We're quickly entering the fourth industrial revolution.
Water and steam mechanised humans. Electricity helped humans to scale production. And most recently, information technology allowed companies to work globally.
In the fourth industrial revolution we will see is computers take over the majority of the lower-value repetitive, formulaic tasks and (in theory) leave the more creative, fulfilling, value-add activities to us humans.
Unlike previous industrial revolutions, knowledge workers will see a much greater impact, with those working in retail head offices being no exception.
Rather than waiting for the revolutionaries to come to the door, own label leaders have a unique opportunity to truly innovate and gain a clear and compelling competitive advantage using the tools of the fourth industrial revolution.
Starting the revolution in your organisation can feel like waiting for planets to align.
Suppliers, retail buyers, technical managers, product developers and third-parties like testing houses currently maintain multiple orbits within your own label universe. Often these orbits are misaligned and prone to expending the maximum amount of energy for the smallest distance of travel. Collisions and failed launches are common.
Any observer of this universe would find it almost impossible to chart courses of the various objectives within this system and this poses a fundamental challenge for those looking to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
These challenges are particularly acute for those looking to gain the productivity benefits using fourth industrial revolution tools: artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA) or machine learning. These practices rely on someone or something being able to map, track and act upon the activity within your universe.
Laying the foundations for revolution.
Our new Affinity™ platform is about creating shared understanding, purpose and structures between head office retail employees, suppliers and third-party teams.
Affinity becomes the centre of gravity within your own label universe that brings together all of the activity and performance information into consistent, uniform, measurable and actionable orbits. Affinity consolidates your:
- product performance
- supplier and site performance
- product development and compliance activity
From planets to reservoirs
Forgive me as I change metaphors for a moment.
Imagine Affinity as the reservoir that collects and centralises the data that is generated by the businesses day-to-day operations:
- Call centre, dot com and product panel customer feedback in your CRM or social media monitoring tool.
- Surveillance, consistency, depot QC or benchmark testing in yours or your test house’s testing system.
- Product specification and artwork in your PLM, artwork management systems and Master Data Management system.
- Supplier audit and visit records in your auditing tool or personal calendar and email
- Individual buyer, technical manager, product developer or third-party professional’s own records on spreadsheet after spreadsheet.
And on top of that, you may not have just one of each system. You could have two CRMs. Multiple product specification systems across packaged food, non-food and food service. Multiple third-party test houses or artwork partners with their own workflow and data tools.
The complexity is crushing.
Working with data in this environment is without a doubt the most expensive and time-consuming aspect of a retail professional’s role.
A clear competitive advantage can be achieved by any company that can connect all of these systems at speed. One that knows your products, the companies that manufacture and supply them and how they are performing for your business.
Insights are useless unless they’re actionable.
Getting all of the data of interest to you into one place is relatively easy compared to what you need to do next - turning all of that information into something that’s actionable.
Take one of your own label suppliers - "SupplierCo." - as an example. They supply you in both Euro and Sterling, and so are two different 'suppliers' in your finance system. They have five sites across the country that produce your products so are recorded under five records in your specification system. Supply Chain see them as the three distribution locations they collect from.
Despite SupplierCo. operating as one single company, your business works with them as if they were up to ten different companies. Often companies with a supply base of 500 suppliers are expending the time, cost and energy as if they had 5,000.
Own label teams need to have a single-view of the supplier.
Without this your reservoir can quickly become a flooded swamp for your teams to wade through.
Affinity helps achieve single-view of the supplier by providing flexible 'operational entity' groupings around the products that they work for. In a matter of clicks, decades of legacy system spaghetti can be solved, allowing suppliers to focus on what matters: helping you to maximise product performance.