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Digital customer focus

Manufacturers in the retail sector could better assess customer needs through digital technology in production and supply chain processes, says article in Harvard Business Review co-authored by Dr Benn Lawson of Cambridge Judge Business School.

Digital customer focus
Benn Lawson
Dr Benn Lawson

Manufacturers that serve retailers could better assess customer needs through digital technology in production and supply chain processes, says an article in Harvard Business Review co-authored by Dr Benn Lawson, University Senior Lecturer in Operations Management at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Owing to a lack of visibility into customer demand, manufacturers face two major problems: they end up with excess inventory that must be sold at a discount, while not supplying retailers with enough quantity of goods that customers do want, the article says.

When customers make purchase decision, they weigh a product’s attributes, price and availability – and manufacturers can use digital technology to better inform customers on these factors so they can make informed decisions.

The article suggests several steps that firms can take to implement digital fulfilment:

  • Explore new technologies such as 3D printing that allow production in small quantities.
  • Improving the information flow among actors in the supply chain.
  • Integrate operational and financial information across manufacturing and retail operations.
  • Help customers to more easily weigh up attribute, price and time trade-offs.

The Harvard Business Review article – entitled “How digital fulfillment is changing manufacturing” – is co-authored by Professor Matthias Holweg of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, Dr Benn Lawson of Cambridge Judge Business School, and Professor Frits K. Pil of the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business.