Toshiba Digital Solutions Corporation : Launch the new future with DX

We conducted our second customer interview with “Toshiba Digital Solutions Corporation (TDSL)”, in which Vision Consulting (VC) is currently participating as a prime project. In the interview, we asked about the collaboration on the New Service: supply chain platform Meister SRM™ Portal Project, a DX initiative to strengthen and upgrade the supply chain.
Please have a look until the end of this interview.

The new service

About the Meister SRM™ Portal


—Public Relations Department (PRD): First of all, could you possibly tell us about the purpose of launching the new service “Supply chain platform Meister SRM™ Portal” (Meister SRM™ Portal)?


TDSL, Mr. Asano:The purpose of launching Meister SRM™ Portal is to strengthen and advance the entire supply chain in manufacturing sites. To achieve this, we launched an open platform that enables the visualization of connections between companies that make up the supply chain, activation of communication on the platform, and access to various partnership services that support business activities. Furthermore, the aim is to provide value-added services by utilizing the data accumulated through these activities.


—PRD: Could you tell us the background of Meister SRM™ Portal, please?


Mr. Asano:The motive for the launch was the search for a new service that utilizes data accumulated from production activities within Toshiba Group around 2020. TDSL decided to launch the Meister SRM™ Portal, which can provide value to the entire supply chain in manufacturing, by leveraging the know-how accumulated through Meister SRM™, a strategic procurement solution that we have been providing since 2008.

Around the same time, in the social background, there were challenges posed by the unpredictable changes in the business environment, such as COVID-19 and the US-China trade friction, as well as the emergence of the concepts of reducing CO₂ emissions throughout the supply chain and responsible supply chain. Companies were required to strengthen their VSR activities in response to these challenges. Therefore, services that could respond to these social backgrounds were in demand.


Photo: (Left) VC Mr. Shoichi Ishihara (Right) TDSL Mr. Yutaka Asano.


—PRD: Could you tell us the services Meister SRM™ Portal offers? 


Mr. Asano:Our services cover a wide range of areas, but here are three main ones:
First, we offer the formation and visualization of supply chains. By participating and encouraging their suppliers to join this service, companies can make connections with each other including those beyond the second-tier suppliers, that were previously invisible. This achieves the visualization of the entire supply chain.
Second, the standardization of communication that transcends the supply chain. This streamlines various investigations and information dissemination that go upstream in the supply chain. For example, by exchanging messages between companies, information on the supply chain can be grasped quickly.
Third, the provision of various services that support business activities. This is being worked on together with our partners.
For example, with regard to CO₂ emissions, the CO₂ emissions of each company are calculated by services provided by partners, and this data is then imported into the Meister SRM™ portal, making it possible to visualize CO₂ emissions throughout the supply chain.
Other services that we are working on in collaboration with other partners include a “business matching service” that searches for partners who offer or provide new technologies of their own and a “net subscription-type comprehensive liability insurance service” that increases the liability capacity of the entire supply chain by allowing customers to complete everything from liability insurance quotes to subscription procedures on the internet at any time.
Going forward, there are plans to increase the number of partnership services gradually.
Please see our company’s website for details about the service.



—PRD: Could you tell us what could be accomplished by the Meister SRM™ Portal?


Mr. Asano:What can be achieved is “optimization of inter-company communication,” “accurate information acquisition and disclosure,” and “reduction of risk throughout the supply chain”.
The Meister SRM™ portal enables buyers and suppliers in the supply chain to communicate with each other in the same place, contributing to the “optimization of inter-company communication”. In addition, by sharing the same data in the same place, it eliminates differences in data due to varying management by each company and person in charge, and realizes “accurate information acquisition and disclosure”.
Furthermore, by visualizing and analyzing the entire supply chain, it is possible to identify bottlenecks based on geographical conditions and the degree of overlap in business relationships, and to promptly communicate the situation across the supply chain in the event of a disaster, leading to “risk reduction throughout the supply chain”.


—PRD: Could the Meister SRM™ Portal be a service that also contributes to society?


Mr. Asano: I believe that the visualization of the carbon footprint is an initiative towards decarbonization and carbon neutrality, and it contributes to sustainability.
When banks propose decarbonized financial solutions, they are required to visualize the emissions and measures, so we plan to utilize our emission data to offer decarbonized financial solutions in the future. I would like to utilize the visualized data on the Meister SRM™ Portal and for other solutions.




Challenges to launch the Meister SRM™ Portal


—PRD: Will you tell us about the circumstances leading up to the launch of the Meister SRM™ Portal before you VC?


Mr. Asano:Originally, we had been developing services related to the improvement of procurement operations for about 20 years, including our predecessor solutions. At first, we extracted functions related to “procurement” from Toshiba’s production management system and started offering them as solutions to our customers. Later, there was a move to reform procurement within the Toshiba Group, and we brushed up the service content as “Strategic Procurement Solution Meister SRM™.
Because “Strategic Procurement Solution Meister SRM™” was close to the core system and required individualized and careful attention, we offered it in a way that incorporated company-specific measures and customer requests.
We have supported the efforts of some of Japan’s leading companies in their procurement operations, but as I mentioned at the beginning, in order to improve manufacturing, it is essential to strengthen and upgrade the entire supply chain, not just from a procurement perspective. To this end, we believe that suppliers need to join and work together throughout the supply chain, which is why we have decided to launch the Meister SRM™ Portal.


—PRD: Could you tell us about the challenges you faced just before requesting support from VC?


Mr. Asano:There were two major challenges at the time.
Firstly, it was that the project couldn’t develop due to short staffing. In fact, our strategic procurement solution Meister SRM™ was also very well received by our customers. Furthermore, due to the careful and individualized support we provided, we were already short of staff. Under these circumstances, there was talk about a new data business initiative within Toshiba Group, but there were not enough members who could devote the time and effort to consider the new service.

Secondly, within TDSL alone, there were areas where thinking was rigid and new innovations were lacking. Therefore, we needed new perspectives and ideas, and a way of procedure that would allow collaborations with outside parties.


—PRD: Why did you turn to VC for support?


Mr. Asano:Because we wanted to get over the two challenges with the help of VC.
Mr. Ishihara from VC joined and supported the project as a strategic consultant. It was a great decision to do so as he resulted in positive impacts upon us more than our expectations. We were very happy with the commission.


—PRD: Could you tell us the reason why you chose VC over other firms?


Mr. Asano:We had a previous relationship with TDSL and had a VC strategy consultant participate in another section of the company, and we thought that VC would be a better understanding partner for us than other firms. Therefore, we thought that by hiring VC, they would be able to share with us TDSL’s culture, work procedures, system usage, etc., so that we would be able to smoothly enter the review phase.




Cooperation between TDSL and VC


—PRD: Could you tell us what you have worked on with VC so far?


Mr. Asano:Mr. Ishihara has been supporting us since June 2021.
There are three major points that we have worked on together so far, including what we are currently working on.
The first is a plan consideration for the launch of services, including the use of supply chain data. This includes various considerations such as creating value for users, determining system specifications, and organizing monetization plans and operational routines.
The second is the preparation and construction of the actual service launch. This includes following up on the progress of system development, alliance agreements with partners, internal approval processes, and other steady, mundane aspects.
The third is promotional activities at the time of release and afterward, as well as handling introductions to users. Since this service is a focus of Toshiba Group’s attention, we received quite a few interviews in addition to responding to news releases.
In addition to Mr. Ishihara, other members of the VC are also participating in the study to improve the overall service.


—PRD: What have you achieved by working with VC?


Mr. Asano:Working with VC enabled us to release Meister SRM™ Portal in October 2022. We launched the service together by fearlessly challenging new ideas and new methods that TDSL had not tried before. We were able to achieve one major goal by working on numerous steps we’ve never tried before.


—PRD: Could you tell us what TDSL had expected of you, Mr. Ishihara?


VC, Mr. Ishihara:It was to be the closest person to Mr. Asano and provide support. I believe that Mr. Asano has the ability to deal with not just one solution, but multiple ones, and more importantly, to contribute the entire company. For this reason, I think it was expected that I joined the project as sub-PM in order to ensure that Mr. Asano could exert 100% of his true potential.


—PRD: What have you done to meet the expectations of Toshiba Digital Solutions?


Mr. Ishihara:I have taken on and conducted anything from scratch. For example, I have voluntarily made documents needed for the project from scratch.


Mr. Asano:Since Mr. Ishihara started supporting me, I hardly had to prepare documents from beginning to finish. When I ask Mr. Ishihara to prepare documents for meetings, he immediately responded to my requests.




Benefits of asking VC to support


—PRD: What were the good things about asking VC for support?


Mr. Asano:One of the good things was that they saw the progress of the project as a “personal matter” and have been working on it proactively. VC is as much or more firmly involved in the project as TDSL employees, interacting with external parties and explaining the project to upper management.
The VC members are as or more firmly involved in the project as TDSL employees dealing with outsiders and briefing top figures.
They have a strong desire to “create a new service” and have been willing to work on demanding and troublesome tasks.
The VC members, including Mr. Ishihara, have been very supportive and have played a central role in progressing the project.


Mr. Ishihara:I think it is because Mr. Asano and other TDSL employees were respectful that we were able to get well into the project. Working with such respectful people has motivated me.


—PRD: Could you tell us why you continued to ask for support from VC even after the release of Meister SRM™ Portal?


Mr. Asano:Because there are further goals to achieve. The first release is just a passing point, and we would like VC to support us until we reach our goal. Specifically, first of all, we aim to further improve the service of “Meister SRM™ Portal,” for which we are receiving support, and to make it available to a large number of users. Then, we will also aim to provide “data utilization services.” The data application business has not yet been released to the public, and we are in the middle of launching the plan. We would like to continue to create value from the data accumulated from day-to-day operations and consider how we can return this value to each company as a beneficial service.


—PRD: Could you tell us what makes this project enticing in your opinion, Mr. Ishihara?


Mr. Ishihara:There are multiple enticing factors.
Firstly, it is that you can create things that don’t exist in the world yet. It is very attractive that we could potentially create synergies by multiplying buzzwords such as supply chain, ESG, SDGs, DX, etc.
Secondly, it is attention-grabbing. This is a major project that Toshiba Group has been putting a lot of effort into. The high profile makes it more challenging, however, I find it very rewarding because I have had a chance to talk to people, I wouldn’t normally have the chance to.
Thirdly, it is that the project contributes to society to some extent. Although the objective of the project is not a contribution to society, it has resulted in the linkages to ESG and SDGs contributions.


(Photo: Two of the participating members from VC were also present during the dialogue.)

Future Prospects

To accomplish carbon-neutral circular economy with DX


—PRD: Could you tell us your future prospects?


Mr. Asano:First of all, we would like to continue with the activities we are currently pursuing to increase the number of users, and also work with partners to develop the service itself.

On top of that, we would like to provide values to as many users as possible by working on new things in parallel, such as data application business and cooperation with other platforms.


—PRD: To what extent would you like to enhance ultimately? 


Mr. Asano:We would like to further expand and improve our services, including expanding the scope of industries covered by our supply chain and overseas expansion. Solutions to issues such as economic security and human rights abuses are in very high demand overseas, so we believe that overseas expansion is essential.
We also believe that collaboration among platforms, including our efforts in Europe, is a major challenge to take on in a situation where there is a flood of platforms that are becoming disorganized.


—PRD: In the future, could you tell us how you would like to contribute to society through this service?


Mr. Asano:Japanese manufacturing has not been as prospered as before because of the collapse of a bubble economy and the “lost three decades” afterwards. One of the reasons for this is the delay in digitization, and thus, we would like to promote the digitalization of Japan’s manufacturing industry and support manufacturing with the power of digital technology.

We would also like to achieve both a direct social contribution and an indirect one which spreads to companies and people. Through the Meister SRM™ portal, we would like to contribute to the enhancement and sophistication of the entire supply chain, including the realization of a carbon-neutral and circular economy, and realize Toshiba Group’s vision, “For people, for the Earth, for tomorrow.”


—PRD: Could you tell us what you expect from VC in the future to realize your vision?


Mr. Asano:I understand that there are numerous barriers and challenges in the process of working on new things. Even in such situations, we are grateful that VC members have been taking it as their own business in a positive way. I hope we can continue to work together in a fun and positive way, no matter how hard it is. We look forward to your continued cooperation.


—PRD:Lastly, could your share your future enthusiasm, Mr. Ishihara?


Mr. Ishihara: I would like to find synergy between Toshiba Group and VC.

In addition, I would like to work hard and brush up on my skills on a daily basis so that I can contribute more to TDSL.


(Photo: From left to right: VC “Mami Hayashi,” VC “Shoichi Ishihara,” TDSL “Yutaka Asano” and VC “Mihiro Kubo”)


(*) “Meister SRM are the trademarks or registered trademarks of Toshiba Digital Solutions Corporation in Japan.
(*) In some cases, names of other companies and products in this interview are used as trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.
(*) The information (service details/related links, etc.) posted in this article is current at the time of the interview. Please note that it may be subject to change without prior notice.

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