Power to the People

Under the overarching theme of “Creating and Enhancing the Customer Experience,” attendees at the Supply Chain Summit, held June 25–27 in Berkeley, Calif., witnessed a holistic world view of what it takes to effectively design and efficiently execute retail supply chains that respond to global dynamics and enhance the customer experience. The inaugural conference, co-hosted by Chain Store Age and Cambridge, Mass.-based ChainLink Research, assembled retailers, consumer-product-goods (CPG) manufacturers and providers of supply chain services and solutions for educational sessions and networking opportunities.

Ann Grackin, CEO of ChainLink Research, encouraged attendees to “embrace change and seek learning experiences.”

One of the key trends impacting retail supply chains, Grackin noted, is the ongoing migration to an “outcome” economy, where success is predicated on enterprisewide results rather than incremental metrics. Under the outcome-based philosophy, power has clearly shifted from the retailer to the consumer.

“You cannot design an effective supply chain without knowledge of who your customer is,” stated Grackin, and customers as a general rule are in a state of evolution. “People are looking for more than just assortment, more choices and a total experience.”

A twist on Abraham Maslow’s traditional hierarchy of needs illustrated where ChainLink believes consumers are headed. In this revisited version of Maslow’s pyramid, values are at the peak of the hierarchy followed by experience, then results. Price and availability, historically the key retail motivators, represent the fundamental elements of the pyramid—but not the pinnacle of achievement.

Presentations across the three-day Supply Chain Summit illustrated actual implementations and proven solutions for achieving positive results throughout a retail organization, including discussions of Best Buy’s use of RFID (radio-frequency identification), Tractor Supply Co.’s flexible distribution network and Walgreens’ impressive and motivational story of staffing distribution centers with disabled workers.

Sponsors of the Supply Chain Summit included FedEx (Memphis, Tenn.), GT Nexus (Alameda, Calif.), Avery Dennison (Pasadena, Calif.), T3Ci (Sunnyvale, Calif.), Marsh Risk Consulting (New York City), Manhattan Associates (Atlanta), Red Prairie (Waukesha, Wis.), and RFID Wizards (Los Gatos, Calif.).

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