Software is changing the way we get things done in our lives and the workplace. And, the pace of this change is accelerating as more kinds of processes become ‘digital’ and more devices and platforms get connected to one another. 

This wave of change is sometimes called ‘the 4th industrial revolution’ and it is enabling new levels of connectedness, intelligence, automation and predictability.  

Consumers are taking advantage of these new capabilities for activities that range from finding friends, to shopping and getting errands done, to relaxing. Businesses are also taking advantage of these new capabilities and the changes in consumers’ habits to create new business models and increase productivity.  

Here are five capabilities for Product Safety Test Management that are enabled by today’s digital technologies that add efficiency for program administrators and increase the effectiveness of Safety & Quality programs.

Efficiency & Scale

The scale of business today is amazing. Did you know that components in Apple’s iPhone are transported a combined 500,000 miles in order to reach the customer? That’s like traveling to the moon and back to get to market. 

Consumer goods manufacturers and retailers operate on a global scale with hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of suppliers and partners. Sourcing, Safety, and Quality teams need to easily collect data on thousands or millions of products, materials / ingredients, test protocols and results, and collaborate with partners efficiently throughout the value chain.  

Product test management capabilities need to support enterprise business that work with numerous technology platforms, multiple partners, sites, and market requirements. Data integration capabilities with legacy IT infrastructure is especially important for any business that has or could grow by acquisition.

Pro tip 1- Be sure that test result data is retained within your organization. Test providers offer services to host data but you don’t want to work in the future (or the added cost) to retrieve your data if you change or add testing service providers. 

The Emergence of New & Hybrid Business Models 

Retail businesses increasingly rely on private label brands which can make them look like a manufacturer. Think of Amazon, Costco, Macy’s, and Lidl as examples. Macy’s private label brands are a driver of customer brand loyalty and profits. As a result, the retailer plans to expand private-label by 35%+ over a year earlier.

Manufacturers are increasingly using direct-to-consumer channels which make them look like retailers. Think of HP, Nike, Patagonia, and Tesla. A new concept store by Nike connects customers with an app in stores that are tuned to the local setting. The result is an almost 2x conversion rate for visitors. 

For today’s business, the definition of your ‘product’ can change overnight as these examples illustrate. Teams will want test management capabilities which are flexible enough to adapt with changes to your product definition, and can specifically manage scenarios such as ‘products inside products,’ such as a bill of materials (BOM) or ingredients. And, the ability to work with product assortments by testing ‘representative’ products and applying results to similar products increases efficiency and helps reduce the expense for test services.

Pro Tip 2- Be sure your Sourcing, Safety, and Quality teams have centralized, easy access to test results to avoid duplicate testing which will accelerate your speed to market and reduce costs. 

Speed to Market

Maximizing your speed to market requires efficient collaboration with supply chain partners.  Onboarding new vendors and automating information exchange is a mission-critical capability for Sourcing, Procurement, Compliance, and Supply Chain teams.  

Fashion leaders like Forever 21, H&M, & Zara turn their lineups every 30 days but are under pressure from competitors like Fashion Nova who turn out 600-900 new looks in one week.

Pro Tip 3- Product testing should never be a bottleneck. Your teams want easy collaboration and  data exchange with testing labs and suppliers of all sizes – including small businesses who may have fewer resources or be less sophisticated in areas related to Information Technology.

Active Transparency is Important

Consumers today shop the brands that share their values. In fact, almost 90% of Millennial generation moms will pay more for a product that provides transparency to where it came from and how its made. But, surprisingly, fewer than 30% of businesses say their supply chains are transparent.

Pro Tip 4- Your Safety, Quality, Compliance, and Marketing teams will need info that makes it easy to understand the relationships a product has with other products and materials / ingredients, the suppliers related to those products, and the test results, reports and certifications for each. 

Predictability & Insight

Business analytics and artificial intelligence provide insight to help businesses be more proactive and focus on the right priorities and eliminate costs. 

Why are socks and candy sold together at the checkout line?  Retailers, like Bath & Body Works, and HomeGoods use data to inspire spontaneous purchases and increase profits. 

Knowing what information is needed at the port to clear customs increases your speed to market. Look for capabilities that enable proactive alerts on expiring tests and certification documents .  

Pro Tip 5- You’ll want your customers to have self-serve access to test reporting and documentation for the products they buy.

Supply Chain in the 4th Industrial Revolution

In the old days, manual solutions were ok for supply chain operations. It was efficient to send emails and attachments, and track compliance status in a spreadsheet.  

But, today, the scale and speed of business is way beyond unconnected tools like email and spreadsheets.  A flexible value chain governance platform automates collaboration and data management throughout the value chain. 

Pro Tip 6- Look for value chain governance platforms that easily integrate with legacy  tools and systems of record to leverage all your existing data and massive;y boost the productivity of all your teams.

About ICIX

ICIX Value Chain Governance solutions enable businesses to automate collaboration and control for enhanced visibility and risk protection for stakeholders across the business’s value chain. ICIX empowers business leaders to manage, monitor and verify business performance to achieve financial, operational, environmental stewardship, diversity and social governance goals and objectives.