One of the biggest challenges facing the retail and apparel
industry is the need to catch up to, and succeed in, a wildly competitive
market. As more and more brands begin to accelerate their processes and look
for ways to bring about increased optimization and efficiency, it has become
more critical than ever for supply chains to also work on improvements. Between
the demand for transparency from consumers and the need to compete in a
fast-paced market, it’s not surprising that apparel and retail companies have
begun to focus on prioritizing and innovating their supply chains. Implementing
new technology will be pivotal for most of these brands if they wish to stay
afloat in our era of fast fashion.
An adaptable supply chain allows for far faster response times,
allowing brands to pinpoint which products are selling and which products
aren’t. If a certain piece is selling far more units than expected, a brand can
pivot to immediately increase production of that particular unit, but traditional
supply chains don’t accommodate this type of rapid-fire response, with turnaround
times for reorders ranging from 10 to 25 weeks, by which time the window of
opportunity is lost. So, it’s easy to see why a flexible
supply chain is absolutely critical in delivering the correct products at the
right time, and flexibility can only happen through the use of automated
processes within the supply chain. Automated process can handle faster
turnaround times and quicker responses, leading to more informed and accurate
decisions, while also increasing efficiency at all levels of the
Faster supply chains also deliver greater visibility. A variety
of software solutions are available for brands seeking to promote greater
visibility within their supply chain and other processes. If a team has access
to information across the entire company (design, production, and
distribution), then they are well-informed about what is happening and what
problems may arise, which all ties into flexibility and the ability to generate
faster response times.
Problems can also be addressed as they appear in real-time if
everyone has access to the same information, promoting greater collaboration
between different departments and even with a company’s suppliers. It’s also
important for companies to communicate with their entire supply chain –
successful brands establish relationships with everyone in the supply chain,
emphasizing communication and opening up dialogues. This leads to better
working relationships and an ability to collaborate when it comes to solving
problems within the supply chain. Both visibility and collaboration work
hand-in-hand to increase efficiency and minimize problems such as mismanaged
inventory. The supply chain of the future will promote and emphasize both
flexibility and visibility, as both are needed in order to truly create and
nurture well-optimized processes.
Visibility also leads to transparency, which is vital as the consumers
of today become more conscientious and socially responsible. The fashion world
has been plagued by tragedies, such as the Rana Plaza collapse; as a result,
consumers are demanding a more ethical shift within the industry. With a fully
transparent supply chain, consumers can rest assured that the products they are
purchasing come from ethical and fair-trade companies, where workers are given
the rights they deserve.
It’s not far-fetched to think that, one day, consumers could open
an app on their phone and scan a product’s barcode and be able to see every
step of its lifecycle. There are already brands that promote transparency and
fair-trade practices, but smarter supply chains could make it easier for all
brands to do so.
In all, it’s clear that the apparel industry is going through a transformation
in response to an ever-evolving market. Faster, more efficient solutions are
replacing previous standards within the industry as technology begins to weave
its way into the retail and apparel worlds. As companies begin to focus on
innovating their supply chains, they must remember that flexibility and
visibility are key factors in building the supply chains of the future.
Innovation is the name of the game for almost any industry today. In order to keep up with the constantly changing market, manufacturers recognize that it is time to get serious about adapting and finding smart solutions in order to remain competitive. As a result, much of the fashion world is turning to digital or technological solutions to keep pace in a rapidly evolving industry. Manufacturers in every industry are considering the benefits of “smart factories” powered by IoT (Internet of Things) tech[MOU1] .
The ultimate goal for any factory of the future is to minimize,
and ultimately eliminate, problems such as inefficiency, waste, and downtime.
While smart factories may differ in specifics from company to company, the
general principle is that processes can be improved through self-optimization
and automation using the combination of production, information, and
factories also allow for the possibility of integration across the entire
supply chain. The benefits of smart factories go far beyond just physical
production – development, logistics, and planning can all be improved by a
smart factory’s data collection and access to real-time information. Interconnected
devices are able to communicate with each other, and through their
communications, the factory gains far more transparency and visibility, which
can all be used to make better and more informed real-time decisions.
This interconnectivity allows fashion manufacturers to better
manage quality assurance, particularly because the technology allows for
constant monitoring of products before release. If something goes wrong,
workers will be alerted, and the mistake can be easily corrected. This
translates into more quality products being delivered, which also reduces waste
and improves customer satisfaction.
Due to smart factories’ self-optimization features, processes
throughout the entire plant can be tested and then streamlined. Fashion manufacturers
are able to see which parts of the process may be broken or redundant, allowing
for a more optimized and efficient supply chain to come into play. The biggest
benefit, however, comes as smart factories collect and analyze data from all
parts of the supply chain. Manufacturers are able to access a wealth of
information, allowing them to make better informed decisions. In addition,
companies can now respond to problems as they arise in real-time, thus creating
a more adaptable and flexible environment.
Despite all the benefits, some organizations will be slow to
adopt smart factories due to concerns about the costs associated with
implementing new technologies and adding the network to connect them. This is
often a misconception. Partnering with the right fashion-specific technology
provider can ensure a cost-effective and smooth transition to smart
manufacturing. At Exenta, our clients find an overwhelming ROI just months
after implementing our ShopFloor Control solution.
As the apparel industry increasingly embraces the benefits of
smart manufacturing, those who wait to adopt new technologies will find it very
challenging to compete in this era of fast fashion.
link to IoT and Fashion blog post unless that is an SEO issue
Staying alive in the Fashion Industry has always been tough. It is one of the most competitive environments in commerce. The apparel companies and designers who once thrived did so by having vison. They knew what their customers wanted, even before they knew what they wanted.
In the past, intuition, business judgment, and vision successfully
introduced the newest fashion trends to the runway, and then to the
market. Victory in Fashion was once an art. Visionary designers led the
way into the latest trends and fads as if only they possessed crystal
balls. What they produced sold, and fast. The good news, and the bad
news, is that victory in Fashion is no longer just an art. It is also a
science. In fact, merging the two is now necessary for survival in the
Fashion Industry today.
Today, prospering Fashion companies must have two things: Vision and Real-Time Information.
Creativity is still a must, but apparel companies must also know
exactly what is happening, at all times, from design, to manufacturing,
to fulfillment. Where is the inventory, how much of it is on the shelves
at this very moment, when is it moving and to where? What garments in
particular are customers buying, and in which sizes and colors? There is
no time for mistakes. The apparel companies that have this real-time
information are constantly taking design concepts to consumers faster
and faster, and perhaps most importantly, they are profiting by most
accurately predicting demand and fulfilling it. They are leaving little
room for their competition to bear the cost of waste, obsolete
inventory, chargebacks, and even Fashion prediction and guesswork.
Apparel companies and designers without Real-Time information
have no choice but to implement new technology or to upgrade their
legacy systems. In short, this is now a world that responds
immediately to consumer demand rather than first predicting what
consumer demand will be. This is now a world where to stay alive, one
must live in harmony with the tech giants. It is arguable that Amazon
alone has created an environment in which Fashion companies have no
choice but to deliver what the customer wants to the customer’s door,
preferably not tomorrow, but yesterday. The only way to do this is
through turning a lot of data (Big Data) into real-time information.
The available technology
choices for success are arguably many, but still there are a number of things
an Apparel company must have in place to best convert real-time information
into cost-effectiveness and a profitable bottom line. A few of these are:
1. Accurate real-time supply and demand prediction. What
is happening with product and materials, right now? In today’s climate,
with such short inventory cycles, there needs to be complete visibility
into the supply chain. With the right system in place, an apparel
company can predict future consumer demand by using technology that
allows immediate visibility into materials, inventory and product flow.
For example, with the right system in place, a manager can see what the
consumer or retailer is buying today and then make relevant purchasing
decisions in real time. Without the right system in place, procurement
and fulfillment becomes guesswork. Buying decisions are verified long
after the fact, sometimes months later when the old legacy system
reports are finally produced and delivered by the accounting department.
2. Real-time purchasing decisions. When real-time
purchasing decisions can be made, apparel companies minimize the cost of
materials, an expense which is nearly always the greatest burden to
managing cash flow. With real-time purchasing at one’s fingertips, via a
vendor portal system or module, vendors submit bids or quotes in a
matter of minutes. There is no wait time. The best prices are known and
acted upon without any guesswork. For many companies, success is found
in a real-time competitive bidding environment that only the right
technology can provide. Real-time bidding competition often gets the
best materials pricing.
3. Predictive analytics
and Business Intelligence (BI). It should be highlighted that just having
real-time data, or the information derived from it, does not currently provide
the most competitive and leading edge real-time information. The best
technology in the market now not only provides visibility into real-time
information, but also turns this information into graphs, data-charts, and
predictive analytics. In other words, the best BI tools visually (in a
snapshot) show exactly where inventory movement is lagging and where warehouse
shelves are being depleted. They show in pictures exactly how much of every
item, and in which geographies, materials and inventory are moving from the
shelves, to the retailer, and ultimately into the hands of the consumer.
If you have questions or would like to learn more, please contact us.