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Is Communication Across the Supply Chain Affecting Your ROI?


Here, EFI Optitex shares their second exclusive article with WhichPLM for 2019, building on their first in which they discussed the numerous benefits to adopting a digital workflow. EFI Optitex develops 3D virtual prototyping and 2D CAD/CAM pattern and fashion design software that is both innovative and easy to use.

We all know how complicated producing a single piece of clothing can be. The lengthy process of designing, developing, reviewing, conducting adjustments and alterations, approving collections and finally reaching the stage of production (you got tired just thinking about it, didn’t you?) can take months – and countless mistakes can easily be made without anyone noticing. That is, until the garment has already been produced.

Add to this the new ‘see now, buy now’ model of consumption and the growing demand for fashion that can be purchased online, which must be both made to order and made to measure. As fashion is now faster than ever before, and the traditional four fashion seasons has quickly become twenty, miscommunication can lead to countless mistakes – meaning, loss of revenue.

It’s all about brand reputation

Let’s say a designer wants to fashion an oversized fit garment, but the actual result is much more oversized than initially intended. Tracking this specific miscommunication could be like finding a needle in a haystack. Moreover, the bigger the company, the more complicated it gets to track points of miscommunication since the creation of a single piece of clothing would require the attention of many stakeholders in the long and winding road from concept to shelf.

In most places, the patternmaking team receives a tech pack that entails a vision. Patternmakers then develop the garment as instructed, which is then sent to review by several stakeholders, using various communication channels. This is exactly where miscommunication and mistakes tend to happen – when the stakeholders are not aligned, or do not update the relevant communication channel on time and in a clear manner. The result? Mistakes in the final product such as a garment that is too oversized, which is not in line with the designer’s vision, and does not follow current fashion trends.

Setting the next fashion trend

More than the technical aspect of mistakes in the garment creation process is the ability to set fashion trends rather than following them. Current criticism that comes from the field entails complaints about miscommunication between teams within the same company, and between relevant stakeholders across the supply chain such as manufacturers and buyers.

When sales teams, buyers, and manufacturers communicate between themselves, but the message does not get across to the designer, or even the tech-designer, these critical stakeholders are deprived from fully understanding the market’s needs. Thus, are working based on expired knowledge. Much like a well-oiled chain of cogwheels, the flow of information must travel across the supply chain in order to maintain harmonious workflows, in which creativity tends to thrive and growth becomes inevitable.

When all the pieces connect

Communication is definitely the key. While this statement is true for nearly every aspect of our lives, it is extremely true in business, and it is crucial in large enterprises. Once involving additional stakeholders in the central workflow, like in the fashion and apparel industry, it becomes even more complicated. Usually composed of various stakeholders, each playing its own part of the garment creation process, the fashion and apparel supply chain is exposed to miscommunication that could potentially have a tremendous effect on the final product.

The numerous people involved in the garment development process are usually not involved in the bigger picture of the piece they’re working on. Thus, they do not necessarily envision the final product when doing their part, such as different resources and components required for the assembling of the specific garment, how it fits in an entire collection, and generally, the bigger picture that entails elements that might shift the final result if they are not known or managed properly.

Using innovative digital platforms for communication enables the use of one digital asset across the entire supply chain, which holds all of the communication and is able to show its own history and the changes that were done to it from the moment of creation to the moment of production. The method of using digital assets instead of physical samples does not only reduce the amount of wasted resources, it empowers sustainability and simplifies communication between the different stakeholders who need and want to comment on each product.

With proper communication tools the entire process of concept to shelf becomes easier, faster, and cheaper. Designers are able to get earlier feedback, adjustments and alterations can be conducted in real-time, and entire collections can be approved at the push of a button.

Communication is about more than keeping everyone in the know regarding final decisions and perfecting a tedious process that is age old; it’s about efficiency and higher ROI. More than anything, it’s about empowering healthy workflows and making room for creativity, which can be based on market needs.

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.