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Retail’s reinvention: technology’s impact on today’s supply chain

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Introduction: the era of the informed consumer
  3. A fundamental shift
  4. Finding the new leader
  5. The next move
  6. Going deeper into the supply chain
  7. Flexible low-cost robotics
  8. The opportunity for 3D printing
  9. Summary and key takeaways
  10. About Bud Albers

1. Summary

Today online sales only make up a small fraction of the overall retail space. Their growth, however, is inevitable. Driven by the deflationary realities of price transparency, the face and shape of retail will continue to change. This fundamental shift will affect more than just the retailers. Indeed, it will encompass all aspects of the retail supply chain, from the shop floor to where that shop floor is located.

This report examines the long-term strategic impacts of this shift, highlighting the changes in the environment, the potential competitive responses, and a new generation of technologies that could accelerate these changes. Strategists and technologists in the retail sector as well as distributors and manufacturers must drive or adapt to the following:

  • Retailers’ capital allocation models must continue to shift from brick and mortar into a broader product assortment. They must also increase investments in technology that support both build- and buy-based strategies.
  • Competitive pressure will force change and optimization in the supply chain, including shorter product lead times and more customization in order to provide differentiation. This will lead to the reshoring of some manufacturing.
  • Robotics and 3D printing are currently the two emerging technologies that hold the greatest promise for manufacturers and suppliers.
  • New players in the robotics field will provide the opportunity to automate more tasks for smaller organizations with an easy-to-use, safe, simple program model with a price point of under $25,000.
  • 3D printing’s ability to print directly from designs yields the same copyright-theft issues inherent to any digital product. Also, a potentially significant threat exists from open-source designs. Manufacturing will face the same type of challenge here that the media industry has faced with Napster and YouTube.