Responsive Supply Chains: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

The streets are already flooding with the spirit of the holidays as we enter into the season of giving once again. Retail and supply chain demands will always rise this time of year, but this year’s demands feel different.

The reason? The rise of express delivery and the growing competition to lower shipping charges. Amazon has already announced an offer for free shipping on all orders for the first time, lighting a hearth-sized fire under retailers and suppliers to be able to deliver on these rising holiday expectations.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

For these logistics-pressured retailers, a truly live supply chain is the gift that keeps on giving this holiday season. The secret involves several key technologies every retailer should consider, to achieve a level of care and efficiency that keeps customers coming back.


Leveraging sensors and monitors gives supply chains a real-time view of all assets to ensure no package is left untracked. Additionally, capturing actual usage and demand through IoT-enabled smart products and real-time point-of-sale data can help predict unforeseen surges in demand. This visibility gives retailers the time and tools to prepare for these surges and avoid unhappy customers during the holidays.

Connected supply chains produce advantages from sale to production, as nothing disrupts the ability to deliver on holiday promises more than broken machinery. When embedded into supply chains, IoT solutions can eliminate the risk of machine failure by using real-time data and sophisticated analytics to determine equipment health. Predicting and preventing failures dramatically improves customer service and saves costs due to improved product uptime, quality and reliability. From increased customer satisfaction made possible by improved product quality and reliability, to the maximization of equipment uptime, predictive maintenance results in cost savings. By creating predictive supply networks that leverage the IoT, retailers have the power to meet evolving customer expectations at every turn.

3D printing

For distributed manufacturing and the speedy production of personalized goods, 3D printing is an all-in- one solution. With 3D printing, a part is formed from scratch by depositing one layer of material on top of another, based on a digital model. With this solution, retailers can quickly personalize products while saving time and resources. An added bonus: 3D printing has been known to help reduce waste in the supply chain, as 80% of its materials can be broken down into powder and reused. Retailers can not only contribute to a live supply chain to make customized wishes come true, but they can also give back by reducing waste in their holiday supply chains.


Blockchain is helping companies keep up with the distributed, highly connected and fast-moving nature of commerce, especially during the holidays. When it comes to the movement of goods, retailers need a solution that offers full transparency by enabling seamless collaboration amongst parties who need a secure, auditable and immutable system. This system will be most beneficial in times of high demand.

Blockchain’s benefits reach beyond the holidays as well — it creates an immutable repository of data which is leveraged for analytics, machine learning, Robotic Process Automation, audits and other higher-level automated processes. The greater transparency and traceability will create exponential benefits, and with 84% of SAP customers currently engaged in blockchain-related initiatives, look for this technology to impact supply chains for holiday seasons to come.

The holiday rush can be difficult to keep up with at times. Investing in technology that will transform your supply chain capabilities is critical to ensuring a smooth sail through the end of the year, and the increased potential of retaining customers into the new year. With the right tools, resources and preparation, retailers can provide an exceptional experience that leaves their customers feeling valued and cared for ahead of the holidays.

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