Over the course of the past couple of years, a supply chain industry buzzword has become something of a mantra. “Fast fashion” has become an often-repeated buzzword meant to underscore the drive to bring products to the marketplace ever faster.
Fast fashion includes the fact that companies involved in supply chain operations are taking close looks at ways in which the movement of products through supply chains can be accelerated. The reality is that many experts involved in supply chain strategies and operations have come to conclude that too much emphasis may be placed on speed. Indeed, these experts are concerned that with so much emphasis placed on speed in the supply chain industry in this day and age, other important objectives are being overlooked.
It’s Not Just About Speed
While the importance of bringing products to market at a reasonable pace cannot be understated, speed is not the only issue. Other factors which must be considered include quality, innovation, and cost. As noted previously, with so much emphasis put on getting a product to market fast, these other considerations end up on a back burner time and again.
Supply Chain Speed and Cost
Oftentimes, as new technologies and practices are implemented to speed up the process of getting a product through a supply chain and onto the market rapidly, costs associated with that product increase. The fact is that making a supply chain more speedy nearly always necessitates a financial investment or expenditure. Business being business, the cost associated with speeding up a supply chain nearly always is passed on to a consumer who purchases the product one on the marketplace.
Before any decision is made to implement a technology or practice designed to speed up the supply chain process, a true cost benefit analysis must occur. A candid consideration needs to be made of whether the increase in delivery speed associated with a supply chain actually is worth the eventually uptick in the cost of a particular product.
Yes, consumers nearly always like the idea of being able to access or obtain a particular product sooner rather than later. However, for virtually every consumer, there exists a tipping point at which the added cost associated with an accelerated supply chain process simply isn’t worth what he or she will end up paying for a product.
Consumers are willing todo some balancing when it comes to quality and speed. In other words, they may be willing to sacrifice a bit when it comes to quality of product delivery if an item can be moved through a supply chain process faster.
For example, if a consumer can get his or her hands on a desired product notably sooner via an alteration in the supply chair process that might preclude delivery of an item to that individual’s home, he or she may be willing to snatch it up.
With that noted, if a supply chain acceleration increases the risk of some sort of negative impact on the product itself, a consumer necessarily will balk. Few consumers are willing to see product quality itself take a hit merely to accelerate its delivery on to the marketplace.
As is the case with increased cost, consumers are open to innovation in a supply chain — but, as with cost, innovative developments in a supply chain have limits. A solid illustration involves discussions that have been had regarding the use of drones to speed up the supply chain, particularly as it is associated with delivery to product end users. When the idea was initially floated, beginning in 2015 and onward, that drones might be widely utilized to deliver parcels and products to consumers, the initial response was fairly positive. But, within a very short period of time, the downsides associated with using drone technology to deliver products to end use consumers, started to percolate in people’s minds.
The use of drone as end user deliver vehicles provides a prime illustration of how technology and end up being inconsistent with an effective supply chain operation. Technology can take a supply chain off the rails, even when it is otherwise an effective innovation.
In contemplating fast fashion and the supply chain, speed must never be the only factor discussed and considered. Cost needs to be closely analyzed in conjunction with overall cost impact of a fast fashion protocol, together with quality issues and the impact of associated technology. These considerations come into play at different points within a supply chain, and quite significantly with the end use consumer.
Jessica Kane writes for Advance Online, a leading provider of web-based OSHA. DOT. and HAZWOPER training.