4 Trends to Transform Your Supply Chain Process in 2018 by Ajay Chidrawar, Vice President, Global Product Management and Customer Success, CGS
The latest fashion trends can change in a matter of seconds, so it should come as no surprise that the technology driving the fashion industry is changing as well. Apparel companies need to stay on top of the trendiest styles – and technology – to remain competitive in the year ahead. In 2018, we’ve outlined the four trends apparel brands need to be following to stay ahead of the curve with your supply chain operations.
IoT: All Day, Every Day
The Internet of Things (IoT) will be integrated within most industries in the coming years. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than half of major new business processes will incorporate some element of IoT. Supply chain professionals are using IoT technology to help with manufacturing, transportation, inventory and warehouse management, tracking merchandise from the warehouse to delivery. Product lifecycle management (PLM) professionals are adopting IoT technologies to assist with decision-making within product design and development. For example, connected devices can share up-to-the minute data on customer preferences, allowing retailers and brands to modify their designs during the manufacturing process.
For factories, connected sewing machines’ data can now be collected in realtime to the operators’ work and analyzed for machine as well as operator productivity. This allows for identifying productivity and efficiency affecting issues and helping resolve them before they cascade into broader supply chain disasters across trading partners.
For professionals working in warehouses or distribution centers, wearables also offer an opportunity to keep pace with the needs of today’s customer, especially when it comes to fulfilling urgent, same-day orders. Imagine this scenario: During the design phase of the PLM process, virtual reality and artificial reality (VR/AR) can be used by designers, technical product developers and their offshore factories to collaborate on 3D designs, samples – working on fabrics, colors, measurements, dresses from a 360 degrees perspective. Inside the warehouse, robots have become much more common now – taking over many of the repeatable/mundane tasks and working 24x7; thus improving warehouse operations’ productivity and profitability in a very significant way. Another wearable must-have is smart watches. These fashionable tools offer staff a way to quickly share data and photos in real-time and receive instructions from their managers, regardless of where they are working at that point in time. In an industry that requires individuals to constantly be on-the-go, wearables allow employees and managers to communicate efficiently and effectively without being tied to their desks or stations.
Embracing Automation and Cloud for a Fashionable Success Story
Apparel companies are facing an enormous amount of pressure to meet distribution challenges and consumer demands for convenience and variety. Automating tasks such as tracking and reporting increase efficiency and help to ensure that customers’ orders are changed in a matter of seconds, not days. In addition to cutting down back-office processes, automation can also help items be produced faster, reducing their time to market and making fast fashion a reality.
At the same time, technology is changing at rapid pace, making it hard for enterprises to keep up with these changes. But, they risk being left behind while competitors latch on to those technologies. Enterprises across all industries are seeing the benefits of cloud adoption, so it’s no surprise that apparel companies are also taking a cloud-first approach to their infrastructure. In fact, adoption of cloud-based technology for manufacturing is expected to grow more than 20 percent between 2017 and 2018, and 75 percent of all warehouse management system users are projected to be in the cloud by 2020. Adopting cloud-based systems allows companies to focus on their core competencies, condense their administrative functions, reduce cost and ultimately, increase overall profitability. For smaller organizations, a cloud-based system can help them stay agile and keep pace with the larger organizations. With more advanced solutions requiring significant horse power (e.g., artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, optimization), cloud can be leveraged to get access to burst capacity only when required and not having to lock valuable capital in infrastructure, which can become obsolete quickly.
Stealing the Show with an Agile Supply Chain Methodology
Looking back at 2017, one could easily dub this the year of natural disasters. Many communities and industries are still recovering from hurricane and weather damage, and the wild winter season has yet to begin. Natural disasters cost the global supply chain $211 billion annually, which means you need to build an agile supply chain that is able to adapt and respond to unexpected changes and issues.
And it isn’t just natural disasters: unexpected interruptions in factory production or cost increases can greatly slow down supply chain operations. In fact, with the current global political climate, there is even more uncertainty in strategic and tactical decisions for supply chains. Companies need to build a flexible model that can respond to potential disruptions. For example, some apparel companies are redesigning supply chains by adding new local distribution centers to leverage inventory and grow physical resources. Others are deploying solutions such as PLM to improve their agility in the design-to-market processes, shrinking the cycle time, and in some cases offering customizable/personalized products. With retail under pressure, many wholesalers are pursuing multi-channel strategies while pursuing their own eCommerce channel and capturing market share.
Investing in a New Type of Insider Knowledge: Artificial Intelligence
AI is no longer a futuristic wish seen only in movies like “The Matrix.” Today, you can ask Siri for advice with the tap of a button or open your Amazon app and find product recommendations without entering a word. AI has also become extremely critical in enterprise operations, especially when it comes to supply chain management. AI uses deep learning to analyze large amounts of data and make intelligent recommendations on such topics as how to allocate resources that will enhance production, improve sales performance and give real-time insights into which products are popular. AI can also be used beyond the four walls of a company, listening in on the extended supply chain (wholesalers, retailers, third-party logistics, agents, factories and other trading partners), analyzing data and recognizing patterns to highlight issues and potential impact to the various participants long before any individual company or person can actually see it coming.
For apparel companies looking to stay ahead of the competition, transforming the supply chain is an important starting place. These innovative technologies will provide game changing benefits to an organization’s success, and help meet the demands of the modern customer.
Ajay Chidrawar, Vice President, Global Product Management & Customer Success at CGS
Ajay Chidrawar is a senior software executive with more than 20 years' experience of successful strategic and tactical leadership in enterprise software. In this dual role, he leads product strategy, management and go to market for the BlueCherry product suite as well as the Customer Success team responsible for delivery of BlueCherry® software and account management of install base customers.
For nearly 35 years, CGS has enabled global enterprises, regional companies and government agencies to drive breakthrough performance through business applications, enterprise learning and outsourcing services. CGS is wholly focused on creating comprehensive solutions that meet clients’ complex, multi-dimensional needs and support clients’ most fundamental business activities. Headquartered in New York City, CGS has offices across North America, South America, Europe, Middle East and Asia. For more information, please visit www.cgsinc.com and follow us on Twitter at @CGSinc and @BlueCherryCGSand on Facebook.
Image sources: Wikimedia Commons: By Glogger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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