5 Ways Technology Alleviates Common Supply Chain Problems for Fashion Brands

5 Ways Technology Alleviates Common Supply Chain Problems for Fashion Brands

Apparel and home goods customers have a greater number of brand and product choices than ever before in history. So it’s critical that brands can deliver the right products at the right time to capitalize on tastes and trends. The supply chain affects both customer experience and the bottom line, so let’s examine some of the ways technology can make a positive impact on fashion supply chains and avoid some common supply chain problems.

The danger of a fragile supply chain
A weak supply chain can disrupt your plans to deliver products to the marketplace, jeopardizing your relationships with key customers and putting your business at risk of getting stuck with out-of-trend, unwanted inventory. Deliver late orders or inconsistent quality products because you lacked inventory or your vendors failed you, and you might soon find your own customers seeking an alternate supplier. Repairing a damaged relationship is never as good as maintaining a positive one—and recovery issues can be costly when mistakes have been made.

1. Gain real-time visibility across the supply chain
Having an integrated technology platform that brings together information about customers, orders, products, vendors, and inventory can help you achieve visibility across your supply chain. This has many implications for running a fashion brand more efficiently. Real-time insight can enable you to do better forecasting and spot potential supply chain problems before they materialize. When issues do arise, you will react more quickly and improve relationships with partners and customers by being more transparent. Real-time visibility into the supply chain starts with the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. It serves the central data hub of your integrated supply chain platform.

2. Stay agile by modeling ‘what-if’ scenarios
A lot of things can happen between the time a design is ready for manufacturing and when you receive finished goods into inventory. Problems at ports and borders can create logistical challenges. Natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes and typhoons can destroy production facilities. In the global economy, fluid geopolitical situations and changing trade agreements can impact whether it makes sense to produce in different regions. For example, Bangladesh, Vietnam and other Asian nations to adjust to the growing tariffs in the trade conflict between the US and China.

A real-time supply chain platform can enable you model what-if scenarios, so that you know how you will respond to changing business conditions. For example, it can help you:

• Decide where to manufacture based on border conditions, logistics and tariffs.
• Adjust for transient problems in the supply chain, for example bad weather or a worker strike, by expediting shipping or negotiating a different pay rate.
• Choose vendors based on past results and current supplies and pricing.
• Make adjustments to production orders based on demand from your retailers.

3. Shorten time from design to delivery
Top fast fashion retailers deliver lucrative, on-trend products to market in about two weeks, compared to the traditional six to nine month lifecycles. Brands with better-than-average supply chain visibility through technology enjoy more opportunities to profit from changing trends than supply chain laggards. To move this quickly, brand owners use Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software to accelerate design, development and sourcing while fostering greater supply chain collaboration. PLM helps brands streamline approvals, change management, line selection, vendor quotes and bids, compliance and other global processes.

4. Improve vendor management and communication
Speeding up the supply chain and improving quality requires excellent relationships with your vendor partners. Vendor Portal technology makes it easy to communicate and collaborate in real-time or near real-time with vendors around the world. You can give vendors anytime access to tech packs, product documents, product or sample images, and order information. A Vendor Portal helps brands automate procurement and bidding, track supply chain stages, and eliminate mistakes and miscommunications that arise from communicating through email and spreadsheets.

5. Take control of global inventory and reduce over-ordering
No brand wants to dampen customer engagement and enthusiasm by having enough apparel ready to satisfy demand, so overproduction is rampant. According to fashion sustainability consultant Hasmik Matevosyan, 30% of clothes produced are never sold, another 30% must be deeply discounted, and 15% of materials remain in the factory due to production mistakes and cutting waste. It all adds up to an industry that is currently the second most polluting on the planet (after the energy industry).

When you lack real-time visibility into inventory, over-ordering creates excess inventory that is often unloaded in unsustainable ways, from deep discounting to burning/shredding deadstock. Research has shown that consumers care about the environmental issues associated with fashion; according to Hitwise, “19% of the top fast fashion related searches were about the environment, ethics and sustainability.”

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) provide complete visibility into inventory levels of production supplies and finished garments. Shop Floor Control technology delivers visibility into production lines and WIP, whether manufacturing takes place at an internal facility or a vendor. Shop Floor Control delivers up to 37% higher productivity and up to 44% quality improvement, based on data from Exenta customers. Our supply chain platform also delivers Shopfloor Third Party Manufacturing (3PM) management, enabling brands to keep inventories lean by seeing exactly where WIP is in the process and when to expect deliveries.

By combining ERP, Shop Floor Control, WMS, a Vendor Portal and PLM, Exenta has created the only end-to-end, complete supply chain platform designed to empower agility in the fashion and soft goods industry. Ready to learn more about how to improve supply chain visibility with Exenta? Contact us today for a demo.

How Technology Innovation Will Impact the Future of Fashion

How Technology Innovation Will Impact the Future of Fashion

From designing new clothing lines to delivering new customer experiences, fashion thrives on innovation. In today’s digital retail environment, fashion innovation will be driven by advanced technologies, including Augmented Reality, 3D Prototyping, Modeling and Printing, and Artificial Intelligence with Machine Learning.

Augmented Reality
According to research by CPC Strategy, 57% of Millennials and 63% of Gen Z already purchase apparel online from Amazon. Fashion brands and retailers will need to work together to enhance digital shopping, including ways to help customers better visualize and personalize their clothing.

Augmented reality grabbed the spotlight when Pokémon Go exploded onto the gaming scene in 2016. It’s already being used in manufacturing and logistics. While virtual reality (VR) requires a headset and other technology to create a fantasy experience, augmented reality (AR) takes your existing real-world environment and overlays objects and animations onto it.

AR has at least two potential uses in the fashion industry. First, it can be used in the design environment to help designers immerse themselves more fully in their creative process. Designers can grab different garments and use AR to change the fabric, color, embellishments, trims, and even the shape and lines of the clothing to try out different concepts.

The second useful application of AR is for customer experience. As a consumer shops for a sweater, they can select different colors or fabrics and see the changes appear in the photo of the model. Spinning the view around 360 degrees, they can see what the garment looks like from every angle. In an advanced AR experience, consumers may upload their own photos to see how clothing looks on them using their mobile phones.

3D Technologies
One of the most exciting areas of advanced innovation in fashion today is three dimensional technologies. From the manufacturing process to the retail experience, 3D technology makes fashion leap off the flat page or screen and take form. There are many ways 3D technology will impact fashion, and two promising areas are 3D Fit and 3D Printed Fashion.

3D Fit
What can be more disappointing than eagerly awaiting new clothing only to discover that it looked much better in the online photos than it does on your real-life body? 3D fit gives consumers the ability to map their body style—with an easy-to-use mobile app—and accurately envision how they would look wearing any garment without physically trying it on. This technology greatly enhances the digital shopping experience and could lead to greater customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

3D Printed Fashion
Three dimensional printers have been working their way into fashion businesses for a number of years, and soon, they’ll become more common in consumer homes. For designers, the cost of 3D visualization and prototyping is falling as 3D printers become more widely adopted. According to a recent article in Forbes, “high-end SLA desktop 3D printers can be had for under $5,000. This democratization of the technology will empower smaller designers and unleash a wave of creativity in both design and business models.”

Today, the average consumer 3D printer costs around $700. Perhaps in the not-so-distant future, fashion brands may simply sell designs online, with consumers using 3D fit to size the design and augmented reality to choose options, before printing the garment at home. Not only would consumers benefit from perfectly fitted clothing, the fashion industry would take a giant leap forward in sustainability by reducing textile waste.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
It can be difficult to wrap our human mind around the power and potential of artificial intelligence. Simply put, AI is the simulation of human intelligence by computer. In machine learning, the system’s programming, combined with a stream of real-time data, enables it to improve and self-correct, based on its own experiences and without additional human input.

AI is capable of taking a tremendous amount of data and outputting recommendations and suggestions that drive business outcomes. Fashion manufacturing can benefit, for example, by using AI to harness big data and predict what lines should be rebalanced. Using historical data, AI can optimize the production cycle, taking into account real-time variables, such as weather, time of day, individual performance of employees working on the line, the products being manufactured, the raw materials being used, and much more.

High Tech Fashion Fuels the Customer Experience
Advanced technologies such as 3D, AR and AI have the potential to reshape the future of the fashion and accessories industry. Fashion brands will need to partner with technology providers with deep understanding of the industry’s needs who have the vision to harness the potential of technological innovation for real-world applications that improve manufacturing, supply chain, retail, and customer experience.

Exenta is a forward looking company. We work with our customers to figure out where advanced technologies intersect with competitive market needs and consumer desires. We offer the only end to end, integrated workflow solution for the fashion industry, and we incorporate practical applications of advanced technologies to ensure our customers stay ahead of the market.

Key Considerations in Choosing Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software

Key Considerations in Choosing Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software

Digital consumers demand a lot from their favorite brands—more innovative products, greater customization, and faster delivery to market. The right Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software can make the difference between generating viral demand and product buzz—or delivering stale fashion after the popular wave has crested.

Today’s modern PLM solutions deliver powerful benefits to apparel and soft goods brands
Product Lifecycle Management software empowers global fashion and soft goods brands to enhance collaboration and creativity to elevate the quality of product designs. PLM also enables easier collaboration with vendors and suppliers to improve supply chain management. It delivers greater visibility and control throughout the product lifecycle, improving speed to market. In all of these ways, PLM can help brands improve their profit margins.

While some of the largest apparel manufacturers already use PLM software, many brands are hobbled by outdated legacy systems that don’t do much to help them compete. That’s why the overall market for replacing PLM grew by 8% over the last year.

7 questions to ask when choosing a Product Lifecycle Management solution
The best PLM software solutions are highly usable, easily adopted by your employees, and offer a rapid return on investment. Here are seven questions to help you assess your options:

1. Is it easy to learn? Any new business software platform needs to add efficiency rather than cause business disruption. So a new PLM will need to be very easy for your employees to learn to use. If the software is not intuitive, it will cause frustration and fail to deliver intended benefits to your organization.

“When I trained the designers here, it took about one day, maybe two hours of serious training with them. We did a webinar and it was so easy for them to use. They learned [PLM REVO™] in about that time, and they were off and running.” – Julie Keller, Krazy Kat Sportwear

2. Will it improve organizational efficiency? PLM puts information at your fingertips, so your team can more easily share designs, collaborate on ideas, and analyze outcomes. It should be easy to search for prior designs and adapt them within new product ideas. Communication and messaging tools throughout the PLM system should facilitate real-time commenting and notifications.

“It’s been so much easier to use this program than our other PLMs… It’s just a very simple speedy program. The navigation is clear, it’s not hard to use, and it’s fast… You can find things quickly, and any kind of speed you can add to your job, it just makes everything easier. Especially with a business like ours, time is of the essence.” – Julie Keller, Krazy Kat Sportwear

3. Does it enable global collaboration? Cloud-based PLM software can streamline approvals, changes, vendor quotes and bids, compliance and other global processes. Mobile capabilities enable users to access and analyze information from any location. Real-time information and analytics will keep members of a global team on the same page.

4. Will the interface design encourage adoption? If you want designers to use PLM software, it needs a user interface with clean, visually pleasing design elements. To help your team create innovative products, it’s important to provide the tools and workspaces that help designers tap into their creativity.

“The look of the program is so visually pleasing, and something like that—for a creative type—it’s really important. When you see something that looks clear, it’s uncluttered, and you can see your designs in big, beautiful format… You’ve got your sketches big on the screen, and it’s just very simple to use.” – Julie Keller, Krazy Kat Sportwear

5. Does it work with preferred design tools? Your designers will want to be able to flow back and forth between PLM and preferred design tools effortlessly. For example, Exenta PLM REVO™ Design Plug-in for Adobe® Illustrator® enables designers to launch new concepts, contribute to and use information from PLM without ever leaving their design software.

6. Will it speed up your time-to-market? Typically it takes eight to ten months to develop a product from concept to production. PLM should speed that up by helping designers and product managers spend more time creating new products and minimizing tedious data entry. By automating time-consuming processes, PLM helps ensure the timely delivery of on-trend products.

“With PLM REVO, you can just quickly copy some things so fast, get the specs in quickly. It makes the whole process so much easier, and we did that literally in the amount of five minutes. We’ve made a whole new style from one other style. And it was quick, and easy, and functioned well.” – Julie Keller, Krazy Kat Sportwear

7. Does it integrate with ERP? If you don’t use ERP in your business, then you’ll need a PLM that can stand alone. But if you already have ERP or your future technology plans call for adding ERP, make sure the PLM you choose will be able to be easily integrated.

Is it time for a PLM revolution in your business?
Exenta PLM REVO is a next-generation PLM that delivers the simplest path from concept to customer for apparel and soft goods brands. This easy-to-use platform features functionality to help brands improve: Communication, Design, Tech Pack Development, Line & Seasonal Management, Material & Sample Tracking, and Sourcing & Costing.

Whether you are looking for your first PLM fashion software or seeking to upgrade from a legacy PLM to experience more benefits, our Exenta team stands ready to help you.

Watch the video below to hear PLM REVO product manager, Nikole Davis, Exenta CTO, Ken Fearnley, and one of our customers, describe why PLM REVO is an evolution in PLM software. Or, contact us today for a demo to see how it helps brands design their best products and bring them to market more quickly.

Exenta_PLM_FINaL from Exenta Markeing on Vimeo.

1 WhichPLM Buyer’s Guide, 2019.