CFDA Hosts Event With DHL, Accenture in Los Angeles

About 25 manufacturers, suppliers and designers discussed collaboration, transparency and supply-chain efficiency at an Oct. 26 event hosted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Held at the Neuehouse in Hollywood, the event introduced the results of a recent survey conducted by Accenture and sponsored by international shipper DHL. Titled “The Human-Centered Supply Chain—Delivered by DHL,” the report advocates a “human-centered” supply-chain model in which “siloed operations” are replaced by “a flexible network of participants and partnerships that will enable agile and adaptable supply-chain operations.”

In this model, the designer plays a central role, said Claudia Gorelick, head of business design for Fjord, Accenture’s design and innovation arm.

John Fox, vice president, Western region, for DHL, agreed that business has changed as consumers develop new expectations about convenience, speed and transparency.

DHL provides cross-border shipping from its hub in Cincinnati as well as key centers in Los Angeles, New York and Miami. As e-commerce grows—online shopping is poised to become a $900 billion business by 2020—DHL’s focus has changed, Fox said.

“Sixty percent of our deliveries go to individuals,” he said. “We’re not in B2B anymore; we’re B2C.”

Gorelick said designers should view suppliers as partners and should view the supply chain as a key part of the company’s brand-building strategy.

“The supply chain is not sexy. The fashion is the sexy part,” Gorelick said. “The supply chain is what allows you to be successful and grow.”

Companies are looking for new ways to be innovative and “disruptive,” Gorelick said. For some, this might be technology such as RFID and drones. For others, it means addressing new consumer expectations such as the fast and free delivery offers its Amazon Prime members.

Gorelick pointed to Airbnb as a company that looked at changes in consumer expectations of the travel industry and offered a service that made it more personalized. But although Airbnb has disrupted and changed the travel market, Gorelick pointed out it did so while only holding a small part of overall travel-industry revenue.

The DHL report includes a Designer’s Playbook, which provides a blueprint for building a design business using the “human-centered” model. To address industry changes driven by digitalization and e-commerce, the report suggests several areas of opportunity.

Companies should develop a supply-chain process that is “well-defined—but flexible” and encourages “clear communication channels across partners.” Further, the process should include “a dedicated step to integrate learnings from season to season.”

Companies should encourage relationship building with its partners throughout the supply chain. The report suggests focusing on “a relationship-first rather than transaction-based approach that identifies partners to collaborate with—to fill gaps in expertise, leverage passion points (such as sustainability), and create opportunities for sharing and collaboration.”

Companies should “make the supply chain part of their brand story.” By “establishing clear operations and avoiding continual reinvention of the brand,” companies can cut costs and avoid customer and supplier confusion.

Lastly, the report recommends providing “actionable” feedback to suppliers, designers and consumers to “enable operational improvements and greater collaboration.”