Paul Rogers highlights how companies operating in the fashion and apparel industry can help future-proof their businesses by investing in the right technology.
The global fashion industry has undoubtedly seen a boost over the last few years, but ongoing Brexit-related uncertainty is still casting a major shadow over the sector, leaving many questions unanswered when it comes to international operations. In an already complex industry with numerous processes, sprawling supply chains, and complicated product lifecycles, apparel businesses are facing more challenges than ever before when it comes to getting the right products to market quickly.
Recognising this, and preparing themselves for more uncertainty and potential market turbulence ahead, more and more fashion and apparel businesses are taking steps now to put themselves firmly in the driving seat. By getting to grips with the multiple variables at play, savvy businesses are laying the foundations for a stable and secure business that’s able to stand firm and even expand in the face of market pressures. For many of these businesses, the answers lie in technology, with the much discussed notions of digitalisation, Industry 4.0 and digital transformation proving to be just what the industry needs to take on board. That doesn’t mean that fashion and apparel businesses should be investing in technology for technology’s sake, but to ignore the opportunities that digitalisation can present is almost like a taking a step backwards, particularly for those businesses who want to grow and globalise. So, where should fashion businesses start?
The need for fashion businesses to embrace digitalisation has never been more paramount, especially when you consider the rise of digital technology in our daily lives, giving customers better, faster access to information than ever before has led to a rapid increase in customer expectations. For many of those operating in the apparel sector, they’re working with legacy, creaking IT infrastructures and bolted-together systems. This results in major bottlenecks across the business, with software and systems simply unable to quickly and efficiently process the sheer volumes of data that are part and parcel of doing business today, slowing things down considerably.
By uniting all processes and procedures within a single ERP system designed specifically for the fashion industry, not only can you simplify organisational complexity, but you can ease the passage of information throughout the business. By doing this, business inefficiencies can be readily identified, breaking down silos of departmental information and bringing together all key business data in a central repository. Encompassing all departments, from design through to dispatch, the right solution can dramatically enhance business visibility, streamlining operations and increasing control at the same time.
This amalgamation of vital business information in real-time provides previously uncovered depths of business insight too, making sense of the data to help predict changes in demand or identify new opportunities for growth and expansion. Decision-makers can rely on the accuracy and timeliness of this insight to make the right strategic decisions for their business, safe in the knowledge that the information is both up-to-date and reliable. And, if fashion businesses want to then embrace the concept of Industry 4.0, it’s vital to have accurate information from the outset if you’re to combine automation and information to improve efficiencies further still. By investing in fashion ERP software, the potential is there to increase efficiencies, maximising productivity and profitability, all while securing the additional business agility and flexibility needed to stay one step ahead of the competition.
Another digital step for fashion businesses to seriously consider is making use of cloud technologies. With its core value proposition of easy provisioning, flexible scaling and lower total costs of ownership, the cloud is a wise option for fashion businesses who are looking to grow and scale. When it comes to an ERP solution, for example, by hosting it in the cloud, fashion businesses can achieve savings that increase over time because of the lack of indirect costs that accompany on-premise solutions. Also, it leaves in-house IT staff free to concentrate on more value-add, strategic activities, leading to inevitable efficiency and cost savings, and giving them more time to pursue other technologies.
In terms of growing your fashion business on a global scale, the flexibility and scalability of solutions in the cloud afford businesses the ability to quickly and easily scale-up both operations and infrastructure. Add to this the consistent upgrades, maintenance and enhanced security protocols that come as standard, without the spiralling (and sometimes unexpected) costs and time delays associated with traditional on-premise solutions, and you can see why more fashion businesses are heading cloud-wards in an effort to make the best use of the technologies available to them.
Built to address the particular requirements of the fashion industry, fashion-specific ERP systems provide the best levels of mobile access for seamless working, regardless of where you are in the world. No longer constrained by geography or time zones, the best ERP systems support all mobile devices and operating systems, giving staff access to the right information, wherever and whenever needed, as well as the ability to interact with the solution in exactly the same way as if they were sitting at their desk. For businesses operating in a 24/7 global marketplace, especially those with global expansion plans, this ability to access up-to-date information, regardless of location or time, cannot be underestimated, and any solutions that don’t offer full mobile functionality should be approached with caution.
Fashion businesses owe it to themselves to make the most of the available digital technologies to further the overall aims of the business. By taking full advantage of the many benefits that fashion-specific solutions can bring, you can get a handle on the variables within your complex fashion supply chain, and derive value from your technology, putting you firmly in control of your business. By investing in the right technology now, you can establish the robust and efficient processes required to not only meet future challenges, but to facilitate future business growth.
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