Q&A: RILA's Jess Dankert On Why Supply Chain Is Fertile Grou

RILA recognizes that changing consumer values, preferences, and lifestyles have disrupted retail, paving the way for innovation and new solutions. American retailers, now more than ever, are taking on a consumer-facing role and finding new ways to meet their customers' needs. 
As a part of these efforts, we bring together over 1,700 retail supply chain executives every year to benchmark and network with their peers at our annual Retail Supply Chain Conference. This year, we want to highlight the transformation happening throughout the retail supply chain and are excited to launch the first annual Retail RTech Supply Chain Innovation Awards

We recently sat down with Jess Dankert, RILA's vice president of supply chain to learn more about how the industry is evolving and how member companies are integrating innovation. 

Q. Tell us a little about your role at RILA. 

JD: As the vice president of supply chain, I drive functional activities within this practice area and the Retail Supply Chain Conference. I also work with our member companies to benchmark, problem solve, and continue to innovate within their roles. And I support RILA's SVP of Retail Operations Lisa LaBruno with the activities of RILA's Supply Chain Leaders Council, which directs RILA's overall strategy with regard to supply chain issues. 

Q. What are some of the topline goals and/or challenges for retail supply chain executives? 

JD: Supply chain executives are focused on meeting their customers' needs and expectations. Now, more than ever, consumers have an on-demand shopping style which shifts supply chain towards the customer. E-commerce is a great example; supply chains are more and more customer-facing and must be nimble and responsive enough to make sure merchandise is in the right place at the right time, whether that's a store in Manhattan or a doorstep in North Dakota. 

Every company is finding new ways to be more responsive and create solutions within this space. Supply chain executives are problem-solvers and are always reevaluating and evolving. 

Q. The retail industry at large has seen tremendous change over the last several years. What has been the biggest change in the supply chain space and what are biggest challenges associated with that? 

JD: The biggest change has been the shift to a more customer-facing enterprise. Retailers realize this shift and have become more strategically focused on investing and innovating in their supply chains.  They are challenged with running very responsive supply chains that can be adaptable to changes, now and in the future, all within current economic realities. 

Q. What is RILA's role in helping members meet those challenges? 

JD: RILA has many resources for members, from advocacy efforts to connecting with leading practices. We convene retail executives to benchmark, discuss solutions and problem solve. They often face common or similar challenges, and value having a network of peers as a sounding board. RILA also functions as a channel for interaction and feedback with the solution provider community, communicating industry needs and challenges in order to help shape more on-target solutions.   

Q. Are there any recent or future notable events coming up for this group? 

JD: Yes! First, our Supply Chain Leaders Council will meet September 26-27,2018 in Nashville, TN to discuss our priorities for the year ahead. Part of that meeting will be devoted to a "Shark Tank" style exercise where a curated group of startup companies will pitch their solutions to influential supply chain leaders, who will then offer critical feedback and potentially propose pilot projects. 

And, we are gearing up for our annual Retail Supply Chain Conference and have launched our first Retail (R)Tech Supply Chain Innovation Awards. Supply Chain is a fertile ground for innovation and we're excited to be a catalyst to scout and highlight great ideas. We're looking for emerging solutions and disruptive ideas—from retail or even other industries—that will help advance retail supply chain.  Transportation, inventory, advanced analytics, distribution, material handling… our supply chain challenge is broad, and we anticipate a wide variety of contestants vying to find out whose solution is the most innovative. 

The awards are currently open and are accepting submissions until November 30. Finalists will have the opportunity to present at the Retail Supply Chain Conference in February.  

Q. How can interested retailers get involved? 

JD: Supply chain executives can reach out to me or Lisa for more information on how to get involved with any of our retail operations communities. Additionally, to learn more about all RILA is doing in this space, our website is a great place to start. 

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