A successful supply chain transformation begins with "changing the narrative," says George Raptis, vice president of operations at JP Outfitters. Among other things, the company had to stop viewing itself as "small."
JP Outfitters, a direct-to-consumer clothing retailer, needed to start completely over when it came to supply chain. Raptis says its inbound was inefficient, labor was problematic, and the cost of outbound distribution was really high. “All of these factors together were a distraction in the way you execute and satisfy customer demand.”
Three distinct actions were decided upon, he says. First, and maybe foremost, “We had to cancel all of our assumptions. Our main assumption was that we are a small company: We cannot negotiate with vendors, we cannot change.” Raptis says once that attitudinal change was made, the company was able to deal with vendors in a more confident way. That mental adjustment also led to diversifying vendors and the countries from which product was imported.
COVID-19 helped the company in part to see that it was too China-dependent. It also became apparent that the company relied too much on certain fabrics and patterns. It was realized that diversifying in all those areas was needed.
Second, JP Outfitters “changed the narrative” that it was only a catalog retailer. “Now, we see ourselves as an omnichannel business.” That gave the company the leverage to renegotiate terms with its partners.
Lastly, the company changed the way it executes, Raptis says. It implemented more effective planning and inventory management tools, which helps it and its vendors find and negotiate for the right raw materials and develop products well in advance. It also did away with the “hierarchical communication chain” in favor of a flat organization where each individual is empowered to execute on their own, although connected with the rest of the business.
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