Data and Transparency in the Retail Supply Chain

  • Written by Peter Needle
  • Published on 14 November 2017
  • Our Voice

Without a doubt, supply chain transparency is on the rise.

Of the 100 brands in the Fashion Transparency Index 2017, 32 are publishing supplier lists that as a minimum covers their first-tier suppliers. 14 of those included the locations where clothes are being dyed, printed, laundered and finished. None of the brands go as far as raw materials – and why not?

Through our work across the retail industry, we’ve found that despite many brands being able to publish supplier lists and often having nominated supplier processes in place, they often don’t know where their products are coming from. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s just that they either don’t have the data to provide them with accurate information or unauthorised subcontracting means they’re being misled. 

Unauthorised subcontracting

Unauthorised subcontracting – where manufacturers place orders outside of the retailer’s nominated supplier list – often goes undetected. Look at the Rana Plaza disaster, for example. When implicated fashion brands were questioned about why their garments were being made by workers in such dangerous conditions, two high street retailers declared that they were unaware of their garments being produced in the identified factory and that it was not one of their approved locations. The problem is – no amount of auditing and inspections can guarantee that the rules are followed.

Tracking data

This is where data comes in.

American corporate Cargill are trialling a blockchain platform to track the provenance of Thanksgiving turkeys. Entering a unique code online will allow consumers to access information such as where the turkey was raised, comments from the farmers and even photographs. Whilst it might seem like a trivial activity, tracking the origins of food and other items has a serious purpose.

If food tracking had been in place in 2013, the horsemeat scandal could have been avoided. When horsemeat was discovered in beef products stocked by supermarkets across the world, safety concerns were raised. Although horsemeat itself should be relatively safe to eat, if it has not been authorised for human consumption, it could include traces of drugs used to treat horses – drugs that could cause harm to humans. If it had been possible to track the movement of such meat products, it might not have been so easy for fraudsters to contaminate foodstuffs. 

How Segura can help

The data and reports needed by supply chain and sourcing directors can seem almost endless. Data on suppliers alone includes factory locations, audit data, production volumes and compliance levels. Wouldn’t it be great if you could access and control all of this in one place? You can.

Segura provides retailers with a single portal through which they can place and track orders, view supplier data, map factory locations, manage nominated suppliers (and view orders outside their nominated supplier list) and collate audit documentation and manufacturer and supplier certifications.

Through the data gathered, retailers can also calculate accurate rebate levels.

As well as gaining supply chain visibility, including use of nominated supplier lists, and increased reporting capabilities, data also brings financial benefits. Through using Segura, retailers can achieve up to 5x increase in rebate collection, access to better volume discounts and reduced staff time monitoring supplier activity.

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