In this week’s fireside chat, Stephane Boivin joins us to speak about the importance of adopting digital methods in all aspects of the retail industry, specifically in quality assurance and compliance.
Stephane Boivin is the co-founder and CEO of Pivot88, a digital quality and compliance platform. Pivot88 works with trusted retailers and suppliers to provide 360° of transparency across the entire supply chain. Using cloud-based digital technology, they oversee inspections and audit processes from the start to the end of production.
Not only does Pivot88 give brands and retailers the peace of mind that their partners are compliant with the requirements they have, but it also enables manufacturers and suppliers to demonstrate their trustworthiness to the market.
Pivot88 does this by digitally managing quality and compliance processes starting at the raw material level, moving to production inspections, down to when the product is shipped to distribution centers. It’s all about ensuring that the manufacturing process is conducted in the correct way.
On the other hand, “Compliance is about making sure that the factory that I am doing business with is following the expected ethical standards. From a sustainability and environmental standpoint, are they respecting norms, properly handling chemicals, etc. Shifting to the quality side, making sure that raw materials produced by the mill are compliant with the product I want to produce.”
There are currently about 18,000 companies connected to the platform in more than 113 countries. The user base initially started with the brands, as they were the first proponents of transparency. However, now factories and suppliers have found the importance of digitizing processes and providing full transparency to their existing and potential clients.
Applying digital solutions is at the heart of what Pivot88 does. The company’s technology can be used on a mobile device with applications embedded in the phone to capture data. For example, at the mills level, you can use the fabric inspection tool to see if the material is the correct one that the brands requested.
“Another instance is through the use of Bluetooth devices. When you’re inspecting a garment, there are a lot of measuring points to take. So you can use the Bluetooth tape measure that is connected to the tablet or the phone to measure the garments so you can make sure there is no mistake or error made in capturing that data.”
Lastly, there is also an AI that helps in the decision making process, and will guide the inspector through the mobile device. For example, saying, “this product had an issue in the past, could you look specifically at that color.”
There are many benefits from the use of these digital tools that would not be possible in the traditional method.
“The biggest value for our clients is getting actionable data in real time so they can make informed decisions on the spot.”
Stephane mentions that in the past, the industry was all about paper and spreadsheets, and often could take weeks before uploading data online. Now with digitization, mobile data can be sent directly live to the platform, so the decision-making process time is extremely reduced, moving from decisions based on feeling to informed decisions instead.
Another benefit is the large reduction in defect rate of products. This is because users can take action on mistakes before the merchandise even leaves the factories and it is too late. Starting early in the process and not waiting until final inspection is very important in ensuring a high-quality product.
“And definitely huge efficiency gains. We can talk up to 40% more efficiently. Imagine an inspector today capturing data on Wechat. You still have to transfer it onto excel and you have some pivot tables to run and make sense of the data. All this is gone today.”
There is no doubt that production and demand in the retail industry have been disrupted. However, Stephane has noticed that those who adopted digital processes have been less affected by the limited travel capabilities. The fact that it is challenging for brands to send people to factories is not a problem for the digitally native manufacturers.
“To answer your question, the last three months were affected, but now we’re seeing that demand is starting back up, especially with those that have adapted online strategies versus a regular retail process.”
Stephane’s advice for brands and suppliers to prepare for the future is to begin the digitalization journey now. He saw that brands and manufacturers with digital capabilities suffered significantly less than clients who were still in the process of adopting that technology. Putting technology in place helps, but before doing anything, companies must align their processes. Starting chain management early and aligning their KPIs.
“Prepare early, start digitizing early and it will definitely help this pandemic that we could never have predicted.”
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