Disclaimer: This blog post reflects my personal opinions only. It does not represent the opinions of REFASHIOND Ventures, or REFASHIOND CO:LAB. It does not represent the opinions of The New York Supply Chain Meetup, or The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation. It does not reflect the opinions of any other person who is associated with any of those entities. This blog post does not represent the opinion of any other individual or organization that is mentioned by the author. I do not have any business or commercial relationship with organizations mentioned in this article, however CIM Tours paid The New York Supply Chain Meetup a stipend for my services as a tour guide during NRF’s Big Show 2019.
During the fall of 2018, my co-founder, Lisa Morales-Hellebo and I met Daniel Hodges for coffee in NYC. We discussed what we were working on, and he told us about his company, Consumers in Motion Tours (CIM Tours). Paraphrasing the description from Dan’s LinkedIn profile; CIM Tours creates experiences that transform business. They guide CEOs, BODs and CMOs through technological, and consumer behavioral changes and the resulting disruption by exposing them to innovative ideas and technologies being used by startups and other cutting-edge companies. They utilize major conferences and workshops to accomplish this task. When he asked us if we’d be interested in leading the tours for the National Retail Federation’s 2019 Big Show Conference, we immediately said yes – after all, supply chain is our thing.
What is the National Retail Federation (NRF), you ask? It is a retail-industry trade organization that has existed for more than a hundred years. According to its website, the retail industry contributes $2.6 trillion to the United States’ gross domestic product – far outstripping any other industry. As an industry, retail is the largest private sector employer in the United States. The Big Show is the NRF’s annual flagship conference – the world’s largest retail conference and expo. This year it attracted 38,000 attendees, 16,000 retailers, and 800 exhibitors, representing 99 countries.
CIM helps delegates and attendees at conferences like NRF’s Big Show, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Cannes Lions, C2 Montreal, and the IoT Solutions World Congress, etc., navigate and explore the technologies and trends at the forefront of change today.
You can understand why Lisa and I were excited about this. Below are the notes I prepared for Lisa and I as we were getting ready to lead the tours. We led 3 tours, each 2 hours in duration, on each day from January 13 to January 15.
Note: These notes are prepared directly from materials the participating companies provided us directly, or that I found on their websites. Any direct similarities between my notes and descriptions and other materials on their respective websites is deliberate.
AccuStore is a store-intelligence software platform that helps retailers maintain and update store data in real-time. It helps retailers base decisions on a single-source of data to help execute store-specific initiatives.
Here are two examples of how AccuStore helps retailers.
Walgreens is one of the largest pharmacy chains in the United States. Walgreens implemented AccuStore to help them with marketing cost savings. With over 8,000 stores, they were throwing away money on marketing overages by sending the same generic sign kits to every store. Since each store had unique requirements, such as the number of windows or the number of fixtures, these sign kits were not only confusing for employees to install, but stores ended up throwing away up to half of what was being sent to them.
By using AccuStore’s store-specific profile data, store distributions are created for each individual store. So, each store receives only the signs that are appropriate for that location. Plus, marketing can now tailor POP by store to eliminate waste. Walgreens has saved over half a million dollars this year alone!
Another example of how retailers are using AccuStore is with the company, Crocs.
Crocs is a footwear brand. Crocs has saved tens of thousands of dollars during a single campaign because of accurate sign types and quantities. They needed to right-size their inventory so AccuStore developed a plan to gather and maintain their store profile data so they could send stores exactly what each store needed. Now, the information is available 24/7 via AccuStore’s cloud-based mobile platform. Plus, AccuStore helps Crocs gather store-specific information for inventory planning and store walks.
RELEX Solutions helps retail businesses improve their competitiveness through localized assortments, profitable use of retail space, accurate forecasting and replenishment, and optimized workforce planning.
Here are two examples of how RELEX Solutions helps their customers.
Musti Group is the leading pet supplies and accessories retailer in the Nordics, with 264 stores in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. They needed supply chain integration between the company’s 5 distribution centers and 264 stores as managing changes and disruption in their supply chain was becoming a significant headache.
With an implementation period of a few months in 2015, RELEX Solutions; Optimized the flow of goods, for example, with deliveries scheduled for quieter days. Simplified Musti’s supply chain management – the complex supply chain is now managed by a single super-user – reducing the chaos that previously reigned when many managers at individual stores were involved. Improved campaigns the company runs by ensuring that there is adequate availability of promoted products. Inventory control now happens on a bottom-up basis using store-level data and optimizing transportation requirements.
Saarionen is a leading Finnish convenience foods manufacturer, with operations in Estonia as well. They needed demand planning software that is comprehensive, flexible, and transparent. They also wanted to introduce automation, so that planners could focus on exception management.
With an implementation period of 4 months in 2016, RELEX Solutions; Installed a system with error margins of less than 5% in weekly and monthly baseline forecasts for some standard high volume products. Improved efficacy for forecasting exceptions by incorporating the human expertise of the demand planners. Strengthened Saarionen’s position in its market.
BOARD is a software platform for unified business intelligence, performance management, and predictive analytics.
Here is one example of how BOARD International helps its customers.
Coca-Cola European Partners is the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler. It is the market leader in one of the biggest fast-moving consumer goods markets, worth over 100 billion euros. The business serves over 300 million consumers in 13 European countries.
Coca-Cola European Partners needed a supply chain finance solution to deploy across 48 manufacturing plants, 85 warehousing locations, cold drinks operations sites, and across its supply chain logistics organization. The company also needed the solution to be used by divisional CFO, heads of supply chain management, controllers, and department and plant managers. The company wanted to achieve: leaner financial operations, automated planning, and optimized reporting – underpinning a new way of doing planning based on comprehensive communication across the company.
Using BOARD, Coca-Cola European Partners has; Increased the efficiency of its finance activities with 10 percent manual inputs based on country specific data, and 90 percent pre-populated data. Reduced data transfer times from 24 hours to 15 minutes. Implemented a live status tracker based on BOARD’s automation capabilities. Implemented consolidation with one click, simplifying the process of performing full country consolidation for all of Coca-Cola European Partners’ operations. Implemented data transparency by effectively enabling automation and standardization. Increased ease communication around supply chain management and planning across the company.
Other Notes: I had the most fun with the team from Board International. We kept cracking jokes with one another, and it always seemed like we were old friends meeting after a long time apart. They also had an espresso station on the second day. The name “board” is supposed to evoke the flexibility that comes with working with a whiteboard to design a robust supply chain management solution for each customer – with no need to write a single line of code.
Anaplan is a software platform for enterprise-wide planning needs. The software enables financial planning, budgeting and analysis, demand and supply chain planning, sales compensation and territory management by connecting data, people, and plans.
Here is one example of how Anaplan helps its customers.
Sonos is a consumer electronics company with a complex supply chain enabling sales in 60 countries, and relying on more than 200 suppliers. Before Anaplan, Sonos was managing its sales, component sourcing, and supply chain through countless spreadsheets. As you can imagine, planning and forecasting was slow and prone to mistakes.
Sonos is now using the Anaplan platform to build end-to-end supply chain visibility and connect plans across resources, spend, and product lines.
The Sonos team started their implementation with supply and demand balancing. Then, they added a supply planning module, which enables a granular view of products at the factory level. Lastly, they incorporated demand planning to add forecasting into the mix.
Anaplan has helped Sonos:
- Reduce tedious and mistake laden manual data entry and increase value-added work
- Cut down the amount of time integrating spreadsheets from 70% to 10% of analysts’ time
- The Global Planning Team can now execute a change in demand in one day, when this activity used to take 2 weeks.
Other Notes: Imagine what a surprise it was to see Vivek Soneja, a member of The New York Supply Chain Meetup at the Anaplan booth! We have grown so quickly that it’s hard to get to know everyone – especially since I am usually running around trying to make sure that our events go on without a major hitch . . . So it was cool to see one of our members in action outside the context of one of our meetups. Lisa and I must have beamed with pride when he turned around and told everyone within earshot about how great The New York Supply Chain’s events are. In his words; “You have to check it out. They are doing an amazing job.”
Manhattan Associates designs and builds supply chain software that connects front-end customer facing solutions with back-end operations and execution.
Here is one example of how Manhattan Associates helps its customers.
Adidas Group is the second largest sportswear manufacturer in the world. Adidas sought to improve its supply chain systems across all its brands, with a global implementation.
Manhattan Associates’ Distribution Management software has been implemented at 3 strategic sites in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
This has led to; A standardized distribution systems model for Adidas, enhanced supply chain control and visibility, and improved inventory accuracy.
Other Notes: They refused to let me have a cup of coffee during the first tour, on the first day. I’ll leave it at that. I had just spent a few minutes talking up their company to the delegates on the tour, and they wouldn’t even let me have a fucking cup of coffee!?
DSI delivers mobile supply chain technology solutions focused on helping companies advance their business to meet the accelerated demands of the digital economy.
Here is one example of how DSI helps its customers.
Rally House is a national sports apparel and gift store. It specializes in immersing its customers in hometown pride by stocking products unique to each local areas professional and college teams. To do this, the company needs an efficient inventory management system, moving away from centralized planning and distribution and more towards in-store fulfillment. This became more of an issue as the company expanded to 61 stores, in 9 states, with products for hundreds of different teams, represented by thousands of SKUs.
Rally House was already using DSI’s warehouse inventory management software, and so by implementing in-store logistics, the company transformed its stores from showrooms into warehouses.
DSI enabled Rally House to eliminate their central distribution center within a few months and move all shipments direct to store from their vendors using their existing apps. This change eliminated weeks of costly lag time associated with the movement of warehouse shipments and expanded available inventory to customers.
Rally House’s distribution processes have been simplified significantly on every level. As demand ebbs and flows for products or for specific team merchandise, stores can stock accordingly and have inventory on the floor in days instead of weeks. Individual stores can now respond faster to time sensitive and regional events—such as World Series Championships—by moving product direct to their stores.
Other Notes: DSI was the most mobile-focused of the companies on the tour. I’d even perhaps go as far as describing them as mobile-first and mobile-only – obviously an exaggeration, but you get the point.
enVista is a global consulting and software solutions firm that helps its customers to optimize supply chain efficiencies to drive cost savings, and unify commerce to drive customer engagement and revenue.
Here is one example of how enVista helps its customers.
Saddle Creek Logistics Services is a privately held, asset-based 3rd-party logistics provider. It provides omnichannel fulfillment, warehousing, and transportation services. It operates 19 million square feet of space, across 45 locations with 3,300+ employees.
Saddle Creek wanted an order management system as it grew. Because of the nature of its business it was important for such a system to work for various types of clients . . . from those who ship hundreds of orders per month, to those who ship millions of orders per month. It also had to integrate with a variety of supply chain software solutions used by Saddle Creek’s clients and suppliers.
enVista provided an out-of-the-box multi-tenant order management system. Saddle Creek’s developers work closely with enVista to enhance the product for Saddle Creek as well as Saddle Creek’s clients. The enhancements include automated order processing and exception handling.
Saddle Creek now has:
- Full visibility to all clients using the order management system in a single snapshot.
- The system is seamlessly connected to 14 different systems between Saddle Creek and its customers, with as many as 80 different integration points.
- Greatly reduced manual order processing for Saddle Creek’s customers and clients.
Other Notes: During one of the tours – I do not recall which, we were lucky enough to catch Jim Barnes, CEO of enVista at the booth. Watching him engage with the delegates on the tour reminded me why it’s so important for early stage startup founders to be able to sell and engage with customers. His intensity level and mastery of the issues the delegates were curious about was without comparison throughout the tours we gave during the event. You could tell that in affected the delegates, they paid rapt attention. For example, he went fairly deep into the philosophical underpinning of enVista’s approach to unified commerce in a way no one did during the remainder of the event.
Magstar provides enterprise resource planning solutions with integrated POS and CRM software for retail supply chains. The company provides Enterprise Resource Planning, Point-of-Sale, Customer Relationship Management, Warehouse Management, Business Intelligence and Analytics, and Mobile Solutions specifically designed for the SMB market. It promises the same functionality and support provided by the big vendors, without the cost. For example, they said each customer is assigned to a specific customer support employee at Magstar for the duration of that customer’s relationship with Magstar.
Here is one example of how Magstar helps its customers.
Fields Canada is a mid-sized retailer with 62 locations and a warehouse. The company needed to reduce inventory cycle time, and gain full control over in-store inventory.
Using Magstar’s Total Warehouse, Fields was able to:
- Gain real-time visibility into inventory.
- Reduce time to store by 14+ days.
- Reduce cycle time by 70%.
- Implement a paperless warehouse – no more missing pallets.
- Simplify ship-to-store processes
- Implement instant purchase order creation.
- View inventory trends across peak seasons.
WHAT DID I GET OUT OF DOING THIS?
I always find it fascinating to understand how customers describe the problem that they want technology to solve. Many times technologists and entrepreneurs think they are solving one problem, when customers think about the problem from a completely different perspective. The number one cause of failure among startups is the failure to find product-market-fit, which is an indication that the startup has solved a problem that customers are unwilling to pay for. Activities like this help me gain a better understanding of how customers see their world and the role that technology can play in helping them achieve their goals. One may say that on the rare occasion when I attend a conference it is to enable me do market research. I met executives from all over the world, and got to see the various perspectives from which they were thinking about deploying technology where they live and do business.
About The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation
The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation is the collaborative, and mutually supportive coalition of open and multidisciplinary grassroots communities focused on technology and innovation in the global supply chain industry. Founded in August, 2017, The New York Supply Chain Meetup is its founding chapter. Local chapters are run by volunteer organizers who each build a team to manage chapter activities and events. You can learn more here: The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation – Our Manifesto.
About REFASHIOND Ventures
REFASHIOND Ventures is an emerging early stage venture capital firm that is being built to invest in early-stage startups creating innovations to reinvent global supply chain networks. REFASHIOND Ventures is based in New York City. The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation and The New York Supply Chain Meetup are initiatives of REFASHIOND Ventures.
Update #01, at 23:54 EST on Sat Feb 16, 2019: Removed ghost bullets by changing from bullets to paragraphs for Board, and Manhattan Associates. Added whiteboard analogy for Board International.