Unilever trialling geolocation technology in supply chain
The company has highlighted its intention to end deforestation across its supply chain, particularly in the cultivation of crops like palm oil and soy. Unilever was the first consumer goods company to publish a full list of the palm oil suppliers and third-party mills in its supply chain.
By partnering with Orbital Insight, Unilever is set to leverage geolocation data to identify the individual farms and plantations that are most likely to supply the palm oil mills in its extended supply chain. The technology utilises GPS data, both aggregated and anonymised, to enable Orbital Insight to spot traffic patterns. Where there is a consistent flow of traffic between an area of land and a mill, it represents a potential link.
By combining tens of thousands of satellite images with geolocation data and applying artificial intelligence and scalable data science, the new system will provide unique insight by showing the predicted likelihood that a farm or plantation is supplying any given mill. The initial pilot programme will test the technology at a small number of palm oil mills in Indonesia and soy mills in Brazil.
This new approach is thought to bring a new level of sophistication to traceability that has the potential to work on a massive scale for Unilever and the wider industry.
“Better monitoring helps all of us to understand what’s happening within our supply chains,” says Marc Engel, Chief Supply Chain Officer. “By companies coming together and using cutting-edge technology to carefully monitor our forests, we can all get closer to achieving our collective goal of ending deforestation.”
Pandora and IBM digitise jewellery supply chain
Pandora has overhauled its global supply chain in partnership with IBM amid an ecommerce sales boom for its hand-finished jewellery.
The company found international success offering customisable charm bracelets and other personalised jewellery though its chain of bricks and mortar retail destinations. But in 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak forced physical stores to close, Pandora strengthened its omnichannel operations and doubled online sales.
A focus on customer experience included deploying IBM’s Sterling Order Management, increasing supply chain resiliency and safeguarding against disruption across the global value chain.
Pandora leverages IBM Sterling Order Management as the backbone it its omnichannel fulfilment, with Salesforce Commerce Cloud powering its ecommerce. Greater automation across its channels has boosted the jeweller’s sustainability credentials, IBM said, streamlining processes for more efficient delivery. It has also given in-store staff and virtual customer service representatives superior end-to-end visibility to better meet consumer needs.
Jim Cruickshank, VP of Digital Development & Retail Technology, Pandora, said the digital transformation journey has brought “digital and store technology closer together and closer to the customer”, highlighting how important the customer journey remains, even during unprecedented disruption.
"Our mission is about creating a personal experience and we've instituted massive platform changes with IBM Sterling and Salesforce to enable new digital-first capabilities that are much more individualised, localised and connected across channels and markets,” he added.
Pandora’s pivot to digital
The pandemic forced the doors closed at most of Pandora’s 2,700 retail locations. To remain competitive, it pivoted to online retail. Virtual queuing for stores and virtual product trials via augmented reality (AR) technology went someway to emulating the in-store experience and retail theatre that is the brand’s hallmark. Meanwhile digital investments in supply chain efficiency was central to delivering on consumer demand.
“Consumer behaviour has significantly shifted and will continue to evolve with businesses needing to quickly adapt to new preferences and needs,” said Kareem Yusuf, General Manager, AI Applications and Blockchain, IBM. “To address this shift, leading retailers like Pandora rely on innovation to increase their business agility by enabling and scaling sustainable supply chain operations using AI and cloud.”
Yusuf said Pandora’s success was indicative of how to remain competitive by “finding new ways to create differentiated customer experiences that protect their enterprises from disruptions to help mitigate risk and accelerate growth”.