Paul Rogers examines how technology can achieve the levels of visibility needed for an increasingly complex fashion lifecycle.
In a social media dominated consumer culture, where people expect to be able to browse the latest fashion collections in a blog, and then instantly click to buy them, many people outside of the fashion industry underestimate exactly what’s involved in getting a garment from design to delivery.
Fashion insiders know all too well that in reality, garments go through an often complex and lengthy journey before they arrive on the high street, with the time from raw material purchase to the finished item appearing in store taking anywhere from 30 to 100 days. Plus, it’s only when you scratch beneath the surface to look at how many processes are involved in the fashion product lifecycle that you can understand why it’s so complex and why, for many manufacturers, it’s incredibly difficult to control.
Having the right level of visibility across the manufacturing process, from initial design through to delivery of the finished item, is vital. It’s only with this full understanding of every part of the process that fashion manufacturers can not only track what’s going on with a particular product at any stage in time, but they can also react and respond effectively to changes in the market, changes which are increasingly common and frequent in the world of fast fashion. Technology is a key enabler here, with the best solutions for the industry providing that all important oversight and insight at every step of the way.
Let’s start with the initial design. The designer will come up with an initial design which can then be uploaded to the company-wide system, where not only can it be accessed by all, but can also be categorised for ease of future access, improving the visibility of the manufacturing process at the very first step. Then we move on to the development stage of garment sampling, an area where fashion businesses invest a great deal of time and money to ensure optimum product development processes. Regardless of whether the business is producing samples for final prototypes, sales team samples, or size set samples, all the information is again stored in a single company-wide system, with effective Product Data Management solutions ensuring continuity across the business when it comes to manufacturing the same product multiple times.
With garment pattern-making the same principle applies. All patterns that are generated, be it manually or using CAD software, are uploaded into the system, and then each pattern is linked to fabrics in a cost sheet, which in turn forms the basis of a bill of materials which will accompany the garment through the rest of the process. It is the same principle for sourcing other fabrics and trims. Once these are all sourced, they’ll be added to the bill of materials that corresponds to the particular garment, as well as a record of any quality checks undertaken. Again, all of the information is accessible to all at the click of a mouse, ensuring complete visibility of the garment in production.
And so it continues throughout the manufacturing lifecycle, with every process tracked and recorded in a shared solution. The cutting out of garment parts, optional processes such as printing or embroidery, the stitching together of the garment, garment washing and then the finishing of the stitched garment (including all quality checks along the way) are managed through one business-wide solution. It doesn’t end with production either, with the most comprehensive systems accompanying the garment through the folding and packing stage, into the final inspection phase, and then onto dispatch, where garments are either sent direct to store or warehouses.
It’s this ability to manage the entire process from design through to delivery using a single, powerful solution that provides the maximum level of visibility across the organisation. With this valuable insight comes increased business agility and flexibility, with the potential to resolve issues in a timely, efficient manner, or to change a particular strategy, safe in the knowledge that you’re in possession of the most up-to-date business information. It’s only with this capability on board that fashion manufacturers can keep pace with what’s becoming an increasingly complex product lifecycle, future-proofing their businesses for the inevitable changes that the next few years will bring.
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