An Odyssey of Resilience: Dhaval Desai’s Cohesiveness in the Supply Chain

Dhaval Desai
Dhaval Desai, Group Engineering Manager (Senior Director)

Effective supply chain management is the backbone of success. Leading the charge in this complex network is a distinguished and forward-thinking leader whose expertise and strategic acumen have reshaped the way businesses operate.

What sets him apart is not only his profound knowledge of supply chain processes but also his commitment and professionalism towards his responsibilities. His dedication to creating a more sustainable and resilient supply chain reflects a visionary approach that meets the evolving needs of businesses and industries alike.

Commencing his Supply Chain career at Verizon India, Dhaval Desai was a part of the team responsible for Supply Chain transformation tasked with de-commissioning multiple be-spoke systems, process standardization, and driving the adoption of SAP ERP Central Component (ECC), SAP Advanced Planning & Optimization (APO).

Later, he joined SAP Labs India as a software engineer in the Supply Chain engineering organization responsible for the development of SAP APO and SAP Transportation Management (TM). He was involved in the design and development of the SAP APO, SAP TM, and Business Objects Processing Framework (BOPF). During this time, he also became a certified trainer for Agile Software Engineering (ASE), championing concepts like clean code, pair programming, 100% automated test coverage, etc.

Later, he moved to SAP America and worked very closely with SAP’s strategic customers with Supply Chain solution adoption. He successfully led & delivered some of the biggest transformations at these organizations with innovative solutions, deep product expertise, great technical & engineering skills, customer focus and leadership.

In 2015, Dhaval was selected as a fellow with the SAP Integrated Business Planning (IBP) product team in Germany, where he contributed to product design & development and got an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of SAP Integrated Business Planning (IBP).

Currently, Dhaval is working as a Group Engineering Manager (Senior Director) at Microsoft, responsible for all SAP engineering for Supply Chains. He leads a global team comprising enterprise architects, solution architects, software engineering managers and software developers.

Shedding the spotlight on his responsibilities, Dhaval shares, “My team’s charter is to develop platform capabilities for our Devices (XBOX, Surface, Accessories) and Cloud (Azure Data Centers) Supply Chains for Supply Chain Planning, Procurement, and Logistics Execution processes.”

Dhaval has also published a book, ‘Setting Up and Running Order Based Planning with SAP IBP,’ recipient of the patent ‘Model-based Backend Service Adaptation of Business Objects for Mobile Applications.’ Moreover, he is also an expert author at SAP Insider, ASCM certified Supply Chain Management Professional (CSCP), and a regular speaker at Events like SAPPHIRE, Analyst Days, SAP Insider Track and SAP Innovation Days.

A Prestigious Journey

Dhaval comes from a business background. His father operated a factory that manufactured cotton-based garments, e.g., Sarees, Salwar Kameez, Kanga, and Kitenge. Growing up as a child, he had the opportunity to observe multiple facets of the supply chain, viz., designing the garment, sourcing the materials like cotton fabric, color dyes, etc., planning and sequencing of different garments and designs, manufacturing/printing of the garments, subcontracting parts of the manufacturing process like post printing wash, packaging of the finished goods, trade (intra country and exports), and transportation & delivery of the goods.

Dhaval’s introduction to the supply chain was his ultimate chance! When he joined Verizon, he was offered a role within the supply chain transformation team. During that time, Verizon was investing heavily in laying the fibre optic network throughout the United States, and Supply Chain was key to its success.

When he started working on supply chain projects leveraging process-centric solutions from SAP, many of the supply chain aspects that he had an opportunity to observe as a child were relevant and were being adopted in his professional life, too! This helped Dhaval to have a deeper connection with his profession. He started enjoying what he was learning & doing, and this spiked his further interest. From then on, the more he got engaged, the more he learned! His interests and curiosity kept fueling his desire and passion to develop a niche in the supply chain.

During his career in SAP’s product development organization, his prime area was SAP’s Digital Supply Chain (DSC) Planning solutions. Since planning interacts across all supply chain functions, it acts as the central nervous system of a supply chain and plays a role across the complete lifecycle of a product. Opportunities to develop a Supply Chain Planning solution and its integration with other supply chain functions offered Dhaval deeper insights into the supply chain through the prism of planning.

By the time Dhaval was working at SAP’s Center of Expertise (CoE), he had the opportunity to work with several large organizations across industries to enable them to successfully adopt SAP DSC solutions. This was a very enriching experience for Dhaval to learn different nuances of the supply chain across industries (high tech, process industries, CPG, apparel and footwear, pharma and life sciences, etc.) and deeply connect with supply chain processes that strengthen an organization’s ability to serve its consumers.

Dhaval shares, “An organization’s supply chain reflects its culture! You can tell whether an organization is customer-obsessed, focuses on efficiency, sustainability, etc., by understanding it’s supply chain. These experiences were cemented by a passion for developing a niche in the supply chain.”

Facing the Adversities

In the early 2000s, Supply chains were going through a massive shift from being local to global. A vast majority of organizations were crafting strategies to benefit from the globalization wave that was prevalent in almost every industry.

With the rise in globalization, there was an eminent need to have a digital integration of supply chain functions when the physical aspects were distributed across geographies. Digitization was key for efficient supply chain management, visibility and ability to respond to changes in demand and supply situations.

Many companies were in the process of adopting or upgrading their supply chain management systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Planning Systems, Transportation Management Systems (TMS), and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), which at times were disruptive during implementation.

With the rise in globalization and changes in consumer expectations, supply chain networks became larger and were spread geographically. This led to the need to maintain the right inventory levels at each node of the supply chain to meet customer demand while minimizing inventory holding costs. Excessive inventory ties up capital and increases the risk of Excess and obsolescence, while less inventory can lead to stockouts and loss in revenue. Hence, Inventory management became a significant challenge for the organizations.

With globalization, reliance on suppliers, especially those in different parts of the world, has increased like never before. Now, disruption in one part of the world can lead to global impact; this was a new challenge! Disruptions like natural disasters, political instability, labor challenges, etc., could significantly impact the supply chain. Additionally, managing aspects like quality, governance, compliance, etc., particularly for suppliers who were in different geographies, all these factors combined were challenging for the organizations.

With Crisis Comes Opportunities

Supply Chain disruptions are not new; they have been perennial for every supply chain across industries. But for the last few years, the frequency and severity of disruptions have increased dramatically, increasing costs and reducing customer satisfaction. This increase in disruptions is likely to continue, and every supply chain would have to undergo a holistic transformation to make them resilient and thus better manage disruptions. Organizations must set the bar and make significant investments to achieve them because it would be a competitive advantage for them to do so.

Both Physical and Digital security are more crucial than ever as threats have increased and continue to evolve. Consumers will consider trust and security prior to purchase (products and services) and will act as key differentiators.

It is imperative for organizations to develop a framework to identify the risks, e.g., supplier risks, demand risks, logistics risks, financial risks, security risks, operational risks, regulatory risks, sustainability risks, etc., to their supply chains and develop strategies to mitigate them. Building resilient supply chains to better withstand and recover from disruptions has become a top priority. Businesses are diversifying sourcing, creating buffer inventory, and investing in risk mitigation strategies.

Sustainability in the supply chain has become increasingly important for several factors, and its significance continues to grow. Supply chains are one of the significant contributors to carbon footprint and sustainable practices, such as reducing carbon emissions, minimizing waste, and using renewable energy sources can reduce the carbon footprint.

Governments and regulatory bodies are implementing stricter environmental and sustainability regulations. Companies that do not comply with these regulations may face consequences. Companies that adopt sustainable practices can gain a competitive edge. They may have access to new markets, attract environmentally conscious consumers, and secure partnerships with like-minded businesses. Sustainable practices can lead to cost savings by improving operational efficiency, reducing waste, and minimizing energy consumption. Streamlining the supply chain through sustainability measures can also result in cost reductions.

Overall, integrating sustainability into the supply chain isn’t just a matter of corporate responsibility; it’s a strategic imperative for businesses that want to thrive in an environmentally conscious and socially responsible world. It helps companies become more efficient, resilient, and better positioned for long-term success.

Advancing With the Fundamentals

Dhaval expresses, “Supply chains are an integral part of every human on the planet. It caters to all essential functions that we perform: food we eat, goods that we consume, cars we drive, exercise we perform, sports we play, etc.” Until recently, supply chains were considered back-end operations that were performed to meet organizations’ objectives.

Today, across all sectors of the economy, supply chains are being redefined, reimagined, and reshaped continuously, and the relevance of the supply chain has reached a historic maximum. Supply chains are no longer only back-end executors of business strategies but are now cored to enabling customer value as critical growth drivers, differentiators and margin accelerators.

Disruptions, evolving business environments, governance standards, etc., are pertinent to supply chains. As organizations look to supply chains to enhance growth and accelerate margins, optimizing each aspect of the supply chain would be crucial to meet these expectations. To understand the impact of the potential disruptions or introduction of new business models, the organizations will need end-to-end simulation of supply chain processes to identify the right approach to accommodate these changes.

The growth of E-commerce and consumer demand for faster, more flexible purchasing, shipping and return options has put pressure on supply chains to adapt to omni-channel distribution models. E-commerce and omni-channel distribution have reshaped supply chains by demanding greater agility, technological integration, and customer-centric approaches. Supply chains have had to adapt to meet changing customer expectations while striving for efficiency, accuracy, and sustainability.

The Pearls of Wisdom

With his coherency and knowledge of the supply chain niche, Dhaval advises budding aspirants to understand the fundamentals on which the supply chain niche operates.

He also shares that working and gaining exposure through EiC job opportunities, internships, etc., attending conferences, seminars, industry events and membership in professional organizations like ASCM, CSCMP, etc., can be vital to understanding the industry clearly.

In a dynamic niche like the supply chain, embracing technology will be an advantage to comprehend the industry’s emerging trends and vital features. Dhaval expresses, “The more we learn, the more we achieve, so keep your approach open to learning. It will help you to succeed.”

A Glimpse of the Future

Sharing his perspective on the future of the supply chain, Dhaval shares significant facts highlighting the crucial elements of technology. He shares, “AI will play a crucial role in optimizing and modernizing SCM processes in the coming years. AI will further enhance efficiency, reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction, and enable companies to adapt to an ever-changing business environment by making data-driven decisions.” Generative AI is a significant opportunity and has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses plan, manage, and optimize their supply chains.

He adds, “The Internet of Things (IoT) offers tremendous potential in Supply Chains by providing real-time data from edge devices, connectivity, and automation.

Besides the IoT, Digital Twins can offer a holistic view of operations, enabling data-driven decision-making and supporting optimization and risk mitigation. As supply chains become more complex and interconnected, digital twins offer a powerful tool for increasing efficiency, resilience, and competitiveness. Digital twins provide a real-time, 360-degree view of the entire supply chain, offering detailed insights into the status of products, assets, and processes. This enhanced visibility enables better decision-making, proactive issue resolution, optimized operations, and improved resiliency.”

He adds, “Quantum computing has the potential to create significant positive impacts on supply chains due to its ability to solve complex problems at high speed and scale. Quantum computing can solve complex optimizations problems, facilitate advanced end-to-end simulations, and strengthen security by improving encryption and cryptography.”

Symbolizing Brilliance

Dhaval’s strategic thinking, ethical commitment and innovative approach are only optimizing the working principles but are paving the way for a more sustainable, efficient and responsive supply chain ecosystem.

As we continue to witness the evolution of supply chain management, He stands at the forefront with his dedication to driving magnificent changes and leading the industry towards a brighter and more efficient future by setting new benchmarks of excellence in supply chain management.