in on this cross-functional aspect.
Logan: Katlyn, you’re right, I think Valvoline does quite well at this. We find that organizations are on a spectrum. If you’re further on one side of the spectrum, maybe it’s your S&OP process is once-a-month duel between sales and supply chain and that’s when I have to talk to them, all the way to, I’m collaborating daily with my supply chain or my sales partner. I think that is so critical because different stakeholders have different pieces of context, and you may have decision makers that sit in different parts of the organization.
When a crisis comes up – a massive order comes in and you don’t know what to do – if you can collaborate and say, supply chain says, “I can’t fill this order” and sales said, “Let me see if I can get the must arrive date moved back so that we can avoid that OTIF fine,” that’s where the magic starts to happen. It’s being transparent and open and collaborating.
I think one of the reasons that’s particularly tough in organizations is supply chains, marketing, sales, all have a very different source of truth and a very different language. Supply chain, you’re looking at your own internal inventory, units of measure, and KPIs and metrics, and your sales teams may own your point-of-sale data and your retail relationships. It becomes hard just because you’re speaking different languages to come together.
Alloy plays a layer to try and break down those barriers, break down those silos. But then also organizations that recognize, “Hey, we got to work more closely together and collaborate collectively on problems that span our organizations.” Because rarely do we see big issues or opportunities sit just in one piece of your organization. You’re gonna need buy-in, support, influence, decisions from other organizations and being able to facilitate that is, we find, super critical.
Scott: Excellent point. Two quick takeaways there. First off, Logan, you make me feel at ease because I talk with my hands too, so I love that, Logan. Secondly, these days if you’re operating in silos, unlike this integrated manner that Logan’s speaking to, you’re inviting disaster and you’re inviting Murphy’s Law into your global supply chains. You got to work in conjunction, in alignment – we talked a lot about on the front end, so love that. If you don’t, your container ship runs aground in a canal.
Folks, that is fascinating, if you’ve seen some of the imagery from the Suez canal and what they’re trying to do, it is absolutely fascinating. Just the scale, the scale is fascinating.
Alright, Greg, before we make sure folks know how to connect, there’s a lot of comments here. I’m hoping we can connect them after the show with Katlyn and Logan. But give us that proverbial one key takeaway or a couple key takeaways from what we’ve heard today here, Greg.
Greg: This makes me think of an episode I did some while ago, and I think we can drop it in the comments, but it is how to conduct a digital transformation. This is not dissimilar. This is any sort of transformation that you do. I think there are a few things you have to think about.
Number zero is that technology is not the solution to your problem. It is the powerful hammer you put into your people’s hands. I think that’s a really critical aspect of it.
The other is, and I think Valvoline has done this an order of magnitude higher than most companies do, and that’s to recognize that supply chain is your main customer experience driver and vice versa. No product, no program. There’s only one thing that your customer wants when they have their experience with you, and that is the product that you have promised them. That, among other things, you’ve got to solve a user pain, something that the users care about. You can’t solve a strategic ivory tower pain if it doesn’t also solve a user pain because where ROI is delivered is on the desktop.
I think both of you, Logan and Katlyn, talked about, you have to teach people to fish. Don’t give them a fish. Teach them to fish and you get real buy-in. Katlyn, you enunciated this really clearly, you get real buy-in from the people, because everybody talks about buy-in during these things, when you demonstrate wins. Demonstrate wins, for your people who have a real problem, you will get buy-in.
Last, and this is not as fun to talk about, but I think it’s something we alluded to and it would be imprudent for Logan to identify this, but the truth is, you have to expect attrition. There will always be that one person who chooses to retire rather than reform. That’s not a bad thing, but you even have to nurture those people. I’ve experienced it. You really have to nurture those people as well and try to bring them along. Some of them just realize they’re just at that point in their career when they don’t want to learn one more thing. They buy an RV and they’re out, and you replace them with somebody like Katlyn, and everyone is better off.
Scott: Love it. I wish I could share my screen here. The Alloy team has been live tweeting along with Supply Chain Now here today, and they’ve picked up on one thing that Greg just shared. “Supply chain is your main customer experience driver” and Michael Scott giving you a little tip of the cup because that’s such a great and powerful point. We talk a lot about how CX is becoming as synonymous as UX or employee experience or you name it. So a lot of good stuff here today. These kinds of conversations energize us here and this is why supply chain is such a cool place to be despite the challenge in years like what we’re living in.
We’re kind of running out of time here. I wanna make sure folks know how to connect with you both. Katlyn, start with you. Not only all the supply chain nourishment you dropped on the community, but your first book is getting released next month. How can folks connect with you?
Katlyn: I’m on LinkedIn, Katlyn A. Davis, and of course, if it says Valvoline, that’s me. So I’m on LinkedIn, you can find me there. Also my website for the book is KatlynADavis.com. The book will be available on Barnes & Noble’s website, Amazon.com, Booktopia wherever you get your books. I’m excited. I think you can preorder it now if you wanted to. If you wanted to go on Amazon, you can also preorder it now as well.
Scott: Awesome, and hey support your local bookstore. Love it. I love when books put the authors on the front cover because you connect with them on a human level.
Katlyn: I was hesitant about it, but the man who wrote the forward of the book said that it was, he described as “a personal thesis.” So I said, I think I should put myself on it then if it’s in reference to a personal thesis.
Scott: I love it. Well support all those, but also support your local bookstores. I bet it’s going to be everywhere. Lots of good stuff there.
Before we ask Logan, I wanna drop, “Greg is PREACHING AGAIN” He sure is.
Quentin says, “first users are always the people we have to satisfy.”
Peter says, “Supply Chain has always been a challenge, 2020 simply elevated it to the C suite.”
Katlyn: That’s very true.
Scott: And Gary, you must be reading from our run of show here because Katlyn just shared that. It’s gonna be everywhere. It’s taking over the world. Fierce.
Katlyn: I hope so.
Scott: Logan, really have enjoyed our conversations, and Greg, I think it’s important to point out, the Logan you see here is the same Logan you see between the shows. He is just an incredible resource and a great individual to collaborate with. So Logan, how can folks connect with you and the Alloy team?
Logan: LinkedIn is going to be the best way, Logan Ensign. I’m active there, so feel free to connect with me. Alloy.ai has some great resources to get more acquainted with the platform. On that website, you can find different ways of getting in touch with folks at Alloy if you want to learn any more about what it is we do and our offering.
Scott: Awesome. One last thing, I’m not sure if we dropped it in the notes as well, but for continuation of the story you’ve heard here between Valvoline and Alloy, there’s that great webinar which is available on demand, which features one of Katlyn’s colleagues, Eric Rossi.
They’ve got that available. I think we can maybe find the link, drop it in. Y’all should check that out. Lots of very frank information, Eric tells it like it is and there’s not enough of that in global business.
Katlyn: He does.
Scott: Okay, Katlyn Davis with Valvoline, Logan Ensign with Alloy, really it’s been a pleasure to share your story with everyone here in our community. Loved the interactions. I love the comments. We’ve got plenty of t-shirt-isms from you both, and we got plenty from the audience and the community as well. We look forward to reconnecting really soon, and thanks for joining us here today.
Katlyn: Thank you all so much. This is awesome. I hope you guys have a great rest of your day and I can’t wait to go back and listen to some of these other webinars that you guys have had.
Scott: We’re looking forward to it. Thanks so much, Katlyn and Logan.
Greg: Thanks for joining us.
Logan: Thank you.
Scott: Man, those kind of conversations, I wish we had a couple extra hours we could bolt on because there’s so many different… I’m sure we’re scratching the surface in a big relationship like that, right?
Greg: Yeah, we are, I’m certain of it. You can tell that they work really closely together. And man, what a couple of powerhouses. I mean, it was really interesting.
You know, that is an industry that I came from – both sides. I was on supply chain, planning and allocation and forecasting, replenishment, all of those things, on both sides – as a service provider and as a practitioner, and as it happens in the automotive industry. My passion, insanity may have come through a little bit there.
Scott: I love it.
Greg: Powerful. It’s good to see. Honestly, the thing that really enthused me is, I can see that they are carrying the torch forward, that which we tried to instill in the industry over the many years that I was still in industry. They are clearly carrying that forward and that bodes well.
Scott: Agreed. Such a neat conversation to be part of, so much there. Not only is the story great, but Logan and Katlyn, to your point, Greg, The relationship that’s there, it makes it even more interesting to dive deeper into. Folks, hopefully y’all have enjoyed today’s livestream as much as Greg and I have. I think all of our supply chain nerdiness was on full display, but this is why we do this. As Simon said, yes, “that was a doozy.” It really was. I appreciate the comments we’ve gotten in.
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