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Editor's Blog

Digital Supply Chain Partners


Brands are looking for supply chain partners that can help them capitalize on the digital revolution.

By Nick Foy

In the push to keep up with e-commerce giants like Amazon, brands of all sizes are looking for ways to innovate, and they’re doing so quickly. Whether its optimizing physical supply chain functions by adding IoT-connected systems or launching a new e-commerce site powered by the latest and greatest e-business technologies, brands are looking for the flashiest, newest technologies to set them apart from competitors as consumers increasingly turn to the web for all their shopping needs.

As brands continue to search for the next great thing – which increasingly means a digital solution – the first place they will look to their supply chain partners. This push has created a massive opportunity for supply chain solution providers to help brands take advantage of and capitalize on the digital revolution by offering solutions ranging from e-business platforms and entitlement management solutions to IoT enabled systems.

According to Gartner’s 2017 predictions, 8.4 billion smart products are in use today. The smart device revolution is in full swing and ranges from home thermostats all the way up to autonomous vehicle companies like Uber and Waymo. Because of its ubiquity, consumers everywhere now expect the ease and connectivity afforded to them by these smart devices to extend throughout all aspects of their lives, including their shopping habits. This has forced brands to react by investing heavily in e-business solutions and top-of-the-line e-commerce platforms, but also in revamping their physical supply chain. Brands at the forefront have implemented IoT solutions that can track inventory in a warehouse and automated fulfillment platforms that can automatically collect product for an order.

For many brands, investing in these advanced solutions independently may be out of reach, both in terms of expense and implementation time. This is where supply chain providers come in. Generally larger, they have the resources to be innovative, and are often on the cutting edge of the supply chain industry, giving smaller brands the opportunity to outsource part (or all) of their supply chain for a fraction of the cost it would take to bring these innovations to life themselves.

Because of the supply chain partners’ entrenchment in the industry, they are often the best people to go to for advice when a brand is trying to determine which solutions work best for them. Perhaps the brand offers a highly customized product and they are thinking of investing in a fulfillment solution – a supply chain partner can provide them with the insight to understand that, while automated fulfillment is the way to go for many brands, investing in one may not make sense given the personalization required for their products. Instead, a supply chain partner would recommend investing in a solution that tracks inventory levels on-shelf and can automatically reorder supplies when they are running low. This would ensure the brand always has the necessary items on hand.

As the world becomes increasingly reliant on digital solutions, supply chain providers have the opportunity to become their customers’ partners, providing expertise and insight into a rapidly changing industry. By ensuring customers are keeping up by investing in solutions that are right for their unique needs, providers become an even more integral part of a customer’s physical and digital supply chain, increasing their value and becoming the customer’s go-to source as the industry continues to evolve.

Nick Foy is the chief strategy officer at ModusLink, a leader in digital and physical supply chain solutions, where he is responsible for the corporate and service line strategic plans and the alignment of the organization around the company’s top priorities. He also leads the organization’s global product management, marketing, lean, process excellence, benchmarking and portfolio management functions.

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