Chain Reaction is Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to get their take on today’s logistics challenges and learn about ways their company is working to keep the flow of goods moving. Here, Rejean Provost, enterprise account executive and team lead, ESG strategy of CBX Software Inc., discusses enabling more efficient collaboration with suppliers for better visibility and forecasting.
Name: Rejean Provost
Title: Enterprise Account Executive, Team Lead ESG Strategy
Company: CBX Software Inc.
What is your company’s latest initiatives?
Headquartered in Hong Kong with offices in the U.S., Canada, Germany, and the UK, CBX Software develops solutions that compress the entire supply chain process. One of our latest initiatives is tied to our goal of simplifying the lives of people in various functions related to developing and sourcing products. We have added several integrations to third-party design tools such as Browzwear, Adobe Illustrator and CLO.
At the same time, we are carrying on our mission to enable social and environmental compliance by integrating with third parties such as amfori BSCI, Higg, Wrap, QIMA, TUV, SGS and other external quality and compliance organizations. These initiatives make life easier by providing one platform to login and work on a myriad of related tasks.
Our quality and compliance features have supported visibility and execution of sustainability initiatives by capturing and reporting on compliance requirements. Our solutions help companies to understand, track and report on the origins of raw materials, factory compliance, energy usage and provide visibility into multi-tier supplier relationships, all helping to mitigate supply chain risk.
Which industry has the most to teach fashion about improving their supply chain logistics?
Other innovative sectors in logistics are food and beverage and the pharma industry, all which have tied logistics to traceability. This is critical today, as the pandemic necessitated more efficient logistics. Amazon and other large e-commerce players, as well as direct-to-consumer businesses across sectors have scaled rapidly and have set a high standard in logistics, especially the last mile.
What are the main things brands and retailers could do (or stop doing) right now that would immediately improve logistics?
They should partner and collaborate more effectively with their suppliers on all aspects of merchandise sourcing and development. This is one of the key things that CBX enables—more efficient collaboration with suppliers and better visibility and forecasting, which saves time and money for both buyers and suppliers. Big picture, brands and retailers must be more conscious of the types of products they produce, considering the end-to-end lifecycle of a product. If they can improve product quality and reduce overstock, fewer products end up in landfills, which will provide both societal and logistics benefits.
How can technology help?
It’s surprising how many companies still rely on manual processes, spreadsheets, email and paper in their day-to-day business. But we are seeing a much greater focus on digitization across most points in the supply chain. This shift needs to continue if we are to get ahead of the supply chain risks and disruptions we have seen in the last few years. Cloud-based tools like CBX enable greater visibility, collaboration and centralization of information which is now essential. One of the challenges we see is the range of spot solutions and legacy software which do not integrate effectively. The promise of technology is the elusive one-version-of the-truth, which can only be gained if all the disparate systems work together across the extended supply chain.
When it comes to supply chain logistics challenges, there are things companies can fix, and things that are beyond their control. How can the former help the latter?
Companies have been improving their supply chains for a long time, but as we saw during the pandemic and other recent crises, there is a lot more work to do. Visibility, traceability and sustainability are key areas that companies should focus on to bring greater efficiency into the extended supply chain. In the past, there was too much focus on cost savings. Companies can also control looking for suppliers closer to markets, reducing packaging and being more strategic about how goods are warehoused, picked, and shipped. This is where technology is essential. CBX integrates almost every aspect of the supply chain into one platform enabling the visibility required to fix problems before they happen.
What areas of logistics are not receiving the industry attention it deserves?
The impact of labor issues is a big one, including shortages of workers and the effect that unions can have on efficient supply chains, as we have seen in California when dockworkers went on strike. Working conditions get media attention when there is a crisis, for example a factory fire in Bangladesh, but we need more visibility into conditions of workers across the supply chain face. Other areas needing more attention are innovations such as automation, artificial intelligence, predictive analysis, customs clearance efficiency and transport electrification—less reliance on fossil fuels. The big players like Amazon, Target, Walmart and others need to step up and do more.
When it comes to creating efficiencies, there are quick wins and longer plays. What are a few things your company is doing to help its partners succeed on both fronts?
One of the key short- and long-term benefits of the CBX Cloud solution is the transparency and collaboration it enables through the extended supply chain. Organizations realize almost immediate ROI through the efficiency and visibility provided by our system. These short-term gains are supported through a coordinated onboarding and training which drives greater adoption. In the long term, brands and retailers benefit from a clear product road map and the continuous improvement and learning gained through successive implementations which are passed on to other customers through the cloud.
We are different than traditional PLM systems in that our system extends from the idea stage of a product, right through to delivery of the merchandise to a warehouse or store. We help brands and retailers in different verticals to expand assortments, scale private label programs and onboard new suppliers. By eliminating redundant manual processes, such as widespread use of spreadsheets, email exchanges and information silos, we help our customers get product to market faster and more responsibly.
Are you optimistic about the state of supply chains?
Despite the challenges of the past few years—Covid-19, the Ukraine invasion and the ensuing economic uncertainty—which have raised the profile of the supply chain function, I remain positive that we are learning and will build a more stable supply chain network for future generations. One of the big pluses is the greater focus on social and environmental sustainability, which is coming from individual consumers and governments and now is becoming integral to businesses. I am optimistic that future consumers will push for better quality, longer lasting, more sustainably produced products from the fashion and other sectors.