01 Aug, 2017

The New Supply Chain is Digital


The on-demand customer is changing every aspect of the retail sector.

One important factor, the supply chain, is crucial for the success of customer engagement in the industry.

“A supply chain is a network between a company and its suppliers to produce and distribute a specific product, and the supply chain represents the steps it takes to get the product or service to the customer.” investopedia reports.

Retailers are focused on targeting the mobile customer in a quick and effective way, so operating a successful supply chain is crucial.

The functions of the supply chain are broken down into the SCOR process:

  • Plan – In charge of balancing supply and demand to meet the goals of the enterprise.
  • Source –  Finds, evaluates and engages suppliers.
  • Make – Describes the manufacturing process.
  • Deliver – The biggest goal of the supply chain is to deliver, aiming to be reliable for customers.
  • Return –  Reverse logistics, gatekeeping, and avoidance are managed in this area.
  • Enable – Electronically connects suppliers to the supply chain.

As technology evolves, integrating new digital tools into supply functions is becoming extremely important.

“Meeting the multi-channel consumer’s increasing expectations for speed and convenience is forcing many retailers to revamp obsolete supply chains designed for a single-channel world.”  

According to a recent survey, supply chains are still using outdated sources to conduct business.

250 retail professionals reported how they conduct supply chain operations.

  • 63 percent of retail professionals use email applications like Outlook as their go-to sourcing program.
  • 72 percent of respondents are still using Excel to manage sourcing and product development projects.
  • 50 percent of respondents rely on images or handwritten notes.

If the supply chain doesn’t adapt to digital transformation, sourcing is at risk for falling behind the rapidly growing retail industry.

There are a few ways supply chains can integrate new technology to create a digital supply chain.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has the potential to change the way supply chains function.

This advanced tool creates more agile and effective operations.

“A variety of business networks and collaborative cloud-based platforms are emerging that work much like social networks to allow companies to interact with supply chain stakeholders fully and quickly.”  PWC reports. 

Communication is key in the supply chain, and cloud computing can increase collaboration between suppliers, customers, and companies.

The cloud provides easy access to data and enables mobile technology, which targets the frequently agile customer.

3D Printing

3D printing, known as “additive manufacturing” is a digitally disruptive trend that is making a large impact on the retail industry, especially in the supply chain.

This tool makes a physical object from a 3-dimensional digital model.

There are many befits to 3D printing in the supply chain such as faster delivery time, fewer production steps and higher efficiency.

“For companies involved in this type of manufacturing, 3D printing could become a disruptive force that in future redefines traditional manufacturing and supply chain strategies.” DHL reports. 

The use of 3D printing also enables customers to design their own goods, which changes the way companies manufacture products.


With 3D technology on the rise, robots and automation are following shortly behind.

Robots are being labeled as a component of the “supply chain of the future.”

Because of robot’s capabilities such as high-resolution cameras and self-learning capabilities will transform the way the supply chain operates.

“Companies can combine physical robots with support software, such as machine learning algorithms and possibly artificial intelligence, to maximize on the mountain of new data created by automated technologies.” supplychaindigital reports. 

Warehouses Will Become Agile with Digital

Running a successful warehouse is a major component for successful sourcing.

Inbound logistics will change with digital transformation, such as intelligent warehouse management.

Keeping up with real time speed is an important element for warehouses and certain technologies are enabling this factor.

  • Drones – Takes in inventory
  • Wearables – Devices connected to the internet that helps with communication
  • Sensors – Can be formatted to provide data about shipment locations, environmental conditions, and theft protection.

How to Implement a Digital Supply Chain

Companies remain hesitant when it comes to changing structures of the supply chain.

Being prepared for the future of digital transformation in the retail industry puts businesses in a position to stay above the competition.

In order to successfully implement digital transformation into a supply chain, it is important to think about a few things.

Understand Where to Start

Evaluate your suppliers and customer and identify where you can add value to your business.

Know your industry, what matters, and then conduct priorities.

Does Your Platform Support Digital Transformation?

You’re interested in integrating technologies into your supply chain, but does your business structure support such capabilities?

Start by testing out projects and new solutions to understand where your business is positioned.

Start to Develop Changes

Once you piloted these new ideas, start to roll out the digital transformation.

Learn what factor of the chain will benefit the most, such as key customers or regions that will evolve.

Taking minor steps toward digital transformation is better than not taking any at all, especially in the evolving customer centered retail industry.


North America’s most prominent digital, marketing, technology, and business leaders from the Retail Industry are coming together October 19-20, 2017 at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, UT, for the Digital Retail Transformation Assembly. By working with the industry, we have put together an event to challenge attendees and anticipate the highly complex digital retail marketing environment that will develop over the next few years.

We are thrilled to announce the participation of Martin Barhel, Global Head of eCommerce & Retail Strategy, Facebook, and Brendan Witcher, Principal Analyst, Forrester as speakers at this edition of the Digital Retail Transformation Assembly.

The retail industry is evolving as digital transformation develops. All aspects of this industry are at risk for a change, in order to effectively target customers and to meet the needs of the on the go audience. E-commerce stores only make this change more crucial. It is important for business leaders to adapt traditional tools in order to stay above the competition and ahead of the digital wave.

With new augmented reality, virtual reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence technology making a splash in 2017, retail CDOs and CMOs are uniquely positioned to take full advantage of these tools and deliver unique consumer experiences.

This is not just another “Retail” event. Spaces are reserved for the best in the business. Register your interest here >

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