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Paul Rogers looks at how companies can manufacture clothes cost effectively without compromising on principles

In the highly competitive fashion industry, where already tight margins are constantly being squeezed further still, the easiest way to save money, and therefore make money, has traditionally been to reduce the cost of production. To this end, many manufacturers moved production overseas, taking full advantage of cheaper labour, materials and operations, reaping real financial rewards in the process.

However, events of the last few years, such as 2013’s tragic building collapse at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, which killed 1,100 people, many of whom were low-paid garment workers, highlighted just how unethical manufacturing processes could be. This prompted businesses and consumers alike to reconsider the ethics behind cheaper production methods, leading to an increased demand for ethically-produced clothing, albeit without the associated price premium.

It’s also important to consider the recent political events in Europe and the US, and the fact that shipping costs from overseas have risen dramatically, particularly in the last 12 months. These factors have led to increasingly volatile exchange rates, not to mention uncertainty about the future, and it’s easy to see why the cheaper production of clothes overseas isn’t necessarily the money-saver it once was. Thankfully, there are other, less unethical ways to save money and increase profitability in the process. At the heart of this, is ensuring that the right infrastructure and processes are in place to enable the cost effective manufacture of clothing, without having to compromise on principles.

Technology is the key enabler, with the right software solution providing total visibility of a clothing business, covering design, development, sourcing, production, inventory management, multi-channel distribution and finance. This holistic view of the organisation enables a greater, deeper understanding of the complex and interdependent nature of all business processes and functions, making it possible to readily identify major efficiency savings across the business, optimising operations to maximise profits.

The right information, delivered to the right people, at the right time leads to quicker, more flexible ways of working, which is a must-have for any fashion businesses hoping to react quickly to ever-changing consumer trends. Complete visibility of all aspects of business operations, across all departments and throughout the supply chain, enables better decisions to be made, faster, underpinning strategy with timely, intelligent decision-making.

The ability to connect all areas of the business with one ERP solution means that all departments have insight into the full process from the outset, a very different approach to the traditional silos of departmental information, which then need to be pulled together to try and ascertain a clear view of the business. For example, with an end-to-end solution in place to facilitate the management of products from design to final production, gone are the days of costly re-designs because the design doesn’t fit the spec or the financial constraints, or because there’s a shortage of the required fabric at that moment in time. All departments can have access to the bigger picture, including supply chain partners, increasing collaborative working and facilitating further efficiency savings beyond the four walls of the fashion business itself.

With optimal processes and procedures in place, fashion manufacturers can maximise efficiencies throughout the business, leading to a quicker product turnaround to satisfy customer demand, without resorting to unethical methods of production to save costs. The savings to be made through optimising operational performance are by no means insignificant, and it’s those forward-thinking fashion businesses that are blazing a trail with the right technology who will be the ones to watch over the coming months in the uber-competitive world of fashion.

The right solution to meet the specific demands of the fashion industry should include the following features:

  1. Strong stock management, which is fully integrated with sales and finance
  2. An intelligent and responsive MRP module for re-ordering of stock and forecasting
  3. PLM capability to manage products from design through to final production
  4. Comprehensive warehouse management
  5. Colour / size matric functionality for viewing stock

Find out more about software for fashion companies, or join our webinar.

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