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Information Technology – The Bedrock of Every Company

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Texprocess header

In this guest article, the team behind popular textile and technology exhibition, TexProcess, discuss the catch-all term: ‘Information Technology’. Texprocess 2015 takes place at Messe Frankfurt, Germany from May 4th to 7th 2015.

[quote] “Industry is on the threshold of the fourth industrial revolution. Driven by the Internet, the real and virtual worlds are growing closer and closer together to form the Internet of Things. Industrial production of the future will be characterized by the strong individualization of products under the conditions of highly flexible (large series) production, the extensive integration of customers and business partners in business and value-added processes, and the linking of production and high-quality services leading to so-called hybrid products’.  German Federal Ministry of Education and Research with reference to “Industry 4.0” project.[/quote]

The decision to implement new or updated information technology provides the textile and clothing industry with a real opportunity. Companies today are able not just to replace stand-alone systems by integrated ones, and the benefits that can achieve, and not just to expand the functionality of existing systems. It renders the opportunity to fundamentally rethink and radically redesign, where necessary, business processes to achieve significant improvements linked with both the short and long term aims and objectives of the company.

Any textile related company needs a detailed plan of where it wishes to be both in five years’ time and further into the future.  Where is it now? What are its shortfalls? Its strengths? Its weaknesses? What information is really needed to run the business going forward to be able to offer the best service to customers and produce the best products? In a global business what are the wider reaching effects of the business, upon which a company has little or no control, and what are the more localised effects?

According to experts, successful change involves more than just changing the computer system. The introduction of new information systems and their most effective use also requires a radical rethink to jobs and organizational structures, management systems and processes, together with company values and beliefs, using a totally holistic approach.

Texprocess 2013, Messe Frankfurt, Germany

The aims, objectives and future strategy of each textile and apparel company will be different but are likely to include, to a greater or lesser degree, the requirements for faster market response with ever shorter lead times; lower overheads; less administration; increased productivity; reduced raw material, work in progress and finished stock; greater control of the supply chain; increased flexibility; reduced costs; improved quality and increased customer service.

This will inevitably necessitate improved sales forecasting, collection and production planning, improved communication with customers and suppliers, the removal of non-value added activities throughout the whole design, manufacturing and supply chain, the building of closer working partnerships with customers and suppliers, together with appropriate and effective information systems.

To enable a company to analyse its true requirements for appropriate and effective information systems it needs to take a step aside from the daily pressures of the business and critically examine what it is doing in each area and why, throughout all aspects of the organization, as well as what is available in the IT field. This includes 3D virtualisation, product lifecycle management (PLM), space management, RFID, workflow management systems, e-commerce, remote monitoring, machinery, and equipment troubleshooting, warehousing,  logistics and supply chain management, enterprise resource planning, multichannel, augmented reality, use of mobile devices, and an understanding of Industry 4.0 and similar projects.

All-encompassing Product Lifecycle Management Courtesy Wikipedia

Industry 4.0 is a project in the high-tech strategy of the German government, which promotes the computerization of the manufacturing industry. The goal is the intelligent factory (Smart Factory), which is characterized by adaptability, resource efficiency and ergonomics as well as the integration of customers and business partners in business and value processes. Technological basis are cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things. In the United States, an initiative known as the “Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition” is also working on the future of manufacturing. The aim of this coalition is to enable stakeholders in the manufacturing industry to form collaborative R & D, implementation and advocacy groups for development of the approaches, standards, platforms and shared infrastructure that facilitate the broad adoption of manufacturing intelligence. GE has also been working on an initiative called ‘The Industrial Internet’ which aims to bring together the advances of two transformative revolutions: the myriad machines, facilities, fleets and networks that arose from the Industrial Revolution, and the more recent powerful advances in computing, information and communication systems brought to the fore by the Internet Revolution.

Texprocess 2015, which will be held at Messe Frankfurt from May 4th to 7th 2015, will be an excellent opportunity to see pioneering trends and their potential together with what is available to the industry today from all the IT companies specialising in textiles and apparel, and be able to discuss needs and developments directly with the suppliers.

[quote]As much standard as possible, as few adjustments as necessary”.  According to this principle, we enable textile companies to quickly and easily map their company-specific circumstances – without cost effective adjustments.  Our software solutions for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Fabric Inspection, Production Data Acquisition (PDA), Business Intelligence (BI) and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) unify process complexity and textile know-how with structure and transparency’. update texware GmbH, Apparel IT supplier.[/quote]

Maybe two of the most interesting aspects to have really made their mark in the last few years and are tied to Industry 4.0 are Cloud Computing and Product Lifecycle Management.

Texprocess 2013, Messe Frankfurt, Germany

Cloud Computing by Davide Lamanna

[quote]In the upstream / inbound apparel supply chain, cloud-based vendor integration is one of the most interesting topics in the industry these days. PLM-systems go cloud; SCM-systems do so as well. Add to this 3rd party services of forwarders (for logistics management) and of testing institutes (quality control) with their proprietary technologies. This heterogeneous IT challenge will see the development of central integration portal or gateways that enable brands and retailers to synchronize the tasks of order -, production- , logistics – and QC management on one platform. Many vendors will increasingly refuse to use various different cloud-based systems for one brand”. Guido Brackelsberg, Managing Director, Setlog Gmbh Apparel and Textile IT supplier.[/quote]

Traditionally companies have bought dedicated IT hardware, depreciated over time, and paid for software licences to cover the number of users of the different systems. With cloud computing, multiple users access a shared cloud infrastructure to retrieve and update their data without purchasing large mainframe computers or licenses for different applications, but by paying for use of the ‘cloud’ as they use it.

Using a desktop computer, tablet, notebook, or even smart phone, staff log into a Web-based service which hosts all the programs the user would need for their job. Remote machines owned by another company host the software. Local computers no longer do all the heavy processing and storage; the network of computers that make up the cloud handles them instead. The only thing the user’s computer needs to be able to run is the cloud computing system’s interface software, which can be as simple as a Web browser, and the cloud’s network takes care of the rest.

The clothing industry is global, the supply chain intercontinental, but by using the cloud, as with email which everyone now relies upon, businesses can gain company-wide access to all their applications and data via any inexpensive terminal or tablet linked to the Internet from anywhere, in any country, at any time. Just by paying a metered fee to a cloud computing company all access and storage of data as well as IT support is taken care of.  Applications are practically limitless. With the right middleware, a cloud computing system could execute all the programs a normal computer could run from generic word processing software to customized computer programs designed for a specific company.

[quote]Instead of a slow-moving fluffy white cloud image, the cloud computing industry should use a tornado – that might be a better way to visualize how fast cloud computing is growing today,’ Forbes.[/quote]

ibm-5-reasons-businesses-use-the-cloud

According to IBM the five main reasons businesses use the cloud are collaboration, better access to analytics, increased productivity, reduced costs, and the speeding up of development cycles. However, it also states the number one benefit of cloud computing is agility.

[quote]The value of bringing new features or products to market far outweigh the other benefits [of the cloud] such as cost reduction’. IBM.[/quote]

An apparel centric PLM solution has proved to be an effective tool for getting textile products to market faster with reduced cost and higher quality. It enables organizations to manage all information about their products, from initial concept through commercialization, by integrating all areas of the company including the extended supply chain in a collaborative forum. By its very nature cloud computing must be made for Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).

PLM provides a solid foundation of best practices that can minimize time-to-market, reduce costs, mitigate supply risks and ensure compliance and is central to collection management from conception, through design and manufacture to sales and sales analysis. Line planning and product development applications can allow for the successive development and sharing of sketches, product line storyboards, patterns and 3D virtual samples. Designers, brand or line managers, technical developers, pattern designers and finally manufacturing partners can continue to share the same updated true-to-life visual representations of the product at all times. What is more, they can interact at different stages of the design and development processes to simulate, specify and finally validate all collection items.

Texprocess 2013, Messe Frankfurt, Germany

[quote]You create fewer samples, increase precision and uniformity of your product line’s fit, and drastically shorten its time-to-market; to name just a few of the benefits of introducing virtual sampling to your design process. They aren’t just good for prototyping; these simulations are excellent tools you can use for marketing and selling your products.  It drastically cuts the time you have to spend on each sample, the cost associated, as well as the hassle of scheduling and organizing numerous fit sessions.  No more waiting for FedEx to deliver your next sample.’ Optitex, Apparel CAD Supplier.[/quote]

The typical fashion PLM solution requires data entry by several different departments within the company – as well as several different suppliers and manufacturers. The importance of accuracy of information to create a “single version of the truth” and achieve effective collaboration between all parties is critical. Instantaneous and accurate information flow between CAD, PDM, PLM, ERP, SCM, and CRP speeds the development process, reduces costs, avoids errors in production and maintains consistency in quality and fit.

Texprocess 2015 provides the perfect opportunity for companies to discuss their current and future IT requirements with potential suppliers, see what is new on the market, check how different solutions can be made to integrate seamlessly, and examine how these fit short and long terms goals of their business.

With myriad key suppliers under one roof at the same time, Texprocess 2015 (as stated above) takes place at Messe Frankfurt, Germany from 4th – 7th May 2015.

Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for over six 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 the Annual Review, 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.