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How Digital Transformation is Fundamentally Changing the Fashion Industry

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Many fashion companies have already invested in a form of digitization by deploying PLM solutions, but these are no longer sufficient to deliver what is required today. Progressive companies are now realizing that they must fundamentally change the way they have previously operated. Here, in the form of an internal Q&A, DeSL has provided their answers to some burning questions on the topic, to better understand their approach to digital transformation. Colin Marks, Pam Peale & Leo Silence share their thoughts.

Q. Initially, we must establish what digital transformation is in the Fashion Industry?

Firstly, we need to clearly differentiate between ‘digitization’ and ‘digitalization’. Digitization is simply changing an analogue piece of information into digital data. A perfect example of this is a PDF tech pack. A PDF tech pack is, in reality, a static representation of product data at a specific point in time. It is very difficult to use the data contained in a PDF and is normally just used to be an easy way to print at a vendor location. Digitalization, however, means something completely different. Digital transformation means using digital technology in order to change the way a company operates, to drive growth and efficiency in new or existing markets and add more value to customers. In order to deploy this new paradigm, key pieces of data such as tech packs must be transformed into useful data, which can easily be used in a variety of different ways such as integration with vendor systems or manufacturing equipment.

When evaluating how digital transformation can help a company, it’s not a matter of asking, “how much faster can we do things in the same way?” It’s about what digital technology is capable of achieving, and how we can change our business to make the most of this opportunity.

PLM systems by themselves will not be able to deliver full digital transformation. Whilst they are an important part of the solution they are not the complete solution. Traditionally, PLM systems start from product concept and end at approved tech packs and costing. This is just one part of a company’s overall process, so we need to extend into the procurement and sales business processes and exploit the capabilities of virtual sampling, 3D models and digital color approvals.

Q. What are some of the key benefits that companies can expect to achieve from digital transformation?

If fully implemented, the benefits will be ‘game-changing’ and can include:

  1. Improved real-time workflows which will push core processes to happen faster and more efficiently.
  2. Removal of, or reduction in, time taken for mundane tasks that will then enable staff to focus on key activities.
  3. Improved efficiencies in the development processes to get new products to market faster with virtual samples and digital approvals.
  4. Increased revenues by making it easier for customers to buy products along with improved customer service.
  5. Seamless integration of data with vendors in the development and production stages which will improve ability to change and reduce manufacturing times and cost.
  6. Improved decision making based on real data, insights, and machine learning.

Q. In order for companies to survive and thrive in a post COVID-19 era, the fashion sector must drop its reliance on outdated software and manual processes to progress. How does a company achieve this?

No one is saying that the journey to full digital transformation is going to be an easy one and should not be underestimated. Companies should plan their journey very carefully and define a number of achievable and measurable milestones. The key thing is that not just specific areas in a business are affected. Technology now gives companies the opportunity to integrate ALL areas of their business and include customers, partners and vendors in the paradigm shift.

Q. Digital transformation can be a costly decision for a company to implement. What do you say for small-medium businesses looking to adopt the new technology?

SMBs can now take advantage of the technology traditionally not available to companies of their size through cost effective hosted solutions and move to a totally digital future. We are committed to supporting grass roots fashion and apparel companies and believe that if SMBs are to have the best chance of survival and unhindered growth, the starting point should be laying down the foundations of a solid digital transformation platform from the outset.

Q. Is the company the only entity that is impacted by digital transformation? How does this effect customers and suppliers?

In a post pandemic world, the need or desire to constantly visit factories will diminish significantly. Full digital transformation will help companies to work closer with their partners, whether they are vendors or customers. If you provide vendors with data in a useful format you will be helping them to become more efficient for you. A great example of this is providing vendors with scientific color data that can automatically calibrate and optimize sublimation printers. Brands can also provide their factories or mills with color spectral values and enable spectrophotometer integration, allowing color self-approval and reducing the need for physical lab dips. Finally, utilizing proper software, quality management can be achieved remotely providing significant value.

Q. What do you believe will happen to companies that don’t adopt digital transformation?

Digital transformation is one of the most popular terms in the fashion industry to date, and we aren’t taking the importance of it lightly. In the coming years, digital transformation innovations will help drive the next phase of advancements for the fashion, apparel, textile, and footwear industries. Businesses wishing to compete will need to properly leverage the deployment of new digital technologies and integration of mission-critical data. DeSL provides these solutions to fully exploit the potential improvements by deploying a digital cloud-based ecosystem covering all major business processes, from product concept right through to the end consumer.

*To learn more about Digital Transformation, read DeSL’s whitepaper, Digital Transformation – Fundamental Changes in the Fashion Industry.

Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for eight years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like our PLM Project Pack, or our Annual Publications, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.