Fashion supply chains must become more flexible and agile

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The fashion industry’s traditional supply chain processes will soon be out-dated for designers and the industry will have to embrace interconnectedness, dialogue and information flows, according to a new study by DHL, the Council of Fashion Designers in America and Accenture.

The study “The Human-Centred Supply Chain” argues that the advent of new digital technologies will enable new forms of collaboration between fashion industry players and allow them to operate more flexibly, transparently and sustainably.

“The fashion industry is no longer what it was just a few years ago,” said Arjan Sissing, senior vice president corporate brand marketing at Deutsche Post DHL. “Digitalisation and the resulting boom in e-commerce have helped supercharge the naturally fast-paced fashion business and its production and sales processes.”

The study identified four areas in which digitalisation and e-commerce have created new challenges and opportunities for designers.

  1. Process ownership – this involves defining both clear and flexible processes that extend from purchase, through production to delivery.
  2. Relationship building – the fashion industry has always primarily sustained itself on personal networks and contacts. Since cooperation and sharing of expertise and structures have become increasingly important to sustainable supply chains, the significance of relationships and partnerships has also continued to increase.
  3. Brand operations – the establishment of an unambiguous brand is of major significance when it comes to working efficiently and presenting a consistent image to customers and suppliers. For fashion retailers, the supply chain must also form part of their brand story.
  4. Actionable information – this consists of a constant flow of information between deliverers, designers and customers for the purpose of further optimising processes and products and responding to customer demands.
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