“For most of my career, I have been in these roles where I’ve had to galvanize and mobilize people with completely different backgrounds around these common causes.”
Duriya Farooqui is explaining why she, as a former public service leader, has taken on the weighty charge of directing Point A, a far-reaching corporate innovation center with the mandate to bring new technologies into supply chains.
Farooqui, who holds a master’s in International Development from Harvard’s Kennedy School, served as the Chief Operating Officer for the City of Atlanta. She managed leaders across City of Atlanta agencies, overseeing 7,000 employees and a budget of $2 billion.
Following her tenure with the City, Farooqui did a stint at Bain & Co. before taking on the Executive Director role at the Atlanta Committee for Progress. A public-private organization comprised of 30 Atlanta-area corporate CEOs, ACP’s goal was to help these influential business leaders address the most critical issues in Atlanta — smart city development, issues of equity and education, and more.
Farooqui makes the case for how her experience at ACP, while very different from her current role, directly translated to Point A. The innovation center is unique in that it is structured as a member’s organization, rather than focusing on just one organization’s challenges and goals.
“We help our members realize the future of supply chain by working together,” Farooqui says. “By collaborating, we open up unprecedented access and opportunity for companies that have a digital vision for the future.”
Though it has the same membership status as other companies, charter member Georgia-Pacific originally conceived of the vision of Point A and helped establish the center in 2018. Since Farooqui joined this year, they have swelled to 30 member companies ranging from the huge — Delta, UPS, Siemens — to mid-sized and even startup.
Member company Verusen, for example, is a relatively young startup still refining its business. The Atlanta-based founding team joined Point A to share their artificial intelligence-powered solution for inventory management with the large corporates in the room.
Member companies gain access to all of Point A’s innovation workshops and sprints, as well as its soon-to-be-opened facility, a 40,000 square-foot space in the lobby of the Georgia-Pacific Center in downtown Atlanta.
During workshops, members gather together to do deep work on one specific area of the supply chain that needs to be addressed with new technology, updated for the future, or transformed entirely.
Pain points are crowdsourced from the members and put to the entire room to solve — no one company has priority over another.
“It’s an entirely open exchange of ideas,” says Farooqui. “We actually don’t allow anyone to have name tags with titles or company name, so everyone feels they can contribute equally.”
The members then begin to move through a five-step sequential innovation process. The aim is to combine the members’ expertise with new technologies — data analytics, drone technology, automation, autonomous vehicles, IoT and clean tech — to develop an entirely new product or process.
Point A has already begun to progress through several such innovation sprints and has multiple projects in the pilot or testing stages.
Farooqui is adamant that it is essential for everyone to participate. She calls Point A an “ecosystem of capabilities” in which, “everyone is expected to contribute.”
To that end, though the Point A team aims to double their member companies over the next year, Farooqui clarifies that they’re being highly intentional about who those members will be.
The unique model has garnered significant attention, and the overarching mission touches almost any company, she explains. The umbrella of ‘supply chain’ encompasses everything involved in getting a product from raw material to customers — that means manufacturing, transportation, warehousing, and everything in between.
“Supply chains have a collective action problem, because it touches everything,” she says.
It’s a mind-bending market — supply chains, on average, account for two-thirds of a manufacturer’s cost of doing business. Meanwhile, just the transportation portion of the equation surpasses $600 billion in the U.S.
And Atlanta is the right place for Point A to establish itself as a supply chain solutions propeller, Farooqui claims, because of its deep history in the space.
The city founded in the 1800’s as railroad hub ‘Terminus’ still lays a claim to impressive logistics and transportation strength: 17 out of 26 supply chain-related Fortune 1000s are headquartered in Atlanta, along with leading supply chain-related software companies and the world’s most-traveled airport.
Even though Point A member companies can be from anywhere in the world, Farooqui is bullish on bringing them in to experience Atlanta. Point A will be kicking off a residency program for member company employees, allowing them to co-work in the Point A space for months at a time. A Spanish company will be the first to take advantage of the program.
Farooqui calls everything they are doing with Point A “a great experiment.”
“We have not found any other model where the structure of collaboration is set up the way that we are at Point A,” she says. “We are ready. We have tested our model. This is a grouping unlike any other I have seen anywhere else that are all focused on one thing: helping our members realize the future of supply chain.”