Dr. Graf, rapid means fast. Does RAPID live up to its name?
Graf: RAPID stands for Raw Material Pricing Intelligence Platform. The meaning “fast” was chosen deliberately. That’s because the platform actually speeds up raw material price forecasts. The forecasts are not only delivered faster, but they also become smarter.
Graf: To date price forecasts have been compiled in various formats on local computers and shared individually. This was the starting point for a cross-functional project that Procurement initiated. The objective of the project was to harmonize the process and to pool all this information in a single system. This foundation allows automated data processing. Furthermore, this standardized database on a central platform also enables the use of artificial intelligence in forecasting – this platform is called RAPID and we actioned it with the help of Evonik’s IT team.
Mr. Ndaw, that sounds like a lot of work. How did you proceed?
Ndaw: The first step involved defining needs and resources: what requirements does Procurement have for the new platform and which existing tools in Evonik’s system environment fit their needs. For this kind of projects, it is important that these requirements are aligned with our higher-level IT strategy. This is aimed at driving cross-linked digitalization at Evonik forward and avoiding complex and costly standalone solutions. We are thus creating the scope across automated and digital innovations. This is how we co-developed the implementation idea for RAPID together with Procurement. RAPID is primarily based on the SAP Analytics Cloud. The second step involved adapting the system components to Procurement’s needs, and we employed agile methods to achieve this. We regarded it as important to integrate users into the process right from the start. We received feedback from them in short cycles and were able to react quickly to that feedback, if something did not deliver the desired outcome.
What are your takes on the working relationship you had?
Graf: The working relationship between Bassirou and myself was very close. We both were the project’s main contacts and each of us had a versatile team backing us up, Bassirou on the IT side and myself on the Procurement side. It wouldn’t have worked without close coordination between the two of us. I recall several late phone calls in that respect (laughs).
Ndaw: (also laughs) That’s true. The working relationship with Arko was definitely crucial and to some extent emotional. Especially when things didn’t work. But we always supported each other.
Graf: Trying something out quickly and failing early on are both very important for agile development and learning processes. Of course, it was also difficult at times. In that respect the trust-based relationship with Bassirou really helped us to work constructively together, focused on finding solutions.
Ndaw: That mutual understanding of each other’s concerns and needs was key here. It was always clear to us that we could only create the solution together and that is what we did.
RAPID is the initial project. What is its future?
Graf: To date RAPID has already delivered very positive results and clearly signaled what an up-to-date, platform-supported forecast can achieve. That is why, following the project, further data is to be used for autonomous, AI-supported price forecasts. By doing so, the forecasting process gets faster and smoother. That is what we are currently working on.
Many thanks for talking to us.