i3 | March 15, 2022

Three Strategies for Creating Resiliency in Consumer Technology Supply Chains

Jesse Laver

Material and component shortages, uncertainty in trade relations and constrained freight capacity aren’t new challenges for consumer technology companies. But managing them simultaneously and to an extreme degree — along with a tight labor market — has created a “perfect storm” for technology supply chains today.

These challenges are largely outside the control of supply chain organizations. Yet, their leaders are actively taking steps to both minimize the impact of current constraints and improve their ability to deal with future events.

Here are three strategies to create supply chain resiliency:

1. Elevate Visibility with an LLP

The consumer technology supply chain is a complex ecosystem that relies on multiple organizations to efficiently manage inbound and outbound material product flows. Each partner may have visibility of their operations but if it’s siloed, organizations can’t effectively act on visibility data to make decisions in response to changing events.

This is leading more organizations to consider a Lead Logistics Partner (LLP) like DHL Supply Chain, which provides enterprise-level visibility and coordination of all elements of the inbound and outbound supply chain, including suppliers, carriers and other logistics partners. With this visibility, manufacturers can anticipate events, such as material shortages and transportation disruptions, and mitigate potential consequences by executing various actions involving their supply flow or transportation routing decisions.

2. Accelerate Supply Chain Digitalization

Automation creates opportunities to maximize labor utilization and improve supply chain performance. There are a range of emerging technologies demonstrating their value in supply chain operations today, including robotic-assisted picking, augmented reality glasses, indoor robotic transport and algorithmic optimization and machine learning. And more is coming as evidenced by DHL Supply Chain’s $15 million investment in collaboration with Boston Dynamics to deploy its Stretch® robot for automated trailer unloading.

The challenge for organizations is that selecting and deploying automation can be time-consuming and potentially disruptive. Dedicated supply chain companies have the resources and industry expertise to collaborate with companies to help shape new technology solutions before they reach the market, and to pilot those innovations in a way that minimizes disruption and maximizes value. Working with a company whose core competency is logistics is the safest and fastest way to bring technology to the supply chain.

There are ways to reduce the impact of current events while future-proofing the supply chain to create competitive advantage.

3. Shift to Centralized Returns Management

Late-stage customization has become essential within consumer technology but can increase supply chain complexity and introduce delays. Manufacturers are better able to manage this complexity by integrating technical customization capabilities into downstream warehouse operations. Rather than performing customization overseas weeks or months before a product is ready to ship to consumers, late-stage customization in the warehouse enables more efficient use of available inventory, increases flexibility in responding to changing market requirements and accelerates speed to market.

A similar strategy can be employed to streamline returns handling. We recommend shifting to centralized returns management supported by value-added services for testing, repair and refurbishment in the warehouse. This approach gets returns that can be resold into inventory faster and increases the value of returns sold through alternate channels.

While no single action can completely immunize an organization from the various constraints being imposed on the supply chain today, there are ways to reduce the impact of current events while future-proofing the supply chain to create competitive advantage during the next “perfect storm.” A dedicated logistics partner serving as an LLP or providing inbound-to-manufacturing services can deliver the visibility, efficiency and flexibility required to prepare for and mitigate the constraints being imposed on the consumer technology supply chain today

i3 magazine March/April 2022 cover

Subscribe to i3

I3, the flagship magazine from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, focuses on innovation in technology, policy and business as well as the entrepreneurs, industry leaders and startups that grow the consumer technology industry. Subscriptions to i3 are available free to qualified participants in the consumer electronics industry.