Introducing TMX Asia Team – Q&A with our people
In this first interview of our series “Introducing TMX Asia team”, we talk to Carl Hemus, TMX COO Asia.
Carl has over 20 years’ experience in change management, operation analysis, solution design and business transformation across the UK, EMEA and APAC. Carl specialises in supply chain, digital technology and ecommerce.
Before joining TMX, Carl has held various senior roles across Europe and Asia within the Supply and Logistics sectors across sales and marketing, project management and operational streams.
In his position as Chief Operating Offer at Abu Dhabi Ports, Carl successfully championed the implementation of the Cluster Strategy for customer-facing operations and managed a growing revenue line of over AED 70 million.
Why did you choose to work in supply chain and logistics industry?
I actually got into this industry by accident. After trying out a career in a number of sports related fields, I decided to move back home and worked with my family in the supply chain industry. Then I just kept going and never looked back. So, I guess supply chain is in my DNA.
I love travelling and have been fortunate to have visited (and often lived) a large part of the world and has largely been through working in logistics and supply chain. I also like problem solving. I have always been interested in why and how things do what they do. My parents could probably share some stories of me taking things around the house apart and trying to put them together again. And I think supply chain is very much like that. You often have to take the whole thing apart to figure out why it’s not doing what it should, before you can build it back again.
What are some of the things that are ‘not working as they should’ at the moment in supply chains?
The main one that we’re hearing is obviously supply chain disruption. And it’s disruption on a global scale. COVID and other world events, like Ukraine’s current instability, all have a huge effect on businesses and have driven people to actually try to understand more about supply chains. Businesses have also come to acknowledge the pressure in dealing with something that they don’t fully understand. This is the part where TMX can help. It is the analogy of taking things apart, breaking down those problems and understanding how to deal with them.
But before Covid, there was also the rise of ecommerce and changes in consumer behaviour. These changes were driven by Amazon and similar companies which offering same day delivery, two-hour delivery, or delivering it before you’ve even thought about it. These changes in consumer expectation put supply chains under further stress.
And the final pain point I believe is related to technology and this word “digital”. This has become such a crowded space now, with so many blockchain discussions, artificial intelligence solutions and machine learning products. I believe it has become very difficult for our customers to make sense of them all, or more importantly decide what is relevant to them.
So if you could give your customers one key advice to improve their supply chains, what would that be?
I think it might be a common view, but the answer right now is data. Be data-driven, but also be selective with that data. Again, going back to digital comments, there are many people talking about complex end to end visibility systems, with six-to-nine-month implementations. But there are actually some very simple things you can do quickly with data. At TMX for example, we are working with customer to help them build their own control towers and dashboards, which are actually a relatively easy place to start.
Getting hold of that data and being transparent with it is the number one thing that can add value to any supply chain discussion. But companies also need to be open in terms of managing the change in their business that this will require. This is about building visibility with data, about interacting with it and making observations and decisions with it. And we know that this can be a big challenge.
What further changes do you see happening in supply chain, especially in Asia, in the next few years?
Many businesses have been dependent on products leaving China on a Monday and being in store on Friday, that’s not going to happen anymore. I think even after things settle down and we have adopted the ‘new norm’, we’re not going to be able to go back to the days of truly global supply chains. Things are becoming regionalised and supply chains are shortening – which in turn drives significant change in the operations of companies and their suppliers.
Companies are looking at larger inventories, spread across more facilities. They are looking at diversification of manufacturing and their supply, so that they can avoid the kinds of bottlenecks that we are currently seeing. Places like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are seeing a resurgence in some types of manufacturing, as people look to exit China. Tech companies are coming back to Malaysia and we see automotive’s revival in Thailand. All of this gives our customers a lot to think about as we move through the next few years. And for me, this creates huge opportunity in Asia.
The second thing would be technology. Or rather, I like to use the word “relevant technology”. The answer to a problem is often not a big, expensive solution from a legacy providers, or the ‘latest’ solution that’s come onto the market. It is what is relevant to your business. Again I refer to the idea of breaking a problem down and then taking the time to understand where in that process technology can help and support you.
The final one, and again it’s a very broad area and another overused word – Omni channel.
There is a continued blurring of online and offline, of the High Street with the Internet. For example, Burberry and some other high end fashion brands are now providing amazing in-store experiences, that are driven by very high-end technology and a huge amount of work in the background to support it – breaking down what we see as traditional online inventory processes.
Our buying habits continue to evolve and I think the exit from the pandemic is going to be really interesting. We’ve seen in some markets that people are now back in the malls and companies have seen their internet sales dropping, with their physical store sales returning and even growing. Whilst in other regions the comeback to stores is almost non-existent and people are further extending their online experiences. And then there is the trend of influencer sales, with orders placed via social media channels (such as TikTock or YouTube) and bypassing our traditional order management and warehouse management systems. Learning to understand how to bridge this gap, navigate these constant changes and being able to fulfill those orders is going to be key in being successful in modern markets.
The expectation of all products, in all places, via all channels at all times seems to be growing, especially in Asia where consumer demand is very high.
Thank you Carl for your insight. Now back to another question about you. Why did you choose to work for TMX?
Really simple answer – the people. I was introduced to TMX by a friend and after the first Teams meeting I flew over to meet the team and it’s just got better every day since. There’s a common mindset at TMX and that is one of practicality. I love the fact that we have a “doing” mentality at TMX. We’re not a consultant who is going to deliver 250 slides of PowerPoint and leave you with it. We’re not going to sit back and watch something unravel as we don’t deem it to be ‘our job’. We get involved.
I’ve spoken to some clients that have been with TMX for a long time. It really feels like they would never go anywhere else and they continue to come to us with their questions and concerns. We had a few customers like that when I was with DHL, and they’re always great to have because it’s a true partnership built on relationships.
I think the second part was the chance to come and build a business. My timing of joining TMX matched with the relaunching of Asia and building TMX as an Asian business. To have the ability to localise our business, to bring what we’ve got in TMX into the Asian markets is a huge opportunity and I am very grateful that Travis and Milan have the confidence to let us do this. It’s a big job. There is a lot of expectation and there is a lot of trust involved.
Can you please provide some fun facts about living and working in Asia?
I have spent close to 17 years in Asia now, so it is more or less home for me. I moved to Hong Kong when I was 25 for work and I’ve never looked back. I’ve spent time in Africa, the Middle East, the US and Central Europe. But I always seem to find myself coming back to Asia.
I think the first fact is that ‘Asia’ doesn’t exist. It’s a word. But every country in this region is really very different. Taking Southeast Asia alone, there are about 650 million people, with over 1000 languages and numerous religions and cultures. So just working your way through all this is enough of an experience.
Within that though, I think there are two things that I’ve learned that are extremely common. ‘Food’. It is the most important thing in any discussion. The origins of food, the tastes of food, who invented it and what the ingredients are – or should be.
Food is also a social thing, a cultural thing. And it’s also a work thing. If you have the opportunity to meet customers with food, then do it because (for me) that’s a sign of friendship and trust.
And the second thing for me is about just enjoying the journey and exploring. Don’t be afraid to get lost. Just walk, get out and go try it. Asia for me is a wonderful place, as long as you localise your expectations and you are willing to sit on a street corner, in a coffee shop and try a bowl of noodles with something in it that you’ve probably never seen before.
Thank you Carl for your time and a great conversation.
Next time we will talk to Gerry Power, UK Head of Country and Director of Asia, in the next episode of “Introducing TMX Asia team”. Watch this space.