Most of the companies I have interviewed for Supply Chain Startup were founded by individuals with experience in a specific area of supply chain and who wanted to build a better mousetrap to solve problems they’d experienced in the field. Think of them as a better digital mousetrap. They were logisticians with experience in global shipping and transportation planning; inventory planners frustrated by a lack of tools beyond Excel; and automation specialists who conceived of a better way to integrate disparate systems.
Aera Technology is a little different. Rather than focusing on a specific supply chain process, the company is utilizing Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and analytics “to create a platform on which we’re building automation applications to solve the business problems of our customers,” explains Laurent Lefouet, Aera’s chief strategy officer. The company’s founders and leadership team came out of the Business Intelligence space
Launched in 2017, the company was founded by CTO Shariq Mansoor, whose previous company, FusionOps is the technology backbone for Aera, and Frederic Laluyaux, president and CEO, who was previously the CEO of Anaplan. Aera has raised funding from the New Enterprise Associates, Georgian Partners, NewView Capital and DFJ Growth.
The idea was to focus on complex supply chains from some of the world’s largest companies. To do that, they developed an engine that sits on top of ERP systems, point solutions and other systems of record; extracts the data that is important to process being addressed; harmonizes the data from those disparate systems and then digitizes decision making. “We want to teach the machine what to look for in the data and then automate decision making,” Lefouet says. “When we can do that, we can do it much faster and at a more granular level, and do it more accurately.”
The company’s tagline is “Enabling The Self-Driving Supply Chain.” “We define it as moving from people doing the work with support from computers to computers doing the work guided by people,” Lefouet says. “It’s a closed loop: You do the work, learn from the work and then improve your business. Automate, execute and improve.”
In that sense, the tools that Aera is developing are process agnostic. The company’s first project was order management across a complex supply chain. Aera has also worked on projects in demand forecasting, pricing, transportation management and finance. Those solutions may be ad hoc, but once one is developed, a solution can be applied to future projects. Potentially, those can packaged as an off-the-shelf product down the road. “Everything we build on top can be used from one customer to the other,” Lefouet says. Aera is targeting inventory management as the first packaged solution.
Since the solutions are process agnostic, and all areas of a business can benefit from better business intelligence and automated decision-making, why supply chain? “What makes supply chain exciting is that it’s the physical world, where you’re dependent on time and money,” Lefouet says. “Supply chains at large organizations are so complex that it’s too much for us to manage as people, so there is a lot of opportunity for waste management and reduction.”
He adds: “We believe that the fact that we’re creating a learning technology is new in supply chain. If you decide not to move something, that’s a decision and we’re learning from the problem, the decision and the outcome. That’s new.”
About the Author
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.