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Industry Evolution has Created the Human-Centered Supply Chain

Recognizing the dynamic shifts taking place in the fashion industry from raw materials to the consumer, the Council of Fashion Designers of America teamed with logistics partner DHL to explore the future of the fashion supply chain.

Helping in the mission were innovation partners Accenture and Fjord, which developed a point of view that proposes a “human-centered supply chain” as the future model for the fashion industry, helping to strengthen the global reach of designers, explained Claudia Gorelick head of business design in the U.S. for Fjord, Design and Innovation from Accenture Interactive.

Gorelick was joined by John Jones, senior vice president of design strategy for Fjord-Accenture, and Jeff Ivory, senior director of sales for the Northeast U.S. for DHL Express, to explain the study, “The Human-Centered Supply Chain,” at an information session in New York City Monday.

“With a human-centered lens on design, manufacturing and delivery, this model critically puts the designer at the center of supply chain operations,” Jones said. “Designers are empowered to build their networks through collaboration, using digital tools and new business models, increasing their flexibility in an industry in flux.”

Gorelick said historically, designers and consumers have been separated from each other in a rigid, siloed system in which the majority of bargaining power sat in the hands of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors.

Today, new technologies and digital business models are shifting the balance of influence and bargaining leverage across partners in the fashion supply chain, the study noted. The average consumer has global access to more than 1 billion products and two-thirds of them consider significantly more products and brands for purchase compared to 10 years ago.

New technologies are allowing for increased speed, knowledge transfer and collaboration across industries and borders, and businesses are experimenting with new models to remain agile and meet consumer expectations.

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Jones and Ivory each stressed that next generation sharing, personalization and on-demand business models are creating more value for businesses and consumers. An Accenture survey has showed that 70 percent of Generation Z shoppers are interested in monthly curated fashion subscription programs, while DHL has reported that 41 percent of consumers have used same-day expedited or on-demand delivery services.

Among the changes in the landscape are the ability to customize products and services so consumers can create an experience tailored to their needs, and that transparency is now expected in all transactions, with the ability to see progress and make comments or refinements during the process.

All these changes are impacting the supply chain, which “has to respond in-line with overall industry trends,” the study noted. “As digitalization continues to impact the retail industry, designers and companies must view the supply chain as an essential price of strategy and brand building.”

Key recommendations of the study include working with multiple manufacturing partners to diversify risk, and integrating suppliers and partners into the process earlier to reduce downstream issues. In addition, designers and brands should utilize shared production platforms to centralize communications and standardize the operations approach.

It’s also important to establish core brand and operational requirements such as sustainability and traceability, as well as integration of information at every step for more pro-active and iterative decision-making.

The “new approach” shifts from a linear supply chain model to one that is interactive, interconnected, nimble, agile and has the designer or product at the center of a circular model, Gorelick explained.

“The human-centered supply chain benefits partners across traditional supply chain steps–from designers to material suppliers to factories to logistics partners,” the study concluded. “The future of the human-centered supply chain model enhances traditional processes and interactions by focusing on relationship building, enabling the sharing of expertise across partners, adopting collaborative approaches and shared communications and employing a networked approach to reduce costs and overall waste.”