Sustainability, profit friendly packaging and the benefits of AI: why 2019 is going to be a year of positive change for the supply chain. By Alan Gunner
2019 is set to be a big one when it comes to change, and as Brexit approaches, the retail and logistics industry won’t be immune from the shake-up. But just as political unrest and consumer demand has encapsulated 2018, the supply chain infrastructure will continue to be pushed to its limits in 2019.
I believe retailers must look past the uncertainty and instead to the positive changes they can make in 2019 to ensure consumers are kept happy, competitors are kept at bay, and business continues to grow and remain ethically friendly throughout the coming months.
A collaborative approach to sustainability
Sustainability is set to continue driving innovation this year, especially within the fashion industry. However, achieving change is a huge undertaking. While there are a number of retailers leading the way, there is still no best practice consensus as yet. And a handful of retailers alone cannot make the wholesale change consumers and regulators are beginning to demand.
Retailers need to work together to drive up sustainability within factories, following the 17 goals for sustainability laid down by the UN in 2015, including nine set by the Ethical Trading Institute (ETI), there are significant opportunities for retailers to share performance information and jointly fund ethical audits to make a change. Furthermore, with this collaborative model reinforcing the credentials and business value of a pool of high quality suppliers, retailers can create strong foundation for continual innovation within an established and trusted supplier base, delivering incremental sustainability improvements year on year.
AI & Machine Learning
As organisations look to drive the continual improvements in efficiency required to meet escalating consumer demands, products are now tracked and operational performance monitored. By utilising AI, companies will be able to unveil essential information about operational performance – not just today but in the future. And the combination of data sources and Machine Learning will enable companies to further enhance decision-making and optimise opportunity, from spotting shifts in retail to considering historic quality trends.
And for those organisations trying to determine how best to trade in a post-Brexit world, an extended insight into global supply chain operations will help define the risks associated with embracing new suppliers, freight operators and shipping partners.
The packaging used to ship goods from a supplier to the distribution centre (DC) is not only a concern environmentally but also a major contributor to business costs. From breaking down or removing bulk packaging before items are sent on to the consumer to recycling packaging within the DC – or managing the packaging that cannot be recycled – this is an industrial scale challenge.
In 2019, I believe we will see more organisations imposing control over the packaging used to move products throughout the supply chain. This will also provide massive potential savings – from the centralised procurement of packaging to the reduction of waste material and the efficiency with which items can be shipped and handled. Add in the packaging innovations that can be considered in the coming months to further streamline the way items are stored, put away and distributed and the upside of a renewed focus on the upstream supply chain is significant.
Consumers will be leading the charge when it comes to retailers being driven to make positive amends with regards to environmental and sustainable changes. However, not only will this help to put them on the map ethically, but it will almost certainly have a positive impact on profits.
In summary, 2019 will be the year for collaborative change, one that sees consumers and businesses align in harmony to achieve their own objectives. And it will be those that embrace these changes, implement technology to achieve new milestones and face Brexit head on with the confidence needed, that will come out of the next year with a strong and sustainable business model.
Alan Gunner is Business Development Director at Adjuno. Adjuno work with retailers to design, build, test and deploy optimum supply chain management systems. Providing the fastest-to-value solutions, Adjuno helps companies tackle some of the biggest challenges posed by the modern customer.