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Tech Tuesdays: Using Software to Help Audit – and Improve – Supply Chain Management

A year of unexpected disruption on a global scale is leading many brands to reassess their supply chains and take stock of how they currently manage operations. An audit of an existing infrastructure is a great way for brands to identify where they are succeeding and where they need to improve, particularly in regards to sustainability goals – but the large scale of these chains can make it a challenging undertaking.

Industry experts recommend utilizing technology to help create a unified picture of the supply chain. When data from each partner is collected into one place, brands have a much better grounding on which to identify trends and any violations of compliance. This also ensures no part of the network slips under the radar, which is easily done in a large system.

“The checklist for ensuring sustainable and ethical practices across your supply chain should be digitized from sourcing to consumer,” said Paul Magel, president of business applications at supply chain solution CGS. “Brands will need to review if their partners are subcontracting because the processes of those third parties must also be identified and tracked to ensure they are complying with the brand’s sustainable and ethical practices.”

Particularly in fashion and apparel, there is a common trend of overseas factory partners outsourcing some of the production to an additional team. This does not need to pose a problem, however some oversight is required to ensure that the company is fulfilling any internal goals – especially if the brand is committed to sharing its performance with consumers.

An effective audit should be able to take into account compliance measures on the factory floor, as well as details like sample quality and timeline accuracy. If a brand works with multiple partners, this volume of data could quickly grow overwhelming, which is where a single digital ecosystem can help restore clarity and make the information easy to read and manipulate as needed.

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The larger the international network, the more valuable technology can be in creating supply chain understanding.
CREDIT: Chaay_tee - Adobe Stock

This data manipulation is critical, in order to turn performance results into actionable insights. Without a software system to collate and process data, brands may find themselves sitting on a wealth of numbers that provide no added value – defeating the point of collecting it in the first place.

“We can have all the data in the world, but if we don’t analyze and take action on it, then the effort has been squandered,” said Magel. “Many companies look to business intelligence (BI) technology to provide predictive analytics that track important trends. It can pull information that is stored across disparate systems throughout the end-to-end supply chain and offer valuable insights.”

These numbers can also help support the story the brand is sharing with its customers. Growing consumer interest in transparency has created an opportunity for brands to build closer relationships and earn that consumer trust. But in order to do so, shoppers want to see the evidence that the brand is actively working to improve its performance, even if the metrics aren’t perfect right now.

“There are a number of brands that have decided to make sustainability a key part of their mission and will regularly report on those goals – in their advertising, on their websites and in their SEC filings,” said Magel. “If a brand has decided to build its messaging on sustainability and share information on its performance, then the company should transparently and methodically announce its efforts.”

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