Business for Fashion published the ten trends that will shape 2017. We will share one trend every week, read the complete article here
9. Upstream technology
Placing big bets on technology in 2017 increases a company’s chances of being a future winner. Technology investments will have two rationales. First, the clear market trends — cycle acceleration, omnichannel, localisation and sustainability — pull in different directions: they cannot all be delivered simultaneously without a technological enhancement across the whole value chain. Second, technology will also be seen as the solution to addressing sourcing and supply-chain challenges in an effort to improve margins. Together, these pressures will likely make automation, robotics and the digital supply chain become more prevalent in the fashion industry. The International Labour Organisation estimates that within a few decades more than half of all salaried workers in emerging countries could be displaced by automation and advanced technologies, and that this disruption will be led by the textiles and clothing industry.
Signs of transition to automated processes should already be visible in 2017. Global players have announced large-scale projects, such as the Adidas“speed factory” and the new Nike distribution centre in Belgium designed around a sustainable supply chain. In 2017, key themes for the fashion industry’s digital supply chain are expected to be prototyping, personalisation, end-to-end transparency, and inventory planning. Digitised inventory management and predictive analytics — aligned to investments in CRM — have the potential to allow fashion companies to link inventory around the world to a single view for the consumer. This in turn makes it possible to sell a product that could have lingered on a shelf to a consumer who wants it halfway around the world. Nonetheless, being too dazzled by data is a danger. If all brands replace the creative process with data analysis to predict what consumers want, a downward spiral in which they create too much of the same product could be difficult to avoid.
The need to adopt a digital process effectively will presumably place added pressure on creatives across all market segments to take up new tools — from virtual design to virtual sampling — to increase efficiency and integrate design-to-cost.
For one set of companies the natural choice will probably be to continue to look for new, cheaper sourcing countries, because their processes are not as sophisticated or they lack the capital to invest in automation and robotics. But others will likely push further into the digital realm.