Vendor Interview – Comply or Die Series
Over the past few weeks, Rob Smith of WhichPLM has provided a deep insight to the ‘green’ Trident of governance looking at the issues of Corporate Governance, Environmental Regulation and Ethical Compliance for current generation multinational business. WhichPLM has reached out to a number of the key PLM vendors to obtain their view on the topic and ascertain how their solutions can leverage some of the issues faced by their customers…
Gerber Technology – Bill Brewster, President, Gerber Software Solutions
WhichPLM: With the recent downturn in global economies, are you finding that your customers [international apparel organisations] have recovered quicker than some other industries with less resilient products portfolios and what do you believe are your customer’s key business drivers now moving forward?
Bill: We find that those international apparel organizations which had highly efficient processes already in place before the economic downturn have tended to recover faster than others. According to the feedback we receive, apparel organizations of all sizes are continually focused on responding quickly to rapidly changing market demands, achieving even greater productivity improvements and finding ways to improve margins.
WhichPLM: Do you see green-socio-economic compliance as being high on their list of concerns facing the business? Furthermore, are these issues something that Gerber themselves as a business are re-evaluating?
Bill: Green-socio-economic compliance is certainly not a new concept for the apparel industry. For years, consumers have challenged the industry to improve labor practices and find sustainable ways to conduct their business. To remain competitive, manufacturers and retailers must not only comply but excel in the “green” category.
Customer feedback has always been a critical component in our product development and, as a result, Gerber was alerted to sustainability trends early on. In the 1990s, Gerber Technology began to incorporate ecological objectives in the manufacture of its products. We have designed manufacturing solutions that reduce energy consumption and minimize the need for commodities and consumables.
WhichPLM: The majority of brands are operating on an international basis with the lifecycle crossing many jurisdictional boundaries. Is there a strong enough vision or clear enough structure of regulation being formed and communicated by governments and industry regulators?
Bill: The challenge remains that, as regulations continue to differ according to region, it is extremely difficult to achieve 100 per cent compliance without global oversight. Improved communication around regulations has occurred largely because more and more major textile and apparel companies are expanding their operations globally.
WhichPLM: REACH, WEEE, RoHS are relatively new regulations that currently impact apparel industries (albeit mildly), how long before you expect to see stronger regulation for your industry sector?
Bill: I believe much of the regulation we will see in the coming months and years will be led largely by the consumer sector. The international apparel industry has grown accustomed to changing and adapting in order to comply with newly-instated regulations and I’m confident this will continue.
WhichPLM: As an apparel specific PLM vendor, do you believe that green-socio-economic compliance has a significant role in the future development of PLM systems?
Bill: By its very essence, PLM systems help companies comply with green-socio-economic regulations. For example, Gerber’s YuniquePLM solution enables companies to trace the origins of each and every piece of fabric and trim that makes up a garment. It defines who the individual or group is that’s accountable for requirements tied to those parts (perhaps flammability or chemical requirements), tracks lab dip approvals and even the status of tests run on raw materials.
WhichPLM: Do you take a view that compliance should be exclusively dealt with in PLM or does it extend beyond PLM such as ERP and the much wider business strategy?
Bill: If we look to H&M’s and Levi’s Strauss & Co’s all-out ban on sandblasting of garments as an example, it becomes apparent that, for socio-economic compliance to be completely effective, it must pervade a company’s culture. It must be a thread that is pulled through an organization’s processes, products and people and cannot be managed simply by implementing one or even many software systems.
WhichPLM: At what stage in the development roadmap are you with green-socio-economic compliance? Do you consider yourself as a pioneer for this sector, or are you taking the prudent approach to see how the industry initially responds?
Bill: Gerber Technology’s product development roadmaps have contained green components for several years. For example, our YuniquePLM solution is green in that it supports a paperless environment and houses masses of information electronically for infinite periods of time. In addition, our AccuMark pattern design, grading and marking system and AccuMark V-Stitcher 3D pattern visualization software make it possible to reduce the number of samples that have to be created to finalize a style thereby saving material and trims.
WhichPLM: As of today, does your current solution have any features that could be classed as green-socio-economic functionality available and enabled for consumers to utilise and what benefits do you envisage those providing?
Bill: YuniquePLM enables full traceability for both inbound and outbound processes. With YuniquePLM’s supplier relationship module, the apparel company and its suppliers can enjoy seamless collaboration and all quality assurance or compliance procedures can be configured into the system. For example, REACH regulations can be established according to an organization’s policies as the industry awaits a more formal process for reporting.
WhichPLM: Would full traceability of the supply chain through PLM simply give apparel brands the ability to distance themselves from accountability or is there still a wider need for the brands to educate and work with suppliers to ensure the ‘best practices’ are maintained?
Bill: PLM systems provide clear visibility into how suppliers are performing compared to expectations. Vendor scorecards display graphically if suppliers are meeting their commitments on deadlines and other obligations. The bottom line is that PLM promotes accountability. However, there is always opportunity to further educate suppliers not only on the industry’s mandated regulations but also on an organization’s agreed-upon best practices.
WhichPLM: Finally is green-socio-economic compliance simply a new tick box for apparel brands/system vendors to promote in the market or do you see it a true investment in the supply chain delivering a lot of added value?
Bill: Socio-economic compliance is not an option – business processes designed to improve sustainability are a must. The need for comprehensive, unified solutions around sustainability is significant. Solutions need to support data collection, analysis, and management in an automated, standardized and cost-efficient way with all information tying into existing systems for procurement, finance, quality control, supply chain management and delivery.
Read more about Gerber Technology here… (https://www.whichplm.com//gerber)