Jumping on the AI Rocket Ship to Solve Decades-Old Supply Chain Problems: A Conversation with Verusen’s Vice President Daryl Lu
When Daryl Lu started with Verusen in 2018, he was one of just a handful of employees who came on board because they believed in Founder Paul Noble’s vision to build an intelligent, connected supply chain through the use of artificial intelligence (AI). Since then, the company has grown at rocket-ship speed (well beyond its original plan and with 50-percent headcount growth in 2020 alone). Just as Verusen has grown, so, too, has Daryl’s position within the company evolved. As Vice President Customer, he ensures Verusen’s customers find success and value from its innovative AI, materials inventory and data management technology platform.
Here we learn not only about how Daryl solves customers’ materials inventory challenges with his jack-of-all-trades experience and work ethic, but also about his not-so-secret donut indulgence:
How has Verusen evolved? How has your role changed?
We’ve grown so much in such a short amount of time. It’s not only amazing to see our team continue to grow, but also to continue to be excited. We’ve actually been able to better collaborate to push the company forward. Sometimes you don’t see that as companies get bigger. By no means are we a “big” company yet, but it’s great that we’re still able to remain agile and continue to do good things―big things―in a very collaborative way. Our customers are also great partners in our growth. They’re able to present us with their real-world challenges and then trust us to work with them to solve those problems. Especially with the coronavirus pandemic, our ability to almost immediately help companies’ supply chains be more agile really is playing a huge part in the story of our evolution.
My role at Verusen has definitely evolved as well. I continue to be a jack of all trades, but have relinquished some of those responsibilities to people who are really great at their crafts. Being surrounded with new and really good talent has enabled me to step back and own some of the other areas that are still in need of my specific expertise. I see my role as tying everything together from both a product and customer perspective.
What attracted you to join the Verusen team?
I first saw an article about Paul presenting this very early-stage supply-chain technology company at Venture Atlanta. With a little more due diligence, I learned the company only had three people at the time, and I thought that would be a perfect fit for me. I’d love to help build a company as a team member and a leader, while utilizing my background in supply chain, logistics, consulting, and technology entrepreneurship. I wanted an opportunity to really jump on a rocket ship and be able to fill any of the roles that the company needed. That’s what initially got me pumped.
Another big piece was sitting down with Paul and learning about his vision of building an intelligent, connected supply chain. The vision that he outlined paralleled many of the same ideas I had about how to address some of supply chain’s ongoing challenges, by leveraging technologies that exist today―whether from the cloud or with AI.
In your newest job role, what are your responsibilities? What are your goals―both short term and long term?
At the highest level, I’m responsible for ensuring our customers find success and value from the Verusen platform. As long as our customers are able to use our platform as an effective means to reduce materials inventory and costs or clean up their material master data to help feed other corporate initiatives, for example, then we’re creating value.
In the short term, we’re helping companies right now navigate the challenges with coronavirus. It’s being able to offer them rapid speed to value. We’re providing a three- or four-month limited subscription so that they can recognize those inventory optimization opportunities and verify those from our models. If they can find $2 million dollars in savings, for example, we can provide a clear path as to how they actually capture that.
From there, customers can verify thousands of other recommendations, which turns into even greater long-term value. So whether it’s continued inventory optimization or being able to loop in and recognize duplicate materials and clean up some of their master data, it all comes back to driving an increasing value for the customer. Another aspect of that is helping them responsibly increase their materials inventory so they can meet the required service levels, because no one wants to have any downtime in their production.
Describe how you go about solving customer’s problems?
We’re addressing―head on―the many decades-old problems that continue to exist with inventory management. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re able to grow so much, especially right now, during the COVID-19 times. Companies realize the need for their supply chains to be more agile. As our country continues to re-open, we’re certainly seeing a number of false starts and stops. A lot of our customers, however, are serving frontline workers, so they haven’t had as much of a slowdown. If anything, they’ve had more of an uptick because of the demand for their products, whether it’s tissues, toilet paper, masks, or keeping the lights on.
Data is king for the intelligent connected supply chain, what do you see as the misconceptions, challenges and opportunities related to material inventory data?
There’s a misconception that you need perfect data to get value, and we see a lot of customers pause initiatives because they think they need that. While we appreciate and would love perfect data, the reality is that we just don’t live in a perfect data world. In our approach, we look for inventory optimization, using the data that you have. There’s actually tremendous value to be gleaned from that data. We then work in parallel to recognize where inventory data is bad, where there are duplicates, for example. Finally, we start to address some of those duplicate materials or other kinds of data inaccuracies as we move along. It’s about applying AI to help address those inaccuracies and patterns, and then be able to provide recommendations to those who know their data best at the facilities.
What trends and/or events do you see ahead that have the potential to impact how companies manager their materials inventory and data?
A lot of companies are actually trying to consolidate some of their systems, even though people have been planning to do that for many years. Take, for example, the migration to the cloud. Many see that as their silver bullet. But, then there’s the question of data, whether it’s trying to aggregate it in a cloud data lake. How do you now utilize that? Who cares if you have a lot of data―what does that mean? How do you make sense of that data to actually drive the value or outcomes that you’re looking to achieve? It’s why Verusen has a growing data-science practice: to be able to analyze tons of data, draw insights and be able to present that back in a way that helps our customers realize the goals that we’re trying to achieve together.
What do you like to do when you’re not helping companies optimize and transform their supply chains?
With COVID-19 continuing to impact our daily lives, I spend a lot of my free time with my wife, enjoying the outdoors; tinkering in our garden; tackling home improvements; and working out.
Describe your latest donut discovery.
I have friends and family who don’t hesitate to ship or drop off new donut finds. I ate a lot donuts during the quarantine. However, I finally got to Sarah Donuts in Decatur, Ga., They were very good.
Want to get more insight on solving your materials inventory and data problems with AI or where to find some of the best donuts across the country? Readers can connect with Daryl on LinkedIn and Twitter.