This past week consumer apparel company, Ralph Lauren, announced that it is going to be 'digitizing' every product it manufactures. Why would a company with such well known brands (Polo, Club Monaco, Ralph Lauren Collection) go to the bother of ensuring that every product it manufactures has a digital identity? And why should manufacturers of products used in infrastructure and commercial construction care that Ralph Lauren is doing this?
Because, today, consumers drive technology trends first. So, manufacturers selling to businesses are wise to observe consumer trends and emulate to gain an early advantage.
Okay, but why is Ralph Lauren doing this?
The company summarizes its reasoning as:
"...[it] enables Ralph Lauren, and the whole industry, to unlock true traceability at scale."
This refers to ways that product tracking enables Ralph Lauren to authenticate its products, tighten its supply chain and, most important, get closer to its customers:
1. Platform to authenticate its products
GS1 compliant barcode, RFID chip or NFC chips are embedded in the tag and a "social profile" of the product can be viewed. (We liken the product's timeline history in Idencia to a 'LinkedIn profile' of the product; same thing.)
The profile offered by Ralph Lauren will help all members of the supply chain:
- Socially conscious consumers can confirm that the manufacturer is fair-trade compliant;
- The retailer can ascertain that the product was purchased in one of its stores in the event of a return; and
- Ralph Lauren can prevent brand counterfeiting... at an estimated cost of $450 Billion annually for the apparel industry.
Manufacturers of products used in infrastructure and commercial construction benefit from product authentication as well.
With a scan of a tag or barcode, product tracking can confirm:
- 'Buy America' compliance;
- Quality assurance compliance; and
2. Platform to tighten its supply chain
Working with a common platform for product information, Ralph Lauren can enable operating efficiency throughout its supply chain that would not be possible without it:
- Feedback is provided instantly to manufacturers on the platform;
- Standards are consistently applied; and
- Purchase orders are automatically integrated throughout the supply chain.
Our vision for the infrastructure supply chain goes a bit further in engaging vendors. We envision:
- Product tracking with vendor feedback (as Ralph Lauren does);
- A marketplace on the platform that will facilitate vendor-central communications with the manufacturer; and
- A service that will accelerate payments and reduce the cost of working capital for participants on the platform, thus encouraging vendor participation.
3. Platform to get closer to its customers
The Holy Grail for a consumer products company is to stay close to its customers. Perhaps because B2B markets are not subject to the rapid fluctuation in fashion trends and fads, staying close to the customer is often not considered with the same priority. Well, it should be. Business customers are individual consumers who want the same attention that they receive in their personal lives.
Ralph Lauren recognizes that the products they sell are the media that they can use to stay close to the customer. A woman can scan the tag on her new blouse and it will create a digital 'social profile' for it, including a picture. This can be added to the 'digital closet' she can create using the platform. With the closet she can:
- Mix and match outfits to wear;
- Share outfit combinations;
- Receive promotions for clothes that match the clothes she owns.
Construction products have remarkably similar opportunities with a customer platform:
- A digital profile saves the customer significant time and money in record-keeping;
- The profile can be inserted to the BIM model (construction version of 'the digital closet')
- Manufacturer can include sensors that contribute relevant structural health data to the customer, thereby adding to product value, enabling greater product margin and promoting a continuing relationship with the customer.
Smartrac, a global leader in RFID and NFC tag technology, uses the tag line: "Your products are your platform". (I wish we thought of that!) In five short words it describes where the world is going. Ralph Lauren understands this and has acted accordingly.
Idencia is bringing 'the product data platform' to manufacturers serving the infrastructure and construction markets.
We are seeking industry-leading partners to advance this opportunity with us. Will you join us?
Our mission at Idencia is to elevate the productivity of infrastructure product manufacturers. We offer RFID tracking solutions that improve productivity and offer value throughout the value chain. As a cloud-hosted product tracking system that is seamless between manufacturers, contractors and asset managers, Idencia adds information value to all, eliminates redundancy and saves time.