Reflections from The World Economic Forum 2019


On day #4 of the World Economic Forum annual meeting here in snowy, sunny Davos deep in the Swiss Alps, the real themes of the global consumer products industry are coming into focus with live debates and energetic conversations.

In a nutshell, global shifts in consumer demographics and behavior and digital-driven competition are demanding:

  • transparency of product provenance and new models of localized and personalized retail and service delivery as consumers are increasingly making values-based purchasing decisions;
  • rules and competencies to gather and make use of data on a global scale, while protecting consumer trust and navigating increasing regulation and accountability to how data is used;
  • real application of artificial intelligence to production and delivery for speed and integrity, while addressing the implications of the technology for workforces;
  • scaling-up of new models for manufacturing that competes with agility and dynamic value chains; and
  • urgent (and necessary) high impact response to sustainability, and specifically to climate change (see the WEF Blog post I just published touching this theme).

The rules of the Forum negate sharing specific consumer industry CEO comments, but these themes abound in discussion at Davos this week, and the urgency of solutions for a global response is tangible.

Selected by World Economic Forum as a Technology Pioneer, EVRYTHNG has three major technology contributions to the dialogue here:  

First, our role working with GS1 to upgrade the world’s barcodes with Digital Link giving every product and every product item a web address at mass scale, turning every item into a data generator throughout its lifecycle, and connecting every product item with its digital twin Active Digital Identity in the cloud. This has created a key component of the standards-based data infrastructure for the digitization of physical products at mass scale.

Second, EVRYTHNG’s application and integration of multiple supply chain Blockchains to facilitate data sharing and application of real-time analytics with supply chain data — fundamentals for addressing the scaling of traceability (which by definition needs to work across an ecosystem of suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers) and the application of AI in the supply chain.

And third, machine learning applied to supply chain data for integrity detection and process optimization.

I’m thrilled EVRYTHNG is leading and participating in discussions on the future of manufacturing, blockchain in the supply chain, sustainability in manufacturing and response to consumer trends where these innovations are being applied.

Much has been made at Davos this year of the diversity of the operating environments in which consumer product brands and manufacturers are operating. Whether it be responding to GenZ’s values-driven purchasing behavior contrasted with the experiential needs of aging populations in developed markets. Or whether it be the tapestry of data management regulations across the world, Europe’s GDPR in one corner, China’s regime in another, the relatively loose framework in the U.S. in another. The fundamental message is that we now live in a world where consumers expect localized and personalized experiences, where the effectiveness of data integration and data flow has to navigate national rules, and where the competence of instrumentation and data management has moved from being a cost center issue to being a value-driven determinant of competitive advantage.

For EVRYTHNG’s mission of organizing the world’s product data, it’s an encouraging picture. There are a lot of issues to work through for digital transformation in the consumer product industry to yield its full value potential, but the framework is coming into clear focus.

The ability to have traceability of every product item through the supply chain, into the hands of the consumer and beyond is table stakes. Direct connection with the consumer is the only way to compete in an experience-driven consumer world. The fidelity and real-time application of data gathered during the product’s supply chain journey is the keystone to competitive advantage for consumer product brands — for efficiency, integrity protection, transparency and compliance.

More reflections to come.

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