The Top 5 Themes We Saw At RILA LINK2020

The FenixCommerce team has been back from RILA LINK2020 for over a week now, and we’ve finally had a chance to digest all we saw and distill it into five themes. Without further ado, here they are!

1. Supply Chain Innovations

Innovation was a big topic in this year’s RILA LINK, with speakers from Levi’s, Hershey, and Abercrombie & Fitch weighing in on the importance of supply chain innovation. 

“If you don’t innovate, you die” said Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi’s. Bergh later discussed the innovative measures Levi’s is taking to make a more sustainable supply chain, such as their ability to reduce water usage by 96% during denim processing. They have also ditched certain chemicals, opting for lasers to give their jeans a worn look, while also allowing customers the option of extra personalization. 

Hershey Vice President Susanna Zhu also covered her company’s supply chain innovation efforts, noting that Hershey has invested $800 million in its supply chain in order to make the company’s manufacturing processes more agile. And from Abercrombie & Fitch, Larry Grischow, SVP of Supply Chain and Procurement, and Lauren Morr, Group VP, IT Strategy gave a talk entitled “Building a Culture of Innovation at Abercrombie & Fitch”, in which they detailed lessons learned from their experience developing a strategic, mindful approach to innovation.

Other supply chain innovations that particularly impressed us at the conference include Gatik’s autonomous vehicles for short-haul logistics, Invent Analytics price and inventory optimization (which ended up winning the startup innovation award), and Magazino’s distribution center picker.

2. CoronaVirus

If you work in the supply chain space, you are certainly familiar with the recent disruption caused by the CoronaVirus. Speaking on the topic was the chairman of Resilience360 by DHL, David Shillingford. Shillingford highlighted the impact of the CoronaVirus on the world economy, and detailed the shifts in demand that China is currently experiencing.

For example, there’s been a large shift to eCommerce sites to purchase consumer goods as customers opt to stay inside and away from others. However, the biggest changes for businesses have been closures in Chinese borders, ports, and factories. Even if a business does not have a factory in China, they can still suffer -- for example, China supplies around 90 percent of raw materials to factories in Bangladesh. 

To respond, Shillingford urges supply chain managers to map their supply chains. This helps to better understand where your suppliers are and even who their suppliers are so you can anticipate supply chain problems.

On top of mapping your supply chain, simply reach out to your suppliers and see how the CoronaVirus is affecting them. Lastly, Shillingford notes to start using risk management practices in your supply chain operations. Supply chain impacting issues like CoronaVirus are never going to go away, so it’s best to have a plan B in place. 

3. The 800 lb Gorilla--of Logistics

Morgan Stanley Executive Director Ravi Shanker started his presentation by warning attendees about the threat posed by Amazon, and went on to elaborate: "Now before you say, 'Ravi, welcome to 1995,' let me clarify," he said. "I am not talking about the e-commerce threat, I am talking about the logistics threat."

Shanker noted that in 2019 Amazon shipped half of its packages in house. That would make them larger in shipping volume than FedEx by this year and “[larger than] UPS by 2022,” Shanker forecasted. And there's much more to come -- Amazon is reportedly not finished investing in logistics. Shanker highlighted that Amazon plans to quadruple the size of its last mile delivery fleet in the near future, and he predicts that Amazon will use this network to provide logistics services to other businesses. 

4. Diversity 

This year’s RILA featured a ‘Women in Supply Chain Breakfast’, with speaker Amy Carovillano of the Container Store. The topic was diversity, especially in upper level and C-suite positions. Carovillano noted that about 33% of women make up the supply chain workforce, however only 11% of upper level positions are held by women. Shortly after, the executive director emeritus of AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education) gave a few pointers to inspire women’s role in the supply chain:

1. Help others understand the value of supply chain to the business;

2. Advocate for diversity;

3. Expand your network; and

4. Develop allies who are men. “[This is] about diversity in all areas, to make sure you have diversity of thought,” Carovillano explained. “This is not about being altruistic. [Diversity] is a business philosophy.”

5. Supply Chain Optimization

This was a recurring theme in many of the retailers’ presentations; here are the ones that left the biggest impressions on us:

  • In “Value in the Supply Chain with an End to End Approach”, Todd Greener, Global Supply Chain SVP from Foot Locker and William Kammerer, Principal from Deloitte Consulting shared the approach taken by Footlocker to digitally integrate its supply chain across merchandising, inventory, and distribution, resulting in an enhanced customer experience and ultimately improved financial performance.
  • In “Fast Adaptation and Responsive Growth”, Brent Dorfman, ASOS Supply Chain VP, and Kraig Foreman, DHL Supply Chain Operations VP laid out how ASOS is continuously improving its supply chain even as its sales and footprint grow explosively across the globe.
  • In “Academy Sports + Outdoors’ fast path to AI based inventory optimization delivers results”, Academy Merchant Systems Operations VP John Jarrett and Invent Analytics CEO/Founder Dr. Gurhan Kok discussed how Academy leveraged Invent’s AI inventory optimization solution to deliver a 4.6% increase in sales and 1% increase in inventory turns in just 13 months. 

We learned more and made more great connections at RILA this year than we ever dreamed possible, and are already looking forward to next year (while hoping no virus or similarly unsettling topics will make our top 5 list!). If you attended the conference--or have thoughts on the themes we took away from it--please chime in in the comments, we’d love to hear from you! And for more of our takeaways from RILA LINK2020.

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