Like millions of other professionals working remotely from home, I ditched my business suits and high heels in favor of more comfortable styles. However, I had been holding onto my closet full of gray and black outfits even after moving to Florida and hadn’t converted to pastels and bright colors until recently. 2023 was the year I tipped my toes into pink – thanks to Barbie! 

This holiday season when my husband asked what he should get me as a present, I asked for trendy sneakers that I can wear to parties, and to work events.” He took on the challenge, went through my closet, searched the web, and came up with a bright idea that hot pink sneakers would be a perfect addition to my wardrobe. 

"People feel more empowered to wear more daring shades of pink rather than that muted millennial pink shades that we had embraced before," says fashion executive CeCe Vu. "It's more of a statement showcasing feminine strength." 

Until then, he was completely unaware of the Barbie pink trend, since he went shopping at the last minute and could not find my size in the local mall. He had to order it online last minute; unfortunately, my pink sneakers didn’t arrive on time for Christmas. 

I had resisted writing about the impact of Barbie-craze on supply chains since the Barbie movie was released in the U.S. with the biggest box-office weekend ever. As I spent the holidays anxiously waiting for my hot pink sneakers, I took this as a sign that as a new pink convert and as a supply chain technologist, I should write about how to seize opportunities like the Barbiecore trend! 

After spending the last couple of years talking about supply disruptions and challenges such as port congestions, surging freight costs, raw material scarcity, workforce and labor shortages, and extreme weather effects, I’m ready for a pink break.  In this blog, I’ll be discussing how advanced planning capabilities can help seize opportunities and grow topline profitably.  

4 Must-Haves for Supply Chain Planning Enabling Growth

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Just like Barbie-pink, AI/ML is also the hottest trend in technology. I don’t know how long the pink effect will last, but AI is here to stay and it will help businesses identify emerging trends and opportunities. 

AI-powered demand-sensing capabilities can process data from many different sources and pick up emerging trends from social media data. AI can process structured data, such as the Barbiecore search trends in Google, and unstructured data such as visuals of designer collections featuring pink, (e.g. the Valentino Fall 2022 PP collection). 

“Hundreds of Barbiecore Pinterest boards have been created since 2019, and most recently, the term has been a trending hashtag on TikTok (with nearly 15 million views). Last July also saw a high search volume on Etsy, in which hot pink fashion-related items were up 35% in preceding three months compared to 2021, per Good Morning America.”

Note that, GenZ is using TikTok more than Google to search for product recommendations, so sources of external data need to be aligned with your target customers.

AI/ML has more applications in the supply chain planning world beyond improving forecasting. AI models can also be used to classify products based on their sales trends and lifecycle curves businesses can easily plan and execute different pricing and inventory tactics. They can be used to assess uncertainty around supply availability and provide predictive alerts so businesses can take proactive actions.  For those businesses who are just beginning their digital transformation journey, there is no need to panic about the state of their data, AI/ML can also help you diagnose and fix problems in your data.

2. Automated Decision Making

Digital workflows using internal and external data to integrate and automate end-to-end supply chain planning processes, providing a closed-loop planning from demand, to supply to fulfillment planning can immensely improve planner productivity and the quality and speed of decision-making.   GenZ employees want to be engaged in creative and exciting work such as how to make the most of the Barbie effect instead of getting lost in the manual analysis, planning, and allocation of the regular products.

Control towers with visibility across demand and supply and automated diagnostics and predictive alerts covering the end-to-end supply chain ecosystem can improve the productivity of scarce resources by pointing out the exceptions in supply and demand that need special attention.  So have a planning platform that can automate 90% of the daily decisions, so all human talent and creativity can focus on the juicy 10%. 

3. Scenario Planning Using Digital Supply Chain Twins

To enable resilient supply chains that can respond to opportunities like the Barbie trend, planning systems need to make it easy to create and evaluate different options for sourcing, inventory placement, and logistics so businesses can make data-driven decisions fast and take action to seize these opportunities.  Since the pandemic, more and more businesses are looking into options for near-shoring their supply network to reduce lead times and risks of sourcing from Asia. This requires Robust scenario planning using digital supply chain twins to simulate the impact of different sourcing, production, warehousing, and logistics options and address trade-offs in terms of impact on customer service, logistics costs, and carbon footprint.  

"In preparation for the Barbie movie launch, Mattel expanded manufacturing in Mexico and Canada for the North American market which also meant sourcing raw materials closer to core markets to keep up with the demand lift."

If your scenario planning still happens in spreadsheets and takes hours or even days to evaluate different network flow scenarios,  you are probably missing opportunities for cost savings, revenue growth, or carbon footprint reduction.

4. Connected Supply Chain Ecosystems 

Ecosystem collaboration at different planning horizons (strategic, tactical, and operational) reduces the surprises in the fulfillment of orders and makes it easier to come up with alternative plans in case of surprises. Thanks to cloud technology, businesses can easily collaborate with their suppliers, 3PL partners, and even customers without having to invest in expensive integration initiatives. Collaboration and alignment across the value chain provide visibility and speed and ensure capacity and material plans are in place for new products like the Barbie-related collections to be launched around the movie release. 

Often the window of opportunity for such collections is fairly tight, and businesses need to move fast to get their new products on the market as well as be able to order more and replenish sales channels as demand picks up. On the operational side, managing the lifecycle of the replenishment orders with the suppliers can also be done via cloud-based collaboration where they receive updates on the status of their orders. If the pink sneakers are flying off the shelves, the retailer needs to see when the next batch will reach the distribution center and needs to get updates from 3PLs delivering the goods from the supplier as well.  

"The [Mattel] group has forged more than 100 partnerships with everyone from big brands including Zara and Primark to even the unlikeliest of names, such as Burger King and Uno. And if there was any doubt about the demand, many of the collections have sold out within hours of going live."

Businesses that thrive during the most challenging times are those that have agile supply chains that can enable them to seize opportunities.  Therefore, It’s time to start looking at supply chain planning technology as a growth enabler.  The Barbie effect is just an example of many opportunities that are available for businesses that leverage the next-generation planning platforms to make fast and data-driven decisions and stay ahead of the curve.   

If you would like to learn more about the capabilities discussed in this blog go ahead and book a meeting with me!