Sections

Top 20 Sustainability And Supply Chain Blogs

Jen Cohen Crompton

The Harvard Business Review article, The Sustainable Supply Chain, featured an interview with Sustainability And Supply ChainPeter Senge, the founder of the Society for Organizational Learning, a faculty member at MIT Sloan School of Management, and the author of The Fifth Discipline and The Necessary Revolution. In the article, HBR editor, Steven Prokesch, asked an eye-opening question that brings the words “sustainable” and “supply chain” together in a way that forces companies to think about both.

“HBR: What does it take for an organization to get serious about issues like water, energy, and waste in its supply chain?

Senge: It starts to get real when people believe these matters are strategic—that they will shape the future of the business. I use the word “sustainability” as little as possible because it’s so generic; it makes people’s eyes glaze over.

To confront these issues practically, you need employees who are innovative—who have the skill and the vision to redesign products, processes, and business models—and who understand the business context. Most important, they need to be able to tell a story about why this is a meaningful journey.”

As many companies begin this journey, there are plenty of industry experts who are tweeting and blogging about these topics and how that impact business. Here is a list of some blogs that could serve as a useful resource.

Sustainability Blogs

1. HuffPost Green
The Huffington Post is an American online news source and blog founded by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, Andrew Breitbart and Jonah Peretti. The HuffPost Green covers green news, energy, environment, animals, climate change, and extreme weather.

2. Environment Guardian
This blog is affiliated with The Guardian, which is an online publication that features the latest news, world news, sports, and reviews from the world’s leading liberal voice. The environment-focused blog features articles that touch on controversial issues and span from climate change, to green living, to wildlife.

3. World Resources Institute
World Resources Institute is a global reach organization that reaches 50 countries with offices in the United States, China, India, Brazil, among others. It incorporates writing from over 300 experts and staff that work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources.

4. The Ecologist
The Ecologist was established in 1970 by Edward Goldsmith and is now the world’s leading environmental affairs magazine. The website covers everything from climate change to eco-dating – wide range of topics all focused on the environment and the role of businesses and politicians in creating, or preventing change and conservation.

5. The Climate Reality Project
The Climate Reality Project was founded and chaired by former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore. It is dedicated to unleashing a global cultural movement demanding action on the global community. This blog spreads the truth about climate change to empower leaders to solve the climate crisis.

6. Sustainable Brands: The Bridge to Better Brands

Sustainable Brands was launched in 2006 and since then has become a global learning, collaboration and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing and innovation. It incorporates sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. They work to enable the success of better brands that are helping shift the world to a sustainable economy by helping them pursue purpose-driven environmental and social innovation.

7. CSR Wire – Aman Singh
Aman Singh is the Editorial Director of CSRwire.com. She is an experienced CSR practitioner, journalist, social media strategist and founder of Singh Solutions. She has written for numerous publication including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, Triple Pundit, CNBC, Bloomberg and Businessweek. She is a frequent speaker on CSR and sustainable business practices, the role of media in social change, and job-hunting in CSR.

8. SustainAbility
SustainAbility, established in 1987, has worked to catalyze innovation and provide solutions to make business and markets sustainable. They help to define and shape the unique role of business and their vision is for a just and sustainable world for present and future generations.

9. Mark Gunther’s Blog
Marc Gunter is an experienced journalist, speaker, and writer whose focus is on business and sustainability. He is the editor at large of Guardian Sustainable Business US and a contributor at FORTUNE magazine. In addition, he also has co-authored four books and was published in 2012 as an Amazon Kindle Single.

10. Taiga Company Blog
The Taiga Company was founded to address the growing need for individuals and organizations to embrace sustainability through the power of engagement. They do so through demonstrated eco-action and communication of the sustainable mindset.

Supply Chain Management

1. Supply Management
Supply Management Magazine is the premiere publication for procurement and supply chain professionals globally. This blog features quick fire topics and posts that deal with purchasing and supply chain issues from independent expert commentators and the Supply Management editorial team.

2. Supply Chain Nation-The Supply Chain Blog
This blog is filled with thought leaders that will help you create and discover supply chain ideas and innovations. The blog is a conversational blog about industry trends that are affecting your business best practices and market insights around supply chain, merchandising and pricing innovation.

3. The 21st Century Supply Chain
Kinaxis delivers a comprehensive on-demand supply chain offering, which enables manufacturers and brand owners to drive supply chain management. This blog features various members of their team and the occasional guest writer with the purpose of providing insights on supply chain trends and issues affecting the business world.

4. Supply Chain Management Review
Supply Chain Management Review publishes columns and features pieces written by business school professors, supply chain management practitioners and industry analyst. These authors write on subject matters such as sourcing and procurement, software and technology, transportation and logistics, and supply chain education. The blog also features case studies on well-known companies such as Wal-Mart, Motorola, and IBM.

5. Supply Chain Digital
Founded 2007 by entrepreneur Glen White, Supply Chain Digital is the leading online source of logistics, procurement, warehousing, and outsourcing news geared toward executives in the supply chain industry.  The blog covers topics that involve the global supply chain.

6. Logistics Management
Logistics Management was established in 1962 and reaches the largest number of logistics professionals in the industry. In addition, they reach more audited buying influencers of logistics services, technology, and equipment than any other industry publication out there.

7. Supply Chain Insights
Supply Chain Insights was founded in 2012 by Lora Cecere and is focused on delivering independent, actionable and objective advice for supply chain leaders. Their overall mission is to be the first place supply chain leaders turn to get information that matters in driving supply chain excellence.

8. SupplyChainNetwork.com: Ask, Learn, Build and Collaborate
This blog is written and maintained by Jeff Ashcroft who developed the Supply Chain Network Project in 2001. Ashcroft is currently the Director, Business Development at SCI Group, which is focused on Retail & e-Commerce Third Party Logistics in Canada. The blog features top news in the logistics industry and information about supply chain management.

9. ValueStream Blog – Dave Meyer
David Meyer is Founder and Principal of ValueStream Performance Advisors. He has over 30 years of progressive experience in environmental sustainability, energy efficiency, and evaluation. His principal focus is to help organizations achieve environmental sustainability program excellence, leverage regulatory compliance risks, and optimize organizational effectiveness.

10. 10x Logistics Blog by Kevin O’Meara
Kevin O’Meara has 25 years of experience in Logistics and Supply Chain Services providing thought leadership thorough execution and sustained results. He works at Breakthrough Fuel and attended Cornell University.

…and here is another that we thought should make the list:

11. Steve Brady’s The Professor Notes Blog
This blog is written by Steve Brady. He is a professor and Supply Chain Consultant and CEO of Supply Chain Innovations Today. He has strong professional interest in Collaborative Supply Chain Management, RFID in the Supply Chain (EPC) and Research Methods.

Other Resources

 

Comments

About Jen Cohen Crompton

Jen Cohen Crompton is a SAP Blogging Correspondent reporting on big data, cloud computing, enterprise mobility, analytics, sports and tech, and anything else innovation-related. When she's not blogging, she can be caught marketing, using social media and/or presenting at conferences around the world. Disclosure: Jen is being compensated by SAP to produce a series of articles on the innovation topics covered on this site. The opinions reflected here are her own.

Flash Briefing: Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Peter Johnson

Today, we’re talking 3D printing and how it could disrupt operations and supply chains in markets around the world.

 

Tune in Monday through Friday for more Digitalist Flash Briefings on disruptive technologies and trends on your favorite device or app.

  • Amazon Echo or Dot: Enable the “Digitalist” flash briefing skill, and ask Alexa to “play my flash briefings” on every business day.
  • Alexa on a mobile device:
    • Download the Amazon Alexa app: Select Skills, and search “Digitalist”. Then, select Digitalist, and click on the Enable button.
    • Download the Amazon app: Click on the microphone icon and say “Play my flash briefing.”

Find and listen to previous Flash Briefings on Digitalistmag.com.

Comments

Peter Johnson

About Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson is a Senior Director of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership at SAP, responsible for developing easy to understand corporate level and cross solution messaging. Peter has proven experience leading innovative programs to accelerate and scale Go-To-Market activities, and drive operational efficiencies at industry leading solution providers and global manufactures respectively.

3D Printing Gives U.S. Manufacturer A Leg Up On Competitors

Robin Meyerhoff

You might not have heard of Jabil, but you have probably have a product made by the company that you use daily in your home or office. As one of the largest and most technologically advanced manufacturers, Jabil creates products for more than 250 well-known global brands.

Founded in Michigan 50 years ago, Jabil started out making electronic parts for the automotive industry. Since then, the company has grown from a small family business on the outskirts of Detroit to one of the largest global manufacturers, working with industries ranging from household appliances to healthcare–and almost everything in between.

Over the past several years, manufacturers have been digitizing operations, embracing Industry 4.0 using new technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) to improve performance and efficiency. But as consultancy KPMG points out, “The vast majority of leading manufacturers admit they are not yet prepared to fully integrate the lessons of Industry 4.0 into the way they view and manage their products.”

Jabil is bucking that trend. Recognizing that manufacturers need to be more nimble and personal in how they relate to customers, Jabil has been adopting new technologies like 3D printing to help clients meet those challenges head on.

“The digital transformation in manufacturing is going to be enormously impactful for companies like Jabil,” said John Dulchinos, vice president of digital manufacturing for Jabil. “We see it as a tremendous opportunity for us to respond to customers more quickly, to build products in regions that are closer to where the end customers are and to open up entirely new business models.”

Touring Jabil’s Blue Sky Innovation Center and manufacturing operations in San Jose, evidence of how these digital technologies can impact products was everywhere. The lobby displayed smart watch bands and electric toothbrushes in personalized colors, and tailored packaging for household products. There was a room of robots, including one that was creating Disney MagicBands. Most impressive were the 3D printers, which ranged from small (comparable to a microwave) to HP printers the size of a small room.

John said, “3D printing is one of those really amazing technologies. As we look at where 3D printing will take us in the future, we think it’s going to impact the entire product lifecycle from very early innovation and ideation, through manufacturing and product introduction. Ultimately we can provide support for spare parts and other needs later in the product lifecycle. We think 3D printing will impact all of that.”

He continued, “What really excites us about 3D printing is it gives us the ability to free up designers to create the most optimized, intricate designs. We now have a way to bring manufacturing options closer to where customers are, and deliver goods that are more targeted and responsive to their needs.” 

John explains that Jabil has been on top of the transition to digital and computer-driven manufacturing since the 1980s. It shows in Jabil’s strong numbers: For the past 30 years they’ve continued to grow, and their stock price recently hit a 52-week high.

As Jabil embarks on its next growth phase, John believes “a digital backbone is the most important asset for manufacturers like us to achieve those goals.”

Jabil relies on an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to support critical supply chain and manufacturing operations. Supply chain experts at Jabil use an in-memory computing platform for real-time analytics and reporting.

Manufacturers around the world like Jabil are facing similar issues: They want to optimize their supply chain, bring production closer to customers and offer new personalized products and services. The company is using a distributed manufacturing solution and a digital innovation system that brings together the Internet of Things, machine learning, blockchain and advanced analytics to its cloud platform. Through this technology, Jabil is helping its customers deliver innovative, locally manufactured and customized goods. The entire process – from inception to delivery – is transformed into a 100% digitally native process.

In addition, the company is integrating 3D printing into procurement, sales, inventory, and logistics systems with greater ease. By combining this rising technology with an Internet of Things-based distributed manufacturing solution, Jabil is better positioned to evaluate which parts should be digitized and can more easily collaborate to approve parts for 3D printing.

For more on digital transformation strategies, see Five Pillars Of Digital Transformation: Invest In Digital Technology Capabilities.

Comments

Robin Meyerhoff

About Robin Meyerhoff

Robin Meyerhoff is the Senior Director, Content Team, Global Corporate Affairs, at SAP, responsible for telling key corporate stories via multiple formats: cartoons, video, infographics, opinion pieces. Lead integrated internal-external approach to rolling out content, including comprehensive editorial calendar, regional coordination and alignment with key business objective.

Heroes in the Race to Save Antibiotics

Dr. David Delaney, Joseph Miles, Walt Ellenberger, Saravana Chandran, and Stephanie Overby

Last August, a woman arrived at a Reno, Nevada, hospital and told the attending doctors that she had recently returned from an extended trip to India, where she had broken her right thighbone two years ago. The woman, who was in her 70s, had subsequently developed an infection in her thigh and hip for which she was hospitalized in India several times. The Reno doctors recognized that the infection was serious—and the visit to India, where antibiotic-resistant bacteria runs rampant, raised red flags.

When none of the 14 antibiotics the physicians used to treat the woman worked, they sent a sample of the bacterium to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for testing. The CDC confirmed the doctors’ worst fears: the woman had a class of microbe called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). Carbapenems are a powerful class of antibiotics used as last-resort treatment for multidrug-resistant infections. The CDC further found that, in this patient’s case, the pathogen was impervious to all 26 antibiotics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In other words, there was no cure.

This is just the latest alarming development signaling the end of the road for antibiotics as we know them. In September, the woman died from septic shock, in which an infection takes over and shuts down the body’s systems, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Other antibiotic options, had they been available, might have saved the Nevada woman. But the solution to the larger problem won’t be a new drug. It will have to be an entirely new approach to the diagnosis of infectious disease, to the use of antibiotics, and to the monitoring of antimicrobial resistance (AMR)—all enabled by new technology.

But that new technology is not being implemented fast enough to prevent what former CDC director Tom Frieden has nicknamed nightmare bacteria. And the nightmare is becoming scarier by the year. A 2014 British study calculated that 700,000 people die globally each year because of AMR. By 2050, the global cost of antibiotic resistance could grow to 10 million deaths and US$100 trillion a year, according to a 2014 estimate. And the rate of AMR is growing exponentially, thanks to the speed with which humans serving as hosts for these nasty bugs can move among healthcare facilities—or countries. In the United States, for example, CRE had been seen only in North Carolina in 2000; today it’s nationwide.

Abuse and overuse of antibiotics in healthcare and livestock production have enabled bacteria to both mutate and acquire resistant genes from other organisms, resulting in truly pan-drug resistant organisms. As ever-more powerful superbugs continue to proliferate, we are potentially facing the deadliest and most costly human-made catastrophe in modern times.

“Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for health security for the World Health Organization (WHO).

Even if new antibiotics could solve the problem, there are obstacles to their development. For one thing, antibiotics have complex molecular structures, which slows the discovery process. Further, they aren’t terribly lucrative for pharmaceutical manufacturers: public health concerns call for new antimicrobials to be financially accessible to patients and used conservatively precisely because of the AMR issue, which reduces the financial incentives to create new compounds. The last entirely new class of antibiotic was introduced 30 year ago. Finally, bacteria will develop resistance to new antibiotics as well if we don’t adopt new approaches to using them.

Technology can play the lead role in heading off this disaster. Vast amounts of data from multiple sources are required for better decision making at all points in the process, from tracking or predicting antibiotic-resistant disease outbreaks to speeding the potential discovery of new antibiotic compounds. However, microbes will quickly adapt and resist new medications, too, if we don’t also employ systems that help doctors diagnose and treat infection in a more targeted and judicious way.

Indeed, digital tools can help in all four actions that the CDC recommends for combating AMR: preventing infections and their spread, tracking resistance patterns, improving antibiotic use, and developing new diagnostics and treatment.

Meanwhile, individuals who understand both the complexities of AMR and the value of technologies like machine learning, human-computer interaction (HCI), and mobile applications are working to develop and advocate for solutions that could save millions of lives.

Keeping an Eye Out for Outbreaks

Like others who are leading the fight against AMR, Dr. Steven Solomon has no illusions about the difficulty of the challenge. “It is the single most complex problem in all of medicine and public health—far outpacing the complexity and the difficulty of any other problem that we face,” says Solomon, who is a global health consultant and former director of the CDC’s Office of Antimicrobial Resistance.

Solomon wants to take the battle against AMR beyond the laboratory. In his view, surveillance—tracking and analyzing various data on AMR—is critical, particularly given how quickly and widely it spreads. But surveillance efforts are currently fraught with shortcomings. The available data is fragmented and often not comparable. Hospitals fail to collect the representative samples necessary for surveillance analytics, collecting data only on those patients who experience resistance and not on those who get better. Laboratories use a wide variety of testing methods, and reporting is not always consistent or complete.

Surveillance can serve as an early warning system. But weaknesses in these systems have caused public health officials to consistently underestimate the impact of AMR in loss of lives and financial costs. That’s why improving surveillance must be a top priority, says Solomon, who previously served as chair of the U.S. Federal Interagency Task Force on AMR and has been tracking the advance of AMR since he joined the U.S. Public Health Service in 1981.

A Collaborative Diagnosis

Ineffective surveillance has also contributed to huge growth in the use of antibiotics when they aren’t warranted. Strong patient demand and financial incentives for prescribing physicians are blamed for antibiotics abuse in China. India has become the largest consumer of antibiotics on the planet, in part because they are prescribed or sold for diarrheal diseases and upper respiratory infections for which they have limited value. And many countries allow individuals to purchase antibiotics over the counter, exacerbating misuse and overuse.

In the United States, antibiotics are improperly prescribed 50% of the time, according to CDC estimates. One study of adult patients visiting U.S. doctors to treat respiratory problems found that more than two-thirds of antibiotics were prescribed for conditions that were not infections at all or for infections caused by viruses—for which an antibiotic would do nothing. That’s 27 million courses of antibiotics wasted a year—just for respiratory problems—in the United States alone.

And even in countries where there are national guidelines for prescribing antibiotics, those guidelines aren’t always followed. A study published in medical journal Family Practice showed that Swedish doctors, both those trained in Sweden and those trained abroad, inconsistently followed rules for prescribing antibiotics.

Solomon strongly believes that, worldwide, doctors need to expand their use of technology in their offices or at the bedside to guide them through a more rational approach to antibiotic use. Doctors have traditionally been reluctant to adopt digital technologies, but Solomon thinks that the AMR crisis could change that. New digital tools could help doctors and hospitals integrate guidelines for optimal antibiotic prescribing into their everyday treatment routines.

“Human-computer interactions are critical, as the amount of information available on antibiotic resistance far exceeds the ability of humans to process it,” says Solomon. “It offers the possibility of greatly enhancing the utility of computer-assisted physician order entry (CPOE), combined with clinical decision support.” Healthcare facilities could embed relevant information and protocols at the point of care, guiding the physician through diagnosis and prescription and, as a byproduct, facilitating the collection and reporting of antibiotic use.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s antibiotic stewardship division has deployed a software program that gathers information from electronic medical records, order entries, computerized laboratory and pathology reports, and more. The system measures baseline antimicrobial use, dosing, duration, costs, and use patterns. It also analyzes bacteria and trends in their susceptibilities and helps with clinical decision making and prescription choices. The goal, says Dr. David Haslam, who heads the program, is to decrease the use of “big gun” super antibiotics in favor of more targeted treatment.

While this approach is not yet widespread, there is consensus that incorporating such clinical-decision support into electronic health records will help improve quality of care, contain costs, and reduce overtreatment in healthcare overall—not just in AMR. A 2013 randomized clinical trial finds that doctors who used decision-support tools were significantly less likely to order antibiotics than those in the control group and prescribed 50% fewer broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Putting mobile devices into doctors’ hands could also help them accept decision support, believes Solomon. Last summer, Scotland’s National Health Service developed an antimicrobial companion app to give practitioners nationwide mobile access to clinical guidance, as well as an audit tool to support boards in gathering data for local and national use.

“The immediacy and the consistency of the input to physicians at the time of ordering antibiotics may significantly help address the problem of overprescribing in ways that less-immediate interventions have failed to do,” Solomon says. In addition, handheld devices with so-called lab-on-a-chip  technology could be used to test clinical specimens at the bedside and transmit the data across cellular or satellite networks in areas where infrastructure is more limited.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can also become invaluable technology collaborators to help doctors more precisely diagnose and treat infection. In such a system, “the physician and the AI program are really ‘co-prescribing,’” says Solomon. “The AI can handle so much more information than the physician and make recommendations that can incorporate more input on the type of infection, the patient’s physiologic status and history, and resistance patterns of recent isolates in that ward, in that hospital, and in the community.”

Speed Is Everything

Growing bacteria in a dish has never appealed to Dr. James Davis, a computational biologist with joint appointments at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago Computation Institute. The first of a growing breed of computational biologists, Davis chose a PhD advisor in 2004 who was steeped in bioinformatics technology “because you could see that things were starting to change,” he says. He was one of the first in his microbiology department to submit a completely “dry” dissertation—that is, one that was all digital with nothing grown in a lab.

Upon graduation, Davis wanted to see if it was possible to predict whether an organism would be susceptible or resistant to a given antibiotic, leading him to explore the potential of machine learning to predict AMR.

As the availability of cheap computing power has gone up and the cost of genome sequencing has gone down, it has become possible to sequence a pathogen sample in order to detect its AMR resistance mechanisms. This could allow doctors to identify the nature of an infection in minutes instead of hours or days, says Davis.

Davis is part of a team creating a giant database of bacterial genomes with AMR metadata for the Pathosystems Resource Integration Center (PATRIC), funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to collect data on priority pathogens, such as tuberculosis and gonorrhea.

Because the current inability to identify microbes quickly is one of the biggest roadblocks to making an accurate diagnosis, the team’s work is critically important. The standard method for identifying drug resistance is to take a sample from a wound, blood, or urine and expose the resident bacteria to various antibiotics. If the bacterial colony continues to divide and thrive despite the presence of a normally effective drug, it indicates resistance. The process typically takes between 16 and 20 hours, itself an inordinate amount of time in matters of life and death. For certain strains of antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis, though, such testing can take a week. While physicians are waiting for test results, they often prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics or make a best guess about what drug will work based on their knowledge of what’s happening in their hospital, “and in the meantime, you either get better,” says Davis, “or you don’t.”

At PATRIC, researchers are using machine-learning classifiers to identify regions of the genome involved in antibiotic resistance that could form the foundation for a “laboratory free” process for predicting resistance. Being able to identify the genetic mechanisms of AMR and predict the behavior of bacterial pathogens without petri dishes could inform clinical decision making and improve reaction time. Thus far, the researchers have developed machine-learning classifiers for identifying antibiotic resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii (a big player in hospital-acquired infection), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (a.k.a. MRSA, a worldwide problem), and Streptococcus pneumoniae (a leading cause of bacterial meningitis), with accuracies ranging from 88% to 99%.

Houston Methodist Hospital, which uses the PATRIC database, is researching multidrug-resistant bacteria, specifically MRSA. Not only does resistance increase the cost of care, but people with MRSA are 64% more likely to die than people with a nonresistant form of the infection, according to WHO. Houston Methodist is investigating the molecular genetic causes of drug resistance in MRSA in order to identify new treatment approaches and help develop novel antimicrobial agents.

The Hunt for a New Class of Antibiotics

There are antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and then there’s Clostridium difficile—a.k.a. C. difficile—a bacterium that attacks the intestines even in young and healthy patients in hospitals after the use of antibiotics.

It is because of C. difficile that Dr. L. Clifford McDonald jumped into the AMR fight. The epidemiologist was finishing his work analyzing the spread of SARS in Toronto hospitals in 2004 when he turned his attention to C. difficile, convinced that the bacteria would become more common and more deadly. He was right, and today he’s at the forefront of treating the infection and preventing the spread of AMR as senior advisor for science and integrity in the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. “[AMR] is an area that we’re funding heavily…insofar as the CDC budget can fund anything heavily,” says McDonald, whose group has awarded $14 million in contracts for innovative anti-AMR approaches.

Developing new antibiotics is a major part of the AMR battle. The majority of new antibiotics developed in recent years have been variations of existing drug classes. It’s been three decades since the last new class of antibiotics was introduced. Less than 5% of venture capital in pharmaceutical R&D is focused on antimicrobial development. A 2008 study found that less than 10% of the 167 antibiotics in development at the time had a new “mechanism of action” to deal with multidrug resistance. “The low-hanging fruit [of antibiotic development] has been picked,” noted a WHO report.

Researchers will have to dig much deeper to develop novel medicines. Machine learning could help drug developers sort through much larger data sets and go about the capital-intensive drug development process in a more prescriptive fashion, synthesizing those molecules most likely to have an impact.

McDonald believes that it will become easier to find new antibiotics if we gain a better understanding of the communities of bacteria living in each of us—as many as 1,000 different types of microbes live in our intestines, for example. Disruption to those microbial communities—our “microbiome”—can herald AMR. McDonald says that Big Data and machine learning will be needed to unlock our microbiomes, and that’s where much of the medical community’s investment is going.

He predicts that within five years, hospitals will take fecal samples or skin swabs and sequence the microorganisms in them as a kind of pulse check on antibiotic resistance. “Just doing the bioinformatics to sort out what’s there and the types of antibiotic resistance that might be in that microbiome is a Big Data challenge,” McDonald says. “The only way to make sense of it, going forward, will be advanced analytic techniques, which will no doubt include machine learning.”

Reducing Resistance on the Farm

Bringing information closer to where it’s needed could also help reduce agriculture’s contribution to the antibiotic resistance problem. Antibiotics are widely given to livestock to promote growth or prevent disease. In the United States, more kilograms of antibiotics are administered to animals than to people, according to data from the FDA.

One company has developed a rapid, on-farm diagnostics tool to provide livestock producers with more accurate disease detection to make more informed management and treatment decisions, which it says has demonstrated a 47% to 59% reduction in antibiotic usage. Such systems, combined with pressure or regulations to reduce antibiotic use in meat production, could also help turn the AMR tide.

Breaking Down Data Silos Is the First Step

Adding to the complexity of the fight against AMR is the structure and culture of the global healthcare system itself. Historically, healthcare has been a siloed industry, notorious for its scattered approach focused on transactions rather than healthy outcomes or the true value of treatment. There’s no definitive data on the impact of AMR worldwide; the best we can do is infer estimates from the information that does exist.

The biggest issue is the availability of good data to share through mobile solutions, to drive HCI clinical-decision support tools, and to feed supercomputers and machine-learning platforms. “We have a fragmented healthcare delivery system and therefore we have fragmented information. Getting these sources of data all into one place and then enabling them all to talk to each other has been problematic,” McDonald says.

Collecting, integrating, and sharing AMR-related data on a national and ultimately global scale will be necessary to better understand the issue. HCI and mobile tools can help doctors, hospitals, and public health authorities collect more information while advanced analytics, machine learning, and in-memory computing can enable them to analyze that data in close to real time. As a result, we’ll better understand patterns of resistance from the bedside to the community and up to national and international levels, says Solomon. The good news is that new technology capabilities like AI and new potential streams of data are coming online as an era of data sharing in healthcare is beginning to dawn, adds McDonald.

The ideal goal is a digitally enabled virtuous cycle of information and treatment that could save millions of dollars, lives, and perhaps even civilization if we can get there. D!

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


About the Authors:

Dr. David Delaney is Chief Medical Officer for SAP.

Joseph Miles is Global Vice President, Life Sciences, for SAP.

Walt Ellenberger is Senior Director Business Development, Healthcare Transformation and Innovation, for SAP.

Saravana Chandran is Senior Director, Advanced Analytics, for SAP.

Stephanie Overby is an independent writer and editor focused on the intersection of business and technology.

Comments

Tags:

4 Traits Set Digital Leaders Apart From 97% Of The Competition

Vivek Bapat

Like the classic parable of the blind man and the elephant, it seems everyone has a unique take on digital transformation. Some equate digital transformation with emerging technologies, placing their bets on as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Others see it as a way to increase efficiencies and change business processes to accelerate product to market. Some others think of it is a means of strategic differentiation, innovating new business models for serving and engaging their customers. Despite the range of viewpoints, many businesses are still challenged with pragmatically evolving digital in ways that are meaningful, industry-disruptive, and market-leading.

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 senior executives across 17 countries and regions, only a paltry three percent of businesses worldwide have successfully completed enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives, even though 84% of C-level executives ranks such efforts as “critically important” to the fundamental sustenance of their business.

The most comprehensive global study of its kind, the SAP Center for Business Insight report “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” in collaboration with Oxford Economics, identified the challenges, opportunities, value, and key technologies driving digital transformation. The findings specifically analyzed the performance of “digital leaders” – those who are connecting people, things, and businesses more intelligently, more effectively, and creating punctuated change faster than their less advanced rivals.

After analyzing the data, it was eye-opening to see that only three percent of companies (top 100) are successfully realizing their full potential through digital transformation. However, even more remarkable was that these leaders have four fundamental traits in common, regardless of their region of operation, their size, their organizational structure, or their industry.

We distilled these traits in the hope that others in the early stages of transformation or that are still struggling to find their bearings can embrace these principles in order to succeed. Ultimately I see these leaders as true ambidextrous organizations, managing evolutionary and revolutionary change simultaneously, willing to embrace innovation – not just on the edges of their business, but firmly into their core.

Here are the four traits that set these leaders apart from the rest:

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

An overwhelming majority (96%) of digital leaders view digital transformation as a core business goal that requires a unified digital mindset across the entire enterprise. But instead of allowing individual functions to change at their own pace, digital leaders prefer to evolve the organization to help ensure the success of their digital strategies.

The study found that 56% of these businesses regularly shift their organizational structure, which includes processes, partners, suppliers, and customers, compared to 10% of remaining companies. Plus, 70% actively bring lines of business together through cross-functional processes and technologies.

By creating a firm foundation for transformation, digital leaders are further widening the gap between themselves and their less advanced competitors as they innovate business models that can mitigate emerging risks and seize new opportunities quickly.

Trait #2: They focus on transforming customer-facing functions first

Although most companies believe technology, the pace of change, and growing global competition are the key global trends that will affect everything for years to come, digital leaders are expanding their frame of mind to consider the influence of customer empowerment. Executives who build a momentum of breakthrough innovation and industry transformation are the ones that are moving beyond the high stakes of the market to the activation of complete, end-to-end customer experiences.

In fact, 92% of digital leaders have established sophisticated digital transformation strategies and processes to drive transformational change in customer satisfaction and engagement, compared to 22% of their less mature counterparts. As a result, 70% have realized significant or transformational value from these efforts.

Trait #3: They create a virtuous cycle of digital talent

There’s little doubt that the competition for qualified talent is fierce. But for nearly three-quarters of companies that demonstrate digital-transformation leadership, it is easier to attract and retain talent because they are five times more likely to leverage digitization to change their talent management efforts.

The impact of their efforts goes beyond empowering recruiters to identify best-fit candidates, highlight risk factors and hiring errors, and predict long-term talent needs. Nearly half (48%) of digital leaders understand that they must invest heavily in the development of digital skills and technology to drive revenue, retain productive employees, and create new roles to keep up with their digital maturity over the next two years, compared to 30% of all surveyed executives.

Trait #4: They invest in next-generation technology using a bimodal architecture

A couple years ago, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, observed that “CIOs can’t transform their old IT organization into a digital startup, but they can turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. Forty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation, and we predict that 75% of IT organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.”

Based on the results of the SAP Center for Business Insight study, Sondergaard’s prediction was spot on. As digital leaders dive into advanced technologies, 72% are using a digital twin of the conventional IT organization to operate efficiently without disruption while refining innovative scenarios to resolve business challenges and integrate them to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, only 30% of less advanced businesses embrace this view.

Working within this bimodal architecture is emboldening digital leaders to take on incredibly progressive technology. For example, the study found that 50% of these firms are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, compared to seven percent of all respondents. They are also leading the adoption curve of Big Data solutions and analytics (94% vs. 60%) and the Internet of Things (76% vs. 52%).

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

Most executives understand that digital transformation is a critical driver of revenue growth, profitability, and business expansion. However, as digital leaders are proving, digital strategies must deliver a balance of organizational flexibility, forward-looking technology adoption, and bold change. And clearly, this approach is paying dividends for them. They are growing market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving employee engagement, and, perhaps more important, achieving more profitability than ever before.

For any company looking to catch up to digital leaders, the conversation around digital transformation needs to change immediately to combat three deadly sins: Stop investing in one-off, isolated projects hidden in a single organization. Stop viewing IT as an enabler instead of a strategic partner. Stop walling off the rest of the business from siloed digital successes.

As our study shows, companies that treat their digital transformation as an all-encompassing, all-sharing, and all-knowing business imperative will be the ones that disrupt the competitive landscape and stay ahead of a constantly evolving economy.

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics,SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”

Comments

About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.