How is the supply chain innovating for retail?

How is the supply chain innovating for retail? Source: Shutterstock

How supply chain innovation helps new-age retailers win big

RECENTLY, there has been a lot of press about disruptive technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, artificial reality, virtual reality, and blockchain and their impact on the supply chain.

The industry is looking forward to using these technologies to link up all the parties along the supply chain. There’s potential to reduce operating costs and increase efficiencies, and stakeholders along the supply chain see it.

However, technologies application should be built on a good business plan.

“Every technology is great, but the ones that can work with other technologies make all the difference when it comes to real-world applications,” Hong Kong eCommerce Supply Chain Association Chairman Terry Chan told Tech Wire Asia.

For example, blockchain aims to build a safe & trustworthy mechanism, big data technology aims to consolidate and analyze data, and artificial intelligent aims to aid monitoring, prediction, and matching resources.

Supply chains need to put the customer’s needs first

There are several essential building blocks for every supply chain.

Whether you think of logistics solutions, payment solutions, category solutions, and seller solutions, they are all highly linked up together through data and IT.

Therefore, modern supply chains are already part of the digital ecosystem. However, they need to be further integrated with the customer’s needs — not just serve isolated functions in silos.

Let’s illustrate this with an example: As an e-commerce player, if you send a package from China to Singapore and it takes more than 7 days to reach, research indicates that the majority of Singaporean customers won’t place a second order.

Therefore, the e-commerce player, and consequently, his logistics partners, need to figure out a way to deliver in 7 days or less. To do that, they need to tie in all the possible new and emerging technologies which will help shave days off the traditional delivery schedule.

Why supply chains have been slow at embracing technology

It’s always difficult to embrace new technologies. Every industry faces the same issues and teething problems — some overcome them sooner than others, and unfortunately, the supply chain industry has been among those that have taken longer than most.

According to Chan, who’ll be speaking at the eCommerce Expo in Singapore in October, the biggest challenge for logistics companies trying to embed technology into their operations comes from regulations, internal resistance (mindset), and some immediate operational challenges.

To overcome these challenges, businesses must adapt to the rapidly changing regulations in the industry and find ways and means to create a favorable and sustainable environment to experiment with new technology.

The supply chain industry also needs to transform the mindset of partners along the supply chain which mostly seem to resist change.

Finally, adopting and using new technologies needs various partners from different industries within the ecosystem to work collaboratively and create the right solutions.

There’s no doubt that the supply chain needs to be overhauled, and that using emerging technologies can significantly transform the industry as well as life for retailers and other businesses that are heavily dependent on faster and more efficient supply chains.