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Today, apparel companies need their ERP system to be their one source of competitive advantage through which all operations run smoothly, quickly, and efficiently. This means the ERP system should provide the most comprehensive business solutions available to help any type of clothing company better address customer needs, develop and deliver compelling products, streamline processes and inventories, and control costs across the entire supply chain. Collaboration is critical to making all this happen. As such, your ERP system should enable your suppliers to participate where and when you need them in your critical processes.

In this post, we will focus on how your company can collaborate better with suppliers via an ERP-integrated ‘vendor portal’ and the benefits that will provide.

The Basic ERP Capabilities Apparel Companies Should Already Have

In the apparel industry, an ERP system should have three core capabilities that help you run your business: collaboration; inventory management; and sales & delivery management. By collaboration, we mean your ERP should provide data-sharing availability and processes that enable you to establish workflows across your multi-channel environment. This makes you more efficient, faster to market, and more in control of your inventory. Your collaboration capabilities should extend back to your suppliers so you can optimize decisions regarding what you make, when you make it, and the price you will charge. Some of the most successful fashion retailers demonstrate that strong supplier relationships can go a long way. Apparel giant H&M, who purchases garments from more than 700 suppliers worldwide, still maintains a tight grip on lead times and understands the importance of quality communication as a means of enabling a successful supply chain.

From an inventory standpoint, modern ERP systems help overcome SKU and Bill of Material complexity. Their ability to manage data at the end item level enables you to manage inventory and production planning better via more accurate forecasting. This, of course, ties into better sales & delivery management. Your company representatives and customers can access the system to enter and track orders, view shipment details, and manage invoices.

The Need for Robust SRM in Apparel ERP

For all the benefit of ERP, it must get faster to support apparel companies in today’s hyper-fast and hyper-competitive environment. While your front-end customer collaboration has improved, so too must your back-end supplier management.  By integrating supplier relationship management (SRM) into your ERP, you can gain multiple benefits that arise from streamlined vendor collaboration.

Popular high street retailer Zara, part of the Inditex group, reportedly takes a product from design, to manufacture, distribution and onto the shop floor within 2 weeks. Zara, along with other retail giants such as Walmart and IKEA, credit robust IT systems in helping them achieve this level of efficiency.

Speed is critical to success in apparel merchandising. Consumer tastes are constantly morphing, and moving fast to predict or react to market changes will keep your company relevant. To do this, you require SRM’s capabilities for sharing real-time data with your suppliers in an automated way. It will make both you and them faster.

However, moving faster means little if you are not moving in the right direction. While apparel business must act fast, they must also reduce errors to control costs and stay up-to-date. Currently, many apparel companies rely on error-prone, manual processes to evaluate and collaborate with their suppliers. Resources are wasted as they send product requirements to each vendor individually, continuously update information around each vendor’s capabilities, and miss out on opportunities when vendor data is not updated in real time. Everyone involved in your purchasing processes must have better visibility into your supplier base. To do this, you must leverage your core ERP functionality to share one version of supplier data, this is complete and up-to-date, for all people who get involved in purchasing.

Vendor Portal Feature for Apparel Companies

Sapphire offers a comprehensive vendor portal for apparel companies to address the need for faster and more efficient supplier collaboration. Delivered as part of an all-in-one ERP solution, it is a full-featured portal for vendor management with complete SRM capabilities. The portal feature does not require changes to your ERP system. Instead, it functions as a web-based tool that leverages your ERP data without exposing your ERP system as a whole. In this way, you gain critical SRM capabilities while maintaining the most rigid security posture.

How can your company benefit from a vendor portal? You can:

  • Automate your entire purchasing process, from posting tech packs to paying for completed delivery
  • Optimize speed and flexibility via anytime, anywhere, any-device access by your vendors over the web
  • Cut your costs by providing full vendor self-service
  • Further reduce costs by allowing additional users without adding ERP licenses
  • Eliminate errors by giving your staff visibility into item details (contracts, POs, paid invoices, etc.)
  • Prioritize vendors via real-time updates to individual vendor capabilities
  • Secure your operations with role-based access to data, not ERP system access
  • Speed your organization, as actions taken in the portal are automatically reflected in your ERP system


Apparel companies have recognized the need to speed all facets of their operations in order to remain relevant and cost-competitive in today’s markets. To fend off online behemoths and new-style upstarts, you need to transform your vendor management into a competitive advantage. Integrating a web-based vendor portal with your ERP will make your entire organization and extended supply chain faster, and a more efficient system, while reducing costs.

Contact us today to learn more about our dedicated business management solution for the apparel industry.

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