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Up Close: In Conversation with NGC’s Mark Burstein

Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Mark Burstein, president and chief strategy officer at digital supply chain platform NGC, explains the power of real-time data and the growing need for traceability to prove compliance.

Mark Burstein NGC
Mark Burstein, president and chief strategy officer of NGC Courtesy

Name: Mark Burstein

Title: president and chief strategy officer

Company: NGC

Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?

The food and beverage industry. It never stops. I just learned that strawberries last two weeks from harvest date until spoilage. Consumers expect strawberries to remain fresh for 10 days after purchase. It takes one day to pick, process and pack. Another day to transport. That leaves just two days for the grocer to sell them. Imagine the supply chain efficiency and inventory accuracy needed to achieve profitability. It boggles the mind. The apparel supply chain is a dinosaur compared to F&B. But, we’re trying to change that.

How would you describe yourself as a consumer?

A binge shopper. Every so often, I’ll review my wardrobe and decide that I need a new look. I’ll go the mall and buy six shirts, six pants, three pair of shoes, a couple of belts, new socks and a dozen boxers. Out with the old, in with the new.

As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?

Timeless style, great quality and comfort—at a fair price.

What’s your typical uniform?

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I live in Miami Beach, so unless I’m visiting clients, my work uniform is typically pretty casual, featuring jeans, khakis, poplin shirts and pique polos. My weekend uniform is board shorts, tank tops and sunglasses. Since I’ve been working from home quite often, my weekend uniform has been bleeding into the work week a little bit.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

1980s—my college years. Calvin Klein and Girbaud jeans, Polo by Ralph Lauren, Colours by Alexander Julian, Nike Air Jordans, the “real” Perry Ellis, Members Only jackets, R.E.M., U2, The Cure, New Order, Duran Duran, “Top Gun,” “Beverly Hills Cop,” Dan Marino, big hair, women’s jackets with huge shoulder pads and everything else that made the ’80s unique. It was the decade of excess. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m happy to leave it in the past.

Who’s your style icon?

Matthew McConaughey. Relaxed style, but always sharp. However, I will never own a Lincoln.

What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?

Integrating our planning and execution software applications into a single cloud-based digital supply chain platform. I truly don’t think any other supply chain platform has the depth and breadth of capabilities that we offer.

How would you describe your corporate culture?

Work hard. Play hard. Have fun. Our teams spend so much time together that we really think of each other as family members rather than coworkers.

What can companies learn from Covid-19?

Businesses have learned from Covid-19 that they can’t survive without a supply chain that’s agile, resilient and fast. Retailers need visibility into a transparent supply chain that provides real-time data into planning, development, production and distribution statuses. This way, they can quickly adjust processes according to fluctuating demand. With so much uncertainty in the world, supply chains must be able to quickly change direction and react to unforeseen disasters. They must also be able to adjust orders, redeploy raw materials, utilize postponement and JIT (just-in-time) manufacturing techniques and distribute products to the regions and channels with the highest demand.

What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?

The most pressing issue facing our customers, and the industry at large, is the probable ban on cotton products using inputs from the Xinjiang region in China. Traceability through chain of custody from the cotton source through the finished goods vendor will be required so Customs and Border Protection can verify that forced labor was not used at any point in the supply chain. Using blockchain technology and artificial intelligence are critical components to proving the importer’s compliance with this upcoming regulation.

What keeps you up at night?

Envisioning new software capabilities that make supply chains more effective. Seriously, that’s what I think about when the bedroom lights are off. Traceability and sustainability are recurring themes in the middle of the night.

What makes you most optimistic?

One day soon, this pandemic will only exist in history books.

Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:

We continually add new features and enhancements to our digital supply chain solution. Because it’s a cloud solution, we can deliver these often, and without any disruption to our customers. As a result, we’re helping them stay in the forefront of digitalizing the fashion supply chain, which is critical to thriving in the midst of an unprecedented disruption such as Covid-19.