Onventis Interview with Conrad CDDO Ales Drabek
24 June 2020 | News
How Conrad is pushing digitization in times of Corona
The current corona crisis in procurement confirms the cloud first strategy of Conrad Electronic, one of the world’s largest players in the mail order and retail trade for electronics and a customer of the cloud-based solution Onventis Buyer since 2013. Chief Digital and Disruption Officer Aleš Drábek, explains in this interview why speed has become even more important in the B2B business and which procurement topics Conrad is currently developing with Onventis.
Currently there is one dominating topic in procurement: COVID-19. Mr. Drabek, since 2016 you are Chief Digital & Disruption Officer at Conrad Electronic SE and in your role you take care of digitization and innovations within the Conrad Group.
What consequences does the Corona crisis have for your work?
In times of COVID-19 it has proven that our Cloud First strategy, which we have been focusing on for 3 years, was absolutely right. We have implemented completely new solutions for internal communication and collaboration. The data management and all online shops have moved to the cloud. In the last few months, we have profited from this very well. A clear preference for the use of online sourcing platforms is also evident among our B2B customers. Platforms have the great advantage of identifying millions of products from suppliers worldwide within seconds. Here customers can easily find the products they are looking for. Since the beginning of the Corona crisis, we have deliberately placed even more emphasis on the speed of implementing new technologies on our Conrad Sourcing Platform. In cooperation with many other B2B traders and producers we are currently building the Conrad B2B Marketplace as an integral part of our sourcing platform We believe that in the future, customers will only move within a common ecosystem to solve their problems and needs. In addition, the focus on new technological innovations such as the Internet of Things (IoT) or Digital Office has further increased. However, we are convinced that a functioning platform economy requires people and machines: Whether community, customer care, sales or business consultants – our customers trust in Conrad to provide them with personal contacts and technical experts who know and understand their needs and requirements and can thus fulfill their needs. Despite all digitalization and efficient automation, the human factor still plays an extremely important role. For us, platform means full customer service. To achieve these goals, it is more than just a matter of having everything working technically; there must be people who can support customers at all times in realizing their projects efficiently and making their business a success.
Chief Digital & Disruption Officer
Conrad Electronic SE
Conrad began early to transform himself into a platform company. Which procurement topics are you pushing for your B2B customers in view of the current situation?
Currently you can find more than 5 million products for technical needs on conrad.de. By the end of 2020, customers should have access to 10 million products. The Conrad Sourcing Platform not only offers one-stop shopping, it provides everything that enables the customer to optimize processes and reduce costs. Therefore, we fulfill the needs of our customers for efficient digital solutions with simple, fast and comprehensive procurement and automate their ordering processes with Smart Procure, OCI Webshop, eCatalogs or Smart Ordering via Conrad Connect. Basically, the point is that a platform economy can do everything that a B2B customer, regardless of size, wants for his procurement. The 4 most important questions we are currently dealing with are:
- How can we offer our medium-sized customers with closed shops an even wider range of products? Currently, they can already order more than 800,000 Conrad products. But the question is, how can we enable our Marketplace Partners to have access to these OCI shops. All of this, of course, with the possibility of offering individual offers and prices for individual customers and integrating everything into the ordering processes of our customers via “Conrad Smart Procure” based on Onventis.
- How can we expand payment services for our B2B customers to further automate the purchase-to-pay process?
- How can we provide comprehensive reporting to our Marketplace Partners, but also to our B2B customers, so that they can better manage purchases and sales on our digital platform? We are currently running a pilot with the first 10 Marketplace Partners who receive very detailed reports on their sales activities on our Marketplace via our Big Data Platform on BigQuery.
- How can we further expand our “Fulfillment by Conrad” service for our marketplace partners in order to guarantee our customers 24-hour delivery for all important products? The first Marketplace Partners are already using our Fulfillment by Conrad service. The advantage for our B2B customers is that their orders are delivered in fewer individual packages, which ultimately saves CO2. This service can certainly be further expanded in a very innovative way.
What is behind Conrad Connect and which areas of procurement can be considered for these solutions?
Conrad Connect is an IoT platform that enables our B2B and B2C customers to network with devices, apps and services across manufacturer borders. With our solution, smart projects can be realized in the shortest possible time. Users select from thousands of project templates and use them for their automation. Conrad Connect clearly visualizes the data of all networked sensors of the platform on individual dashboards. If data measured by the sensors exceed or fall below a defined limit value, the Conrad Connect platform automatically alerts the responsible persons.
One of many possible IoT use cases within Conrad Connect is the Smart Ordering service. This enables users of the Conrad Connect platform to use the automatic ordering service themselves. The sensors in the linked devices report in time if something is running low. Then the users receive a message and can now decide whether to trigger the order by voice command (with Alexa) or with a link in a text message. On the other hand, retailers can use the Conrad Connect platform to enable their customers to reorder automatically.
Another use case is the so-called predictive maintenance. This involves the “making smart” of production plants. Smart sensors are simply installed on devices or machines, which report via vibration monitoring if something is “wrong” with the machine. Smart sensors act like an intelligent early warning system. They monitor the status and only report when they really need to be serviced. This increases the availability of the plant and avoids production downtimes. Costs and employees can be used efficiently.
With the Conrad Connect platform, numerous sensors can also be linked together in projects. You always work in automation projects using simple if-then rules. In future, it will also be possible to connect the smart ordering service with predictive maintenance: As soon as the engineer checks the machine after an alarm of the sensors, he can directly order the spare part via the smart ordering service.
Mr. Drabek, thank you very much for the interview.