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Laura Arana explains how the right solution can help those in the apparel and textiles industries reduce lead times considerably

With the average time taken for a new garment to go from design to shop floor taking anywhere between 30 – 100 days, it’s easy to see how the ever-increasing pace of fast fashion is taking its toll on those in the industry. As any apparel, footwear, home textile and accessories manufacturer will tell you, not only are they under pressure to get new products to market, faster, across a mix of style-based and non-style based products, but the sheer number of colour and size combinations required, results in a vast number of end-products. With the additional demand to reduce batch sizes while maintaining high order volumes, what was already a complicated product lifecycle is now more highly pressured than ever, with fashion houses often struggling to manage this complexity while staying focussed on performance.

Many of these businesses are turning to technology for help, with the right systems helping to streamline and speed-up not only operations, but decision-making too, taking the place of inflexible, creaking legacy systems which are actually slowing the business down. Providing the necessary levels of functionality required to manage the many and varied processes involved, the best solutions out there are designed to meet the specific challenges textile and apparel businesses face on a daily basis. So, what can these solutions do for your business, and what exactly should you be looking for?
 

  1. Comprehensive business visibility
    Your chosen solution should span the entire business, from sketch to shop. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software encompasses all core business processes, from design and product development, through purchasing, finance, production, quality control, and on to warehousing, including all the functions in between. By managing the entire product lifecycle with a single solution, everyone is ‘singing from the same song sheet’, with timely access to up-to-date information increasing your business agility and responsiveness, enabling you to change strategy quickly and easily.
     
  2. Optimised planning
    The levels of transparency and insight that the right solution can bring are not to be sniffed at. With a single solution at the helm, product information follows garments and items at every step of the way. So, an integrated Material Requirements Planning (MRP) module can, for example, determine fabric yardage needed for each style and optimum fabric layout, and then automatically pass this information to inventory, warehouse, production etc., which in turn leads to more effective stock ordering and responsive production.
     
  3. Increased automation
    Shorter lead times require increased efficiencies across the board. With the right solution in place, your business can make real efficiency savings, resulting in a real difference to your time to market. Product development calendars monitor and schedule performance in line with accurately forecasted demand, helping to reduce surplus inventory. And, specific production modules can smooth the routing of jobs to the right sewing station. For example, pre-defined parameters can ensure a particular garment has sleeves inserted before buttonholes are created, with in-built intelligence choosing the most efficient assembly sequence.
     
  4. Accurate forecasts
    Perhaps above all else, the ability to quickly and efficiently respond to fluctuating cycles of supply and demand is the key to reducing lead times. The best solutions offer advanced planning and forecasting tools, factoring in information from across the business and from across the supply chain to ensure your business is more than ready for all eventualities. It’s this accuracy of forecasts in combination with optimum levels of business agility that ensure you get your products to market quicker than the competition.
     
  5. Customer insight
    Just one of the challenges of managing a constantly-evolving global supply chain is keeping pace with not only customers but business partners too. If you can’t keep up with them, there are several other businesses out there who would gladly take your place. With fully integrated CRM and supply chain management capabilities, every customer, supplier and vendor interaction, from initial phone call through to post-sales communication is logged, analysed and plugged back into the system, guaranteeing transparency and traceability for optimum partnership working.
     
  6. Design efficiency
    The levels of efficiency the right solution can bring affects every area of the business, including the often neglected design process. For example, an integrated Bill of Materials provides all necessary information at the click of a mouse, including colour or colour palette, customer choice, samples, yardage requests, artwork, fabric and trim libraries. This links seamlessly with CAD / CAM solutions for even greater design efficiency, particularly during the production pattern and grading processes.


Forward-thinking businesses have already invested in the right technology to help them decrease lead times and speed-up their time to market. Software that supports the business at each and every step of the process provides the necessary levels of control and visibility to put textile and apparel businesses back in the driving seat. Tech-savvy manufacturers can respond dynamically to shifts in demand, delivering the right, quality products to market quicker and more efficiently, keeping customers very happy and making a real difference to overall profitability and guaranteed repeat business.

For more information on how Argentis can help your fashion business optimize operations, contact us.

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