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Effects of COVID on Fashion Supply chain
Wakeup call for digitization to overcome Fashion supply chain challenges
COVID is an example of how uncertain, unpredictable, sudden, and ruthless the future can be. It came without warning and took a toll on the entire human civilization, lifestyle, economies, and businesses. The fashion industry, like other industries, is under severe impact. The fashion supply chain all over the world is crumbling like a thin wall. One important lesson to be learned from this catastrophe is to be future-ready and embrace advancement as quickly as possible. This article will discuss the present scenario of the fashion supply chain, the impact of COVID on the consumer behavior, response strategies of the businesses, and the advantages of adopting industry 4.0 in the supply chain.
What is going on?!!
Chaos, mayhem, disappointment in this daunting and scary situation is what is seen all around.
Apart from the loss of human lives, there is a loss of jobs, loss of businesses, and faith loss. All the players are equally affected.
With the entire offices quarantined on both ends of manufacturers and the buyers, the normal flow of fashion goods procurement, manufacturing, and retailing have interrupted. Orders and contracts are being canceled or curtailed.
The reasons are apparent:
- Non-operating buying offices
- Changes in consumer behavior
Manufacturers are failing to meet deadlines due to lockdown and quarantined workforce. Designers face challenges to forecast for the next season as the fashion trends are not clear and are difficult to predict. Tradition forecasting patterns have failed in this scenario. Fashion brands like H&M, JCPenney, Macy’s, Abercrombie & Fitch, and countless others have resorted to layoffs and shutting down their majority of stores.
The most essential adversely affected aspect of the supply chain is the flow of information and connectivity among the key players downstream and upstream. This restricted flow of information has come due to negligence in adopting the latest technologies despite the hues and cries of Industry 4.0.
Those who managed to adapt and adopt quickly are flourishing even in this crisis. The world’s examples are the business leaders Amazon, Reliance, and Walmart. Due to their futuristic point of view, these firms have always been one step ahead and always ready to welcome changes with open arms.
Now that we have talked about business challenges let’s see how consumers’ perception has changed due to COVID.
What will happen?!!
The silver lining of the COVID is reflected in the paradigm shift of the consumers. Sustainability is not just a FAD now; the word has finally found its seriousness and deeper meaning in the pharaohs’ sentiments of the supply chain pyramid.
Consumers in COVID and post COVID era are purpose-driven and responsible for their society and environment. The concern and empathy for each other are commendable. Consumers appreciate and are inclined to purchase from the brands who have shared these sentiments and have contributed to the pandemic affected clusters.
When we talk about buying behavior and shopping sentiments, it is observed that impulsive buying has dropped, and clothes consumption needs have reduced. Luxury wearers have moved towards comfort clothing.
Loungewear and multipurpose apparel are trending because of the newly adopted Work from Home culture.
All these things will be the key factors deciding the future course of business. It is critical to understand and follow consumer mindsets in all the activities including product development and retailing.
Along with espousing the consumer sentiments, the supply chain players also need to be innovative in their business activities.
In the next section, let’s see what can be done to recover from the setback and be ready for any unforeseen events in the future while being competitive in the market.
Need of the hour!!
Flexibility, adaptability, and quick response: these are what make a company survive in the cutthroat competition. In addition to the market competitors, natural mishaps add fuel to the fire.
In order to become immune to these seen and unforeseen situations, businesses need to develop foolproof strategies that help to stand firmly in the game and optimize resource consumption, and cut down cost while respecting the environment. Reviving the traditional ways of working is no longer the answer.
Businesses need to reform from scratch. The physical flow of information and the movement of people needs to be limited. The supply chain needs to be automated, diversified, and shortened.
There needs to be a connected supply chain from the suppliers to the retailers. One cannot stress enough that the need for the hour is the adoption of Industrie 4.0. The fourth industrial revolution has brought about the wave of change in all the business sectors, especially manufacturing. The image below shows how the business model has evolved, and industry 4.0 is the latest upheaval. This upheaval has become more assertive with COVID.
The figure above shows the revolution of business models over time. The technologies that aid the implementation of industry 4.0 have developed owing to the following reasons:
- Advancements in the computing capabilities
- Reduced cost of the hardware, internet, and networking infrastructure
- Reduced size and less weight of hardware and many other such developments.
Main technology enablers are cloud computing, big data, Internet of Things, 3D printing, Cobots, Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, cyber-physical system, and real-time optimization. In short, it’s all about going DIGITAL.
We will discuss Industry 4.0 and all the technologies concerning the apparel industry in other posts (in detail). Although the benefits are quite evident, we shall see the benefits exclusively in the next section to boost motivation. (in brief).
The advantages of going Digital “So, this is the goal: To make money by increasing net profit, while simultaneously increasing return on investment, and simultaneously increasing cash flow.”, Jonah told Alex in The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. We all are striving for the growth of profit and the people and planet from the triple bottom line of the business. Automation and adoption of industry 4.0 help us move towards these goals by offering the benefits mentioned below:
- Minimizing errors and wastes
- Improvement in productivity
- Visibility in the supply chain
- Smooth information flow
- The decrease in quality cost
- Reduction in machine downtime
- Ease of co-creation
- Reduction in operation cost
Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
Innovation is the need of the hour. Businesses need to be creative, innovative and need to have an open mind for the advancements coming to keep themselves ahead in the race.