Nearly a year ago, the retail supply chain world irrevocably changed. A steady increase in the growth of e-commerce shipments, which had been trending up for years, suddenly surged. With customers at home due to the pandemic and brick-and-mortar stores closed or operating with significant limitations, online retail became the primary channel for commerce.  

For headphone company AfterShokz, the onset of the pandemic caused an immediate shift in supply chain strategy. CMO Kim Fassetta, used to securing large shipments of goods from manufacturers to fulfill consumer demand, started breaking deliveries into smaller shipments, sent by both air freight and ocean cargo.  

“There was so much uncertainty about when things would arrive and other hurdles that could come up along the way,” Kim Fassetta, CMO of AfterShokz, said during the Consumer Technology Association’s virtual CES conference. 

In addition to transitioning to smaller, more frequent shipments to try to evade emerging freight transportation congestion issues, Fassetta said AfterShokz also diversified its manufacturing base with the help of partners.  

“One of the great things about the pandemic for us is increased demand for headphones. It was not something we were anticipating, and it happened fast.” When the company couldn’t scale up production in time, Fassetta reached out to collaborators to help meet demand.  

Fassetta joined Dan McNutt of DHL Supply Chain and David Gold, president of Hisense USA, to discuss digital adoption in the logistics industry during the “Supply Chain Solutions in a Rapidly Changing World” panel.   

Gold also spent the first few months of the pandemic diversifying Hisense’s manufacturing base to properly meet customer demand for televisions and home appliances. The past year, he said, has been a significant stress test for the company’s supply chain. To make sure the supply chain functioned as seamlessly as possible, Hisense also increased investment in digitization, bringing more transparency to the process through end-to-end visibility 

Looking back on the past year, he said, it’s easy to make sense of the increased consumer demand and make the case for ramping up production. But the picture wasn’t always so clear. Gold recalled that in the early months of the pandemic, some organizations were worried that the significant swell of demand would evaporate in a matter of weeks. Getting through 2020 successfully, he said, “required very, very transparent constant and frequent communications.” 

Gold said the coronavirus crisis necessitated that his team rely on its strengths, looking for greater collaboration from last-mile and transportation partners. Hisense is going to the next phase of collaboration with partners, both in sourcing and logistics, due to the pandemic.  

“We need to build that trust and have that capacity there to mitigate any potential disruptions, including ocean where we’re seeing big disruptions in terms of ocean freight,” he said.  

At DHL Supply Chain, McNutt is focused on bringing the latest innovations to the company, a push for greater digitization that has only sped up during the pandemic. Right now, the company has 70 solutions in its innovation pipeline, he said, and there is a dedicated team that continually assesses new technologies, pilots selected solutions, and pushes them out to DHL facilities.  

“It’s a huge part of our ongoing agenda,” he said, noting that the pandemic has forced DHL to reexamine its workforce. The company currently has 2,000 open jobs in North America alone, so is looking to use technology to make work for their existing employees more efficient while filling some positions that can be accomplished with new tech. These innovation changes also come with a rededication to the DHL workforce and a focus on creating lasting, full-time positions instead of relying on temporary labor.  

Finally, technology investment pays off in the company’s interactions with consumers. These customers want complete transparency into the freight shipment lifecycle in real-time.   

Visibility has been one of the top initiatives for almost all of our customers,” McNutt said. It’s something that everybody wants, but few have been able to crack the code to get that true end to end visibility. It really has become more and more apparent the need for that.” 

Blume Global has the only visibility solution that works on a pervasive, global scale across all modes, making sure retailers always know where their goods are and when they will arrive. With Blume Global, retailers receive the most accurate location and order status information, along with data on items (inventory in transit) and shipments. Real-Time ETA Updates for to single and multi-mode shipments allow retailers to improve resource planning, avoiding detention, demurrage and late OTIF penalties. This information can then be shared by the retailer through a white-labeled customer portal. 

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