Yvonne Heinen-Foudeh, Gerber Technology’s Marketing and Communications Manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa follows up on l industry’s latest buzzword…
Time is money
The best way to reduce stock outs and mark downs is to reduce the time to market combined with effective merchandise planning, thus increasing the ability to react to what the market wants, when it wants it. To really be able to react fast, most companies must change how they design, plan, produce, manufacture and sell their products. This does not mean simply speeding up or removing inefficiencies from the business and creative processes, but realigning each process in the lifecycle chain from a serial sequence of events to parallel processing.
In a typical company, 52% of the total cycle time from design to the delivery is used in development. The merchandise and assortment planning, allocation and replenishment systems are often unconnected with the design and development or the production and logistic systems. A single source of information, a single planning calendar, standard libraries of data, real time updates of information throughout all systems wherever they are used, web enables supplier portals, automated tracking of tasks with automated exception communication are required, with the responsibility for each task in the cycle allocated to specific individuals. Store level input needs to feed back into planning and design at SKU level enabling management to take informed decisions particularly about highly seasonal life products, those highly variable demands, and those regular fast moving products, taking into account size and colour trends.
Capturing Consumer Feedback
With multiple sourcing collections, it can become extremely difficult to ensure consistent fit, colour and quality across multiple product lines and offerings. Companies need a way to bridge geographical, time and language barriers to ensure that everyone working on a collection can meet the correct standards. Retail and consumer feedback helps a company to dynamically adjust its planning, development, and merchandising strategies. Until recently, retail stores were viewed simply as final destination for a product. Yet retailers are close to consumers, which makes them most able to capture consumer feedback. To profit from this information, fashion companies need visibility into retail operations, as well as development and sourcing, at every step of the product lifecycle.
Fashion is notorious for its complex processes and dynamic supply chains. With multiple products in production, hundreds of steps are required, many occurring in parallel. Each step involves numerous teams of people, many of whom are located around the world. A fashion company’s supply chain often spans multiple geographic locations, time zones, and cultural barriers, complicating their ability to share ideas or even communicate directly with one another. As a result, delays and errors are often rampant. All members of the supply chain must be able to see, create, and share true-to-life, virtual representations of all fashion items at any phase of the product lifecycle and this is exact what a good PLM system should do.
Key to Collaboration
A successful PLM solution such as Fashion Lifecycle Management™ creates a value chain where information and transactions are exchanged seamlessly, as if all members of the extended value chain were one unity. It should integrate design, planning, development, manufacturing, marketing and retail activities into a unified process flow and support parallel integration across product development and sourcing. For successful fashion PLM, solutions must be built using best practices and expertise with business and creative processes integrated throughout every step of the product lifecycle whilst visual design and virtualised capabilities must bridge global collaboration gaps.
Virtualisation allows multiple simulations of true-to-life fashion items and fashion line plans. It reduces the need for physical samples while inspiring creativity and facilitating quicker business decisions in a multicultural environment. Brand managers, product managers, pattern designers, and suppliers can collaborate on product conception, selection, and validation with virtual fashion products and fabrics shared throughout development. Sketches, storyboards, patterns, 3D samples, collection catalogues, even store layouts can now be virtualised for easy, 24/7 access and collaboration, before any physical sample is manufactured. Using a central database, each participant works on the same current version of the product, and can develop the product by adding his own pieces of information, such as textile and style designs, technical specifications, 2D patterns, or 3D virtual samples. A good PLM system, integrated into both the company’s CAD and ERP system, spans a company’s complete product lifecycle to provide continuous decision making support throughout all fashion business processes.