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Fast Forward – Harnessing Technology

In this episode, Hakan Yaren, Chief Information Officer of APL Logistics shares his views about fostering innovation through diverse collaboration and becoming a learning organization, bridging the gaps between technology and talent supply.


April Chapman (Host): Hello, everyone. I’m your host, April Chapman. I’m very pleased to be joined by my guest today, Hakan Yaren, our Chief Information Officer at Global IT. Hakan is an industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience in logistics, leveraging technology to address complex business problems. As the CIO of APL Logistics, he is leading an aggressive digital agenda to meet the growing technology demands of our customers. Welcome to the show, Hakan. Well, I am so happy to have you join us here today.

Hakan Yaren: Hi, April. It’s a pleasure to be here.

April Chapman: Let’s dive into our topic. We are now two years into the pandemic. Supply chains have to be more nimble than ever, and technology is more important than ever. Developing the right teams is a vital part of success. With such a fluctuating kind of jobs market right now, what are your thoughts around getting the right talent in place?




Hakan Yaren: I think that’s a great question. I have an opportunity to connect with many peers across the industry and different CIOs, and this is the number one item on their agenda. Besides knowing how to attract new talent, retaining the existing talent is essential. Having the skill sets is key. It’s also about the growth and learning opportunities available.


Technology is very pervasive. It is not in the purview of, let’s say, only in the IT people or computer science people.


Hakan Yaren: Whether you’re an English major in college or studied engineering or computer science, you have to be ingrained in technology and know how to use it to solve problems in your area, right?


And I think this is a great opportunity for technology professionals because we can open our aperture and look for talent across multidiscipline.


Hakan Yaren: And with the advent of artificial intelligence mission, this is even more critical because we want to avoid bias towards building solutions. So multidisciplinary approach is vital.

So for us, we want to approach this at APL Logistics because we want to be an employer of choice in the markets that we operate. We feel very confident about our ability to attract people, whether it’s in Singapore, US, Germany or Chile, all the countries and especially the places where we hire an IT.

Often, I have an opportunity to talk to almost everybody that’s joining APL Logistics new, coming to IT. I was asking the question, what attracted you to APL Logistics? And one of the things that they say is, one, it’s a global organization, so the work is itself complex and interesting.

Secondly, they feel like there is camaraderie, and it’s a collegiate environment as they get to know people and talk to individuals. So we want to do even better, reach out further, to bring diverse backgrounds and talent to our organization. We’re trying to do this by partnering up with universities, working with other partners and providers and, in some cases, the tech start-ups because there’s a vast ecosystem of start-ups, especially the logistics industry.

Beyond our four walls, we’re thinking about where we can find the best talent to help us solve our customers’ problems most effectively? And I think it’s important to be in an environment where the talents can flourish and excel. I think that’s what we want to do, and I believe we have the right ingredients.




April Chapman: I love that perspective on technology being a part of every job, and it’s true. So, let’s talk about what you are seeing from the customer perspective. Successful organizations have had to adapt to the constant changes in the last couple of years. Is it fair to say that the customers and their expectations have evolved?

Hakan Yaren: Every organization strives not to sit on their laurels to drive better customer experience and customer intimacy. At APL Logistics, this has been a competitive advantage for us. We built significant relationships with our customers over the years, and a lot of that goes into the talent we talked about. We have good subject matter experts and technology.

We must look for ways to eliminate friction in the customer experience journey. That’s what we try to do using technology, process improvement, and engineering.

One of the things I think everybody who’s been watching the news and people that haven’t been paying much attention to the supply chain industry is seeing that the supply chain industry makes the world go round? All of us have taken certain things for granted. We assume things will be there at the shop when we expect it or be at our doorsteps, and then we realize the supply chain is complex.

And that’s what we do. We help our customers get the right products to their customers at the right time. To do that, we need a significant amount of data, understanding of our customers, processes, operations before we provide them with that capability.

Our customers are looking at us to be the best partner.


We involve ourselves with other 3PLs, and we work with suppliers, carriers, our customers’ customers, and sometimes, our customers’ suppliers, to fulfil a complete lifecycle integration. And we try to stitch these together using our data, intelligence, and leverage on AI and machine learning techniques to further improve it.


Hakan Yaren: From a strategic perspective, we work very closely with our customers across different retail, automotive, consumer, and industrial industries to align our technology investment. We are seeing a significant amount of IT dollars going into supply chain related technologies and our customers are investing. There’s about a 30% increase year over year in IT spending within the IT industry.

Next, we align our investments with what our customers are investing. The summation of this full investment on our side, our customer side, benefits the end customers and makes their processes more efficient. By doing so, we can offer the best customer experience with our people, expertise, technology, and data.

What we’re trying to achieve is to make it easy for customers to do business with us. Our ultimate goal is to make it easy for our customers to do business with their customers.


Getting Intentional About Continuous Improvement


April Chapman: I like that it. There is a constant evolution. And that’s one of the things I like about where we’re going with our technology right now is that we have been focusing on continuous innovation. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about agile methodology and the mindsets behind that. I’d love for you to share a little bit about your ideas around those topics.

Hakan Yaren: Well, I’m privileged to talk about it because APL Logistics is recognized in the industry as one of the key innovators, and I think our legacy goes a long way. The way I look at the innovation is I think of it as a small “i”. Sometimes people think of innovation as the one big thing that changes everything. But to me, innovation is all about continuous improvement, it’s about taking small steps.

Our legacy goes back to San Francisco. We have a great presence in Asia, in Singapore, and with KWE, we have a Japanese heritage. If you look at it, the notion around Lean Six Sigma, continuous improvement, a lot of those core management techniques are what we try to embody and apply every day in what we do. The uncertainty in the supply chain that we have all been seeing over the last two years has necessitate the need to understand data and the events that are happening beyond the four walls of any organization. So, how do you then react to it, plug, and play multiple capabilities, having an architectural framework is the key.


When I think about innovation and technology, we want to build a framework, ecosystem, and environment to experiment with ideas. In that way, we can learn and grow. Even if we fail, we can learn and adapt as we go along.


As a company, we rely on our subject matter expertise, global network, and technology to make a difference. In this light, we must experiment, take risks, and advance our customers’ business forward. We leverage our ecosystem of partners, tech start-ups from the security, logistics technology, and data aggregation. We also harness the best-in-class technology, capabilities that may exist within APL Logistics and outside of APL Logistics to add value to our customers, our operations and our people, whether they’re in the Finance, HR and Operations.

This environment is going to be something that lives by. Innovation is not a one-time thing; it has a continuous activity. So that means as an organization, you must be a learning organization. It’s not just about people. The talent must grow and learn.

As an organization, how do you become a learning organization? It is important to have the right talent, the right technology, know what to do with the data, and continuously evolve to changing conditions, adding values to various stakeholders, internally or externally. That’s what I see as innovation and we try to create an environment where that can happen, where our people can flourish and do their best work.


April Chapman: Well, I’ve seen that happening over the two years you’ve been here. There’s a lot of growth in that for us. Thank you for your leadership in that. I know that we truly appreciate it. Thank you for joining us here on this podcast.

Hakan Yaren: Thank you, April, it’s been fantastic. Appreciate it.


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