In previous chapters we focused on people and tools as elements of product development. This post outlines the value of refining processes to maximize efficiency and concludes on this series of blogs.
Blog 4/4: Process, by Kate Robinson, Editor at Lectra
The most important process in apparel development is the sharing of information. Most of the time, the information being transferred is subjective (like color) or highly detailed (styles, patterns, technical specifications). Having a process means establishing a guiding structure and a common language to get this information from one hand to the next. Often, processes arise on their own or change as companies evolve, without formalization; unfortunately, they don’t always represent the best way to do something. And more often than not, people are too busy just trying to get things done to rethink how they are doing them.
An image is worth a thousand words
There are some simple ways to make the communication process more reliable and productive to get things right the first time: structure and “language” really means agreeing on the form information will take; what information needs to appear in a spec pack or deciding to use numeric values to communicate color, for example. Which language is best for communicating between people with different needs, in different countries? As any traveler knows, the best way to get an idea across in a country where you don’t speak the language is to show it. That’s why visual dictionaries are so convenient. The same is true for communicating information about apparel. A process based on shared visuals will yield far better communication and fewer errors.
A great example of this is when designers and pattern designers are able to work side by side, sharing the same vision of the brand and the customer they were working for—from the very beginning. The seamless integration of design and development seems natural, but pattern designers aren’t always immediately convinced. Sometimes they are so caught up in constantly correcting for process inefficiencies that they don’t realize the inefficiency of the process itself.
A change in process, a change in strategy
A change in process in one or two departments can open new possibilities for strategic growth if the motivation comes from big-picture goals. A single change in the design room can prep the terrain for a whole new market approach. Process improvements that result in faster turnaround and first-time-right garments, for example, can help a design center convince retail that they are capable of delivering commercially viable products independently, thereby proving the value of process change and judicious technology use.
When individuals stop functioning in isolation, concentrating on completing a single task, and become more connected to the overall process, their own job-well-done contributes to the bigger picture. When a sound process is in place on the ground, companies can start thinking seriously about high-level strategic moves forward.
Building collaboration is about replacing I with We at every stage of the apparel development process. Collaboration implies sharing and exchange from every perspective, all along the way, with the goal of making better, smarter decisions from the beginning and asking intelligent questions to direct expertise where it is most beneficial. It’s about shedding light into the corners where information gets lost and helping teams get the visibility they need to go from operating blindly to making well-informed decisions and stay ahead of the game, not just keep up. But remember, collaboration takes effort to build—and it takes a team to do it.
To read the whole Whitepaper: “Weaving We Into Apparel Development” – click here to download