Retail supply chains were thrust into the spotlight in 2020 amid shortages on essential merchandise during the pandemic.
While fashion on the whole didn’t see the same stockout issues that categories such as grocery did, the pandemic’s disruption has shown the need for more real-time insight into where products are in the supply chain.
Outside of more successfully navigating through a crisis, having a connected supply chain and stronger supplier visibility enables companies to better deliver on aspects such as quality, compliance and speed to market. It also gives retailers the flexibility to adjust to ebbs and flows in demand.
Sourcing Journal caught up with Eric Linxwiler, senior vice president at CBX Software, and Tim Chiu, senior vice president, client management at CBX Software, to discuss how connectivity can shorten lead times and the revenue impact of real-time data.
SJ: Retail tech investment tends to focus on consumer-facing innovations. Why should retailers also be focused on digitizing their sourcing management?
EL: The simple answer to “why” is that, without product in the store or on the shopping site, there is nothing for the consumer to purchase. While obvious, it still warrants repeating that most tier one retailers are still managing the product development and sourcing process with thousands of spreadsheets, emails, hundreds of disparate online document libraries, etc. Quality, speed, version control, protected cost, adherence to compliance regulations and more are all addressed with a supply chain digital transformation initiative, and yet it is so often ignored.
SJ: Speed to market is a main goal of the fashion industry. How does CBX Cloud help companies shrink product development timelines?
TC: As the CBX platform has extended PLM capabilities, we typically do more than accelerate product development timelines. We are accelerating compliance, sourcing, costing and production follow-up activities. We do this by truly connecting the dots between brands and suppliers, between concept to delivery. Really connecting the quality, sourcing and global supply chain helps shrink time to market. CBX has a comprehensive critical path calendar, task management, collaborative workflow that pushes the process to everyone involved.
SJ: Covid pointed out retail’s lack of supply chain visibility. During the pandemic and after, how can better real-time data about products help companies improve their margins and revenue?
TC: True supply chain visibility allows you to have transparency and visibility with first, second, and third tier suppliers. It also allows you to see an entire collection’s progress through visual progress charts to know exactly where you are in the development, production or delivery. Is the style ready to be delivered? What is being shipped? And through real-time visibility, you can make your adjustments in the system and also connect with your supplier base to start making demand tweaks.
SJ: What differentiates CBX Cloud from other supply chain management solutions?
EL: CBX is considered a pioneer in a sector that is, to-date, still relatively small and specialized. The competitive landscape includes several players; however, the definitions of offerings in the marketplace are inconsistent. For example, while traditional PLM software focuses entirely on product development and managing the evolution of product specifications, CBX Extended PLM and Total Sourcing Management solutions go way beyond product development and help the retailer manage the end-to-end supply chain. While most of CBX Cloud competitors’ software is used predominately by the product development or design teams, CBX is typically deployed throughout the customers’ business—across multiple teams, geographies and time zones.
Further, to help retailers and brands realize world-class status, we have committed to delivering solutions that not only offer a multitude of mobility options but more importantly are leveraging the cloud and all the advantages that a true multi-tenant architecture can offer. We launched our cloud initiative well in advance of our competitors and we are by far the outright leader in delivering worldwide enterprise-strength collaboration platforms.
Given CBX’s proximity to Asian sourcing and manufacturing operations—we have multiple offices in Asia including Hong Kong, Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Taiwan, with over 200 people in total—we see firsthand what opportunities lay ahead for global retailers, and we are working diligently to help them realize the benefits of these opportunities. Productivity gains of 30-40 percent, brought about by cutting wasted time and redundant activities out of the supply chain operation, are consistently reported and we believe in striving for even more.