The NRF Supply Chain 360 conference and expo was held in Cleveland June 20-21, 2022. It explored the modes and methods needed to build a stronger, more sustainable supply chain and ensure resiliency in challenging times. Learn more about the conference here.
The pandemic’s effects on logistics and consumer behavior call for investments in a next-generation supply chain with integrated data, predictive analytics and automation tech to optimize how we deliver goods to consumers. The inaugural NRF Supply Chain 360 conference and expo, June 20-21 in Cleveland, convened retail supply chain and sustainability professionals, industry experts and leading technology innovators to partner on how to create the ecosystems needed to ensure resiliency that will pave the way for a stronger, more sustainable supply chain.
Integrate tech early and prioritize inventory
After months of supply chain congestion, leaders have adopted different modes of predictive analysis to plan and prioritize demand and output. Tractor Supply Co. uses an integrated approach to set clear product priorities, planning for what will be in demand, aligning orders with sales and producing products during seasonal down times. That means constantly monitoring goods, looking at changes in methods of transport and reprioritization with ports, manufacturers and more, said president and CEO Hal Lawton. “While we’ve built annual plans, we’ve been operating off a three- to four-month rolling forecast,” Lawton said.
More on supply chain
Explore more supply chain content, webinars, networking events and resources from NRF.
Retailers need not only diversification in product and logistics, but also diverse technology solutions that are efficient, integrate seamlessly and allow for collaboration, troubleshooting and real-time reaction. Integration is key because lack of forward thinking and proactivity toward integrated tech caused some stumbling blocks during the pandemic’s early days, said Nicole Leinbach, founder of Retail Minded.
Retailers can incorporate less complex digital initiatives to help with inventory tracking such as looking at social media or weather patterns to make data-driven decisions to stay ahead of supply. At the same time, retailers cannot rely on tech alone; back-to-basics communication and collaboration across teams and locations is key to break out of silos that might arise.
Sharing is sustainable
American Eagle Outfitters Chief Supply Chain Officer Shekar Natarajan believes consolidated networks are the answer to a future of constraints in labor, delivery and trucking. He introduced a first-generation model of a shipping box prototype that will move through a consolidated delivery network, making the supply chain hyper-efficient and sustainable.
Sharing, open networks and consolidation with multiple brands could not only create efficiency and reduce costs but could also reduce a brand’s carbon footprint and create a better sustainable experience for customers, Natarajan said.
“In a place where you’re competing on expenses, in a place where you’re competing on products, the last thing you want to do is compete on supply chains,” Natarajan said. “Because competing on supply chains is really competing on resources, labor, utility, land, Mother Nature — and we’re only going to make it worse.”
Consumer data determines demand
An effective supply chain is not just composed of capable separate parts. Each part must have a single data flow that reports back information for leaders to interpret, said David Hardiman-Evans, senior vice president, North America, at Ocado Group during a keynote address. Getting the right data to where it is needed most and integrating those data systems with the right technology across platforms can bring clarity.
2022 Event recap
Did you miss NRF Supply Chain 360 this year? Catch up on show highlights at the 2022 event recap.
The availability of immediate information about the wants and needs of customers makes it easy to get the right product at the right moment, with “a level of granularity that just wasn’t possible in physical retail,” Hardiman-Evans said. A decision made by a customer on a website has direct impact, drives personalization and aids in forecasting.
Connected supply chains are better equipped to give real-time feedback for quicker responses and a better sense of customer demand. The effects of inflation and the rising costs of goods and services has resulted in reduced consumer spending but an increase in looking for discounts or promotions and switching to lower priced brands.
Even with these changing consumer habits, Shipt CEO Kamau Witherspoon said its research found three main drivers that customers still value above all else: speed, convenience and price.