From Traceability to Sustainability: the Virtually Limitless Applications of Technology in Global Supply Chains

QIMA Supply Chain Conference 2019 - Session 1: Navigating the Shifting Landscape of Global Supply Chain

Reza Nobar, Director, Management Consulting, KPMG China
Angie Lau, CEO, Clover Group International Ltd.
Jennifer Tam, Business Development Director, Chicks Lifestyle
Mathieu Labasse, Chief Marketing Officer, QIMA

Moderator: Dr. Christina Dean, Founder and CEO, Redress

“At the end of the day, it’s not about the technology itself, but the people, skills, and mindset”
Technology in the supply chain has been a hot topic in recent years. Prior to the panel, KPMG shared a demo of a blockchain product the company helped developed that traces the origins of rice products and wine. However, as noted by panel participants (KPMG, QIMA, Clover and Chicks), technology is only a piece of the puzzle. In a survey conducted by QIMA last year, it was found that only 10% of those surveyed felt that they knew their supply chain fully, signaling how far away the industry is from achieved full visibility and transparency. Yet, there is hope. As many panelists noted, it’s not just about having the right technology but also the right talent that can implement it every step of the way.

Key takeaways:

  • Supply chain visibility and transparency remains a pressing issue:
    • Less than 10% of businesses can say that they know their supply chain fully, and visibility drops rapidly beyond the first-tier, direct suppliers
    • Nevertheless, all stakeholders recognize the need for increased transparency in global supply chains and especially the apparel industry, and over the past three years, there has been a clear upward trend towards better transparency
  • Getting supplier buy-in when driving digital transformation in the supply chain:
    • The importance of boots on the ground: when planning and launching a large-scale technology project, it’s essential to have people physically present to walk the suppliers through it and explain the benefits
    • Working on trust through more open and better communication, with clearly set expectations setting standards for exchange of information
    • The human factor: when onboarding suppliers for new technologies, it helps to make them both financial and non-financial benefits from it, both for their business and their entire ecosystem
  • Challenges and opportunities for digital transformation:
    • The barriers to implement new technologies are ever-lowering, with new tech becoming more accessible and affordable – but management will is essential, and technological innovation in the supply chain must be driven by brands
    • The limitations of digital: in product design 3D modeling offers huge savings in terms of time, cost and waste, but for many brands, especially in fashion, even sophisticated 3D models cannot yet fully replace physical samples
    • Some emerging regions need better infrastructure to better harness the power of new technologies for traceability and sustainability
  • Forecasts: the key trends in traceability/sustainability innovation over the next three years:
    • Big data: not simply more of it, but more accurate and understandable data, used predictive analytics and risk mapping
    • Greater focus on sustainability in the consumer mindset, and the resulting increased pressure on brands to become more sustainable
    • Improved collaboration and trust among all stakeholders of global supply chains
    • Increased popularity and scale of green finance