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The Path to Growth Means Going Digital, Investing in Supply Chain Tech

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Fortune Favors the Bold in 2022.

In early 2022, we are seeing a continuation of the challenges triggered and exacerbated by the pandemic last year. These challenges include high shipping costs, the disappearance of available containers, labor shortages in transportation and manufacturing, and factory closures due to virus outbreaks. While some supply chain tensions have eased, many obstacles remain, and new ones may arise.

“The world has been shaken up, not unlike a snow globe,” Paul Magel, president of business applications and technology outsourcing division at CGS, wrote in 2022: Fortune Favors the Bold, CGS’s annual report on supply chain trends and technology. “And when the snowflakes settle, we’ll once again face a new normal.”

As companies prepare for these challenges, they can take part in shaping the new normal, according to the report’s findings. The boldest ones—those unafraid to be resilient and make investments in technology to improve efficiency and resilience—will survive and thrive.

The report is based on results from CGS’s annual survey of fashion and consumer products executives about their vision for the future, including their growth opportunities; business improvement and technology investment goals; and confidence in the supply chain. This year, just over half said they trust their supply chains to function effectively, suggesting that many are wary of setbacks and looking to invest in strengthening operations.

The report provides guidance to companies looking to address these concerns and adapt to new market conditions. This article presents some of the key takeaways.

DIGITAL = GROWTH

Companies’ attention to improving the digital shopping experience has not changed since 2021, and for another year in a row it was ranked as their greatest opportunity for growth. Respondents ranked three forms of digital shopping as their greatest growth opportunities for 2022: eCommerce through company-owned websites, online marketplaces and social media.

A newer development is the expansion of online shopping into social media. Demand for new platforms was evident in CGS’s 2021 consumer survey, which found that 48 percent of Millennials are interested in shopping through livestreams on apps like Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

With the wide availability of vaccines and general acceptance of masking, many consumers are returning to brick-and-mortar stores. Yet, digital platforms are where executives see the most growth potential. To harness this opportunity, companies must update their digital presence to meet consumers where they are—online.

VISIBILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY

After the shortages, bottlenecks and backlogs of the past two years, it makes sense that in 2022, supply chain visibility is executives’ top priority for improvement. Edward Hertzman, executive vice president of Fairchild Media and founder and president of Sourcing Journal, knows the value of information and created the publication to provide reliable news about the market. As an industry expert, he urges companies to invest in technology to make their supply chains more transparent.

“My biggest concern is: have retailers learned their lesson?” Hertzman said. “Are they going to be lean with their inventory? Are they going to be agile with their supply chains?”

Increasing supply chain visibility can decrease waste and increase efficiency, linking these investments directly with sustainability—a concern weighing on consumers more than ever.

Data shows that more consumers want sustainably sourced products and are willing to pay for them. Across the world, 60 percent of people think sustainability is important to consider when making a purchase, with U.S. consumers just above the global average, according to the 2021 Global Sustainability Study from Simon-Kucher & Partners. One-third of global consumers are willing to put their money where their mouth is and pay more for sustainable products.

The executives who completed the CGS survey say they are responding to this demand. “Ethical, sustainable product sourcing is key,” one survey respondent told CGS. Flexible and transparent sourcing, therefore, not only saves companies money, but also helps them meet their customers’ preferences.

TECH INVESTMENTS

Whether improving the online shopping experience or maximizing efficiencies, technology is at the root of all the solutions.

“There is a focus on digitalization from design to the shop floor all the way through to the showroom and consumer,” Magel said. “People need visibility into where all of their goods are throughout the supply chain, so they can pivot in response to disruptions and maneuver much better.”

There are three technologies essential to integrating business processes and workflows, as well as making the supply chain more transparent. They are Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), and Shop Floor Control (SFC). CGS’s survey found that most businesses are investing in ERP and PLM technology, and 30 percent of respondents are in the process of expanding SFC technology. These tools are quickly becoming foundational for maximizing flexibility, efficiency and productivity.

The brands highlighted in the CGS report, including LT Apparel and Attraction, are already taking advantage of these technologies and investing in their future. Their ability to adapt nimbly to shifting market conditions has been essential in a globalized economy, even more so in the pandemic era.

Since the start of the pandemic, the industry has reassessed its priorities, making 2022 a year for reconstructing existing systems and adopting new ones. This year companies must boldly seize the opportunities that have emerged from the upheaval of the past few years, in order to create a more resilient future.

For more insights and actionable intelligence—including achieving growth, business improvements and technology investments—download your copy of the report, Fortune Favors the Bold: 2022 Supply Chain Trends and Technology.

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Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for eight years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like our PLM Project Pack, or our Annual Publications, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.