As we get deeper into the 2022-2023 NFL Football season I find myself spending several hours watching my favorite team – my colleagues at Zebra – do what they do best: track professional football players’ on-field movements using Zebra Motionworks™ technology. These Zebras have spent weeks revving up their analysis and insights of all the data captured from players’ equipment during games so that you and I can access all the Next Gen Stats we could ever want on game day. They’re even helping NFL teams capture player data during practices as part of Zebra’s role as "The Official On-Field Player-Tracking Provider" of the NFL.
As an American football fan, I'm amazed by all the information that can be gathered from this type of RFID tracking technology. Besides being cool, we can see data points about ball velocity, player speed and movement patterns that weren't even possible before. Players, coaches and trainers also enjoy detailed views of players' health and performance. This data trove revolutionizes how staff members evaluate players, even during practices, and transforms game plans.
NFL coaches are always looking for the edge – to be more competitive in a game of inches. In a recent Chalk Talk podcast, Super Bowl-winning former NFL coach (and now Fox Sports analyst) Sean Payton explained how technology has transformed football. He shared how technology is a simple solution to many challenges, the data points his coaching staff regularly looked at, and the insights they gained.
"From the training room to the classroom to the field, how we train our athletes – all of that has been impacted by the advancements in technology."
Sean Payton, Super Bowl-winning former NFL coach
What am I telling you this? What does the NFL’s use of RFID and AI have to do with the current state of retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) supply chains?
Just like the NFL, the traditional retail and CPG playbook doesn't work anymore, and companies are using new data sources to gain that edge.
"Data that wasn't even captured before is now captured," according to Sivakumar Lakshmanan, vice president and general manager of Zebra’s IT business and the former CEO of antuit.ai, which is now part of Zebra Technologies. But this data capturing goes beyond the need to capture data for data's sake – intelligent systems use the data to drive inventory decisions. Wine companies can use weather data to plan their shipments to avoid excessive heat, and health companies can utilize pollen data to place allergy medicine in suitable locations. And that’s just the start.
The past few years have been chaotic, to say the least, with retail and CPG companies experiencing both inventory shortages and gluts. The IHL Group recently published a study that put the total cost of overages and shortages at nearly $2 trillion – up 12.7% since 2020 – with$1.235 trillion of this cost due to out-of-stocks and $758 billion due to overstocks.
But the secondary effects are even more painful. When cash is locked up in inventory, companies don't have the freedom or agility to make the necessary investments. And the cost of being understocked is not limited to lost sales. According to various studies, the primary reason consumers try another brand is availability. That may not be a surprise. It’s probably not a shock that “empty shelves” are the primary reason consumers leave a store without purchasing, either. But did you know the retailer that most higher-income shoppers are turning to (because of lack of trust in others) is Amazon?