Q&A with Tom Raftery, Global VP at SAP

Q&A with Tom Raftery, Global VP at SAP
Tom Raftery, Global VP at SAP is an Innovation Evangelist, Futurist, and international Keynote speaker. Prior to joining SAP, Tom worked for a number of companies at Group IT Manager/CTO level, and as an Industry Analyst. Tom is a global thought leader and ranks among the top 10 Internet of Things influencers in the world. 

MEDIA 7: If I were to say to a bunch of people who know you, ‘Give me three adjectives that best describe you’, what would I hear?
TOM RAFTERY: 
I would like to think that I am a good communicator, maybe smart and hopefully generous. You will have to ask people other than myself though. They would be a better judge.

M7: What is the role of a technology influencer in driving environmental sustainability?
TR: 
The role of someone like me would be to raise awareness of the issues that are happening and potential solutions to them, particularly technological solutions. A lot of people are busy in their day-to-day lives and they might not be aware of some of the more pressing environmental issues that are happening in the world and that might impact them. So, raising awareness with people, of the importance of these issues, and the potential technological solutions to them is the role I think that influencers should be playing.


"Raising awareness with people, of the importance of environmental issues, and the potential technological solutions to them is the role that influencers should be playing."

M7: SAP is celebrating the 10th anniversary of strategic sustainability this year. What are the initiatives being taken by the company to help the world run better and achieve the UN sustainable development goals by 2030?
TR:
We are involved in a lot of different projects in this front. We work for example, with Vestas Wind Systems who are the only global energy company dedicated exclusively to wind energy. We help them with their backend systems to help optimize the delivery of windfarms and turbines to windfarms, so that they are keeping their costs down and deploying the windfarms with the highest efficiency. We work with Munich Re and the European Space Agency. Munich Re are one of the largest reinsurance companies in the world and for them, they need to predict, and try and mitigate the damage of natural disasters. We use data from European Space Agency to help Munich Re do that.

We work with Brazilian company, Stara who are an agricultural company. They manufacture agricultural equipment, and the work we do with them is what’s called precision agriculture. Precision agriculture means that we can help their machines be far more precise in things like spreading fertilizers, spreading seeds to make sure that the seeds don’t overlap, the fertilizer doesn’t overlap and you’re doing it row by row. You have to sow the seeds and spread the fertilizer very accurately to avoid an overlap. Because if you have overlap with fertilizer, it can reach toxic levels and damage the plants that you are trying to help. If you have overlap in seeds, you can have excess competition between the seeds and then you get reduction in yield. Whereas if you are optimizing using precision agriculture, you are massively reducing your inputs and you are maximizing your outputs. So, you are able to feed more people with less land and less resources which obviously, as we are reaching higher population levels year-on-year, this becomes more and more important.

We work with NGOs like this one in Africa, called Elephants, Rhinos and People which was founded to preserve and protect the wild elephants and rhinos in Southern Africa. We work with local people to make sure that it’s more profitable for them to protect wildlife than it is to be poaching wildlife. We put collars on elephants and rhinos with geo-tracking in them. We use drones, to track the elephants and rhinos and if they start approaching borders of the parks that might expose them more to poaching. We send off alerts and help move them back into places where they are safer. Since we started the initiative in that area, no elephants rhinos, or humans have been harmed since the deployment of the tracking.

We work with Swiss Federal Railways, the largest energy consumer in Switzerland and they are also an energy producer - they produce electricity. So, we work with them to help reduce the peak loads, the peak demand for electricity by flattening their load which then means, they don’t need to build extra generation plants, reducing their carbon footprint and making their organization more efficient.


"Making our workforce aware of what we are doing as our external constituents is important for our employees to feel engaged and part of something important."

M7: You have been on the SmartCitiesWorld Advisory Board. How does SmartCitiesWorld help in developing smart cities of the future?
TR:
The SmartCitiesWorld is a publication. It raises awareness of smart cities initiatives that cities can take to make the cities run better, reduce their energy requirements, reduce their footprint, increase their air quality, reduce noise pollution, and lots of different initiatives like that. So, as a publication, it’s primarily responsible for raising awareness and helping cities find better ways to increase quality of life for their constituents.

M7: How does SAP embrace an innovative culture in the company?
TR:
Obviously, as a technology company it is very important for SAP to embrace an innovative culture in the company and what the company typically does is, it spends a lot of money on research and development and it does a lot of communication internally and externally highlighting the innovative solutions that we have come up with for our customers. And making our workforce aware of what we are doing as our external constituents because it’s important for our employees to feel engaged and part of something important. And as a consequence, every time, every year, we run this survey internally on how happy our employees are working for SAP. And our rate of employee retention is extremely high.

It’s not unusual in Europe to talk to SAP employees who have been working for the company for 10 or more years, which in the technology industry is unusual. So, that’s how we embrace the innovative culture and we talk of the things that we do, we work closely also with our customers because we do a lot of co-innovation projects with our customers where we take our customers into our co-innovation centers and we talk through their problems with them and come up with innovative ways to solve any particularly gnarly issues that they might have.


"A lot of people are busy in their day-to-day lives and they might not be aware of some of the more pressing environmental issues that are happening in the world and that might impact them."

M7: What is your favorite part of working at SAP?
TR:
I started working for SAP in September 2016, so it’s just over 3 years ago now. And, prior to working with SAP, I had worked primarily with startups and small companies. I have never worked with a global mega vendor before. So, I was wondering what it would be like and I had my doubts, and if you would ask me in 2016, I would have said, “Yeah, I’ll probably last about three months with SAP”. But, three years later, here I am. And, a lot of that is down to the fact that the company is so big, and it has close to 100,000 employees, it means there are always people I can approach, if I need help in any country or in any industry. Because my role is across industry. So, if I need to talk to somebody who is in the transportation industry, I can just go straight to the transportation business unit and talk to people there. If I need to talk to people in the hospitality industry, same story. If I need to talk to people in the airline industry, the mining industry, the electricity industry, we cover all industries, we cover all regions globally. And, there’s a culture within SAP of helpfulness which is great. Apparently, it’s unusual. For me, it’s the norm if people bring up and ask me for help, I would say, “Yeah sure, absolutely, no problem.” And that’s the way most people in SAP are! You pick up the phone or send an email, and they are happy to help, no matter what. Apparently, that’s not the norm for big companies, but it is the norm for SAP which is great and that’s why I love working for SAP.  

M7: When did you start working, how old were you, and what was it?
TR:
My first job was when I was 14. I worked on a building site where I was a builder’s mate, helping raise the scaffolding on the building and also help ferry bricks that were delivered to the site from the ground up to the brick layers on the top floor. So, that was my first job.

ABOUT SAP

SAP is a global software application vendor. SAP is the market leader in enterprise application software, helping companies of all sizes and in all industries run at their best: 77% of the world’s transaction revenue touches an SAP system. Our machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced analytics technologies help turn customers’ businesses into intelligent enterprises. Our end-to-end suite of applications and services enables our customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and make a difference. With a global network of customers, partners, employees, and thought leaders, SAP helps the world run better and improves people’s lives.

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"What we are seeing for refrigerated supply chains is this pinch -- a need to do ever more with ever less," notes Carsten Spiegelberg, Managing Director - Middle East & Africa, SSI Schaefer. "To meet the growing complexities of the industry, it's not enough to find a quick fix. Companies need material flow experts with industry know-how to consider all angles of a facility and seamlessly blend cold-chain logistics solutions with individual processes." Cold chain storage solutions Careful planning is always the first step in optimizing temperature-controlled infrastructure. To increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness of cold storage warehouses, there are several factors to consider from the beginning. Optimizing air circulation and product storage density Since different products and comestibles require different storage temperatures, cold storage warehouse temperatures can range from -34°C to 0°C, with some even reaching 21°C. However, there is often a trade-off between storage density and air flow. Selecting the right storage system that enhances the cooled air circulation while increasing the storage density in the given facility footprint is critical in the planning phase. Semi-automated solutions for cold storage space optimization Ideal for deep-freeze facilities for bulk storage in the manufacturing sector and delivering maximum space utilization, channel storage setups with semi-automated drive-in racking systems are an accessible step towards automation, offering high throughput, enhanced safety, and reduced time for workers in refrigerated facilities. Capable of following either the Last in-First Out (LIFO) or the First in-Last Out (FIFO) principle, these systems use channel vehicles like SSI Orbiter® and a corresponding docking station to store and retrieve pallets. Compared to a static, manual pallet rack system, a mobile racking storage system is an effective way to boost storage capacity in a given space -- by up to 85%, while maintaining full selectivity typically required in distribution centers. This system involves racks that move along floor rails via electric motors to create an aisle only where needed, and it offers smart lighting that only activates in occupied aisles for reducing energy consumption, as well as a night parking option that optimizes rack spacing for maximal cold air circulation. Future-ready automation systems for a seamless, cost-optimized cold chain Due to the need for cold goods to maintain strict timetables and a closed cold chain, storage systems must handle incoming goods efficiently and cope with expected and unexpected upticks in demand. The best way to systematically manage the complexities of cold-chain material flows is with a fully automated storage system that seamlessly interconnects components, such as: Pallets Automated storage & retrieval systems (ASRSs): The SSI Exyz is an automated high-density storage system with extremely high space utilization, particularly in high-bay warehouses, and it saves 25% of energy compared to conventional machines while functioning across different temperatures. Shuttle solutions: As a future-proof, fully automated channel storage option, the SSI Lift & Run Shuttle System (SLR) provides simultaneous access to multiple racks for top-tier performance and high storage density. Other storage types Shuttle solutions for layer trays: For high-volume picking of goods such as comestibles for shop deliveries, tray shuttles and conveying systems enable fully automated robotic picking or support efficient semi-automatic goods-to-person picking. Storage solutions for container, bin and carton loads: For loads of varying dimensions, scalable solutions using SSI Miniload, Flexi Shuttle or Cuby maximize storage density while accommodating specific load and performance requirements to support automatic or semi-automatic case and piece picking. Platforms for central control of refrigerated facilities Although there are various warehouse automation technologies that track material flows, issues such as coordinating multiple systems often arise and there is a clear need for centralized monitoring and control -- particularly with the complexities of refrigerated facilities. To tie all aspects of a cold storage warehouse together, end-to-end software such as WAMAS® or SAP EWM (Extended Warehouse Management) offer clear visualizations and comprehensive tools to manage processes, resources, and stock levels.

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Software and Technology, Sustainability, Supply Chain

GoBolt & Instock Team Up To Power Warehouse Efficiency & Drive Toward Self-Service Automation

PR Newswire | January 09, 2024

GoBolt, a technology company building the world's largest sustainable supply chain network, today announces it has partnered with Instock on a technology-driven warehouse initiative. GoBolt is already at the forefront of innovation in the logistics industry with its sustainable fleet and proprietary technology and now, by working with Instock, the company continues to blaze a trail in terms of advancing and simplifying logistics. Instock and GoBolt, united by their shared commitment to technology-driven efficiency and innovation, are partnering to integrate Instock's Automated Storage and Retrieval Solution (ASRS) into GoBolt's fulfillment centers. This collaboration, launching in January 2024, will enhance logistics operations by automating routine tasks, allowing warehouse associates to focus on more complex responsibilities. "GoBolt is committed to driving innovation in the traditional logistics sector through the development and adoption of groundbreaking technology. That's why our team is thrilled to partner with Instock on this exciting automation project," said Mark Ang, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of GoBolt. "In addition to advancing automation and improving efficiency for our brand partners, Instock allows our employees to dedicate their efforts to increasingly complex tasks. This is not only a win for warehouse productivity and safety, but also for employee satisfaction." Founded in 2020, Instock is a team grounded in deep experience in both engineering and operating technology for retailers in the U.S. and abroad. Their desire for more flexible and agile automation led them to embark on a mission to radically improve goods-to-person robotics with a simplified, soup to nuts rebuild. The result is their Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) offering, which delivers high-density goods-to-person automation with a flexible range of throughput rates. "We're inspired by what GoBolt is achieving for brands and retailers," said Yegor Anchyshkin, Instock's Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. "Just as impressively, the company is eager to explore and embrace new technologies, like automation, instead of waiting in the wings. When it comes to partnerships, ours with GoBolt is as natural and synergistic as it gets." Through this partnership, the two dynamic companies will redefine storage density and volume throughput boundaries within defined footprints, and lay the groundwork toward self-service in warehouse automation.

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