Supply chain processes in the fashion industry haven’t been re-evaluated since the industrial revolution. As technology continues to evolve to streamline these antiquated, manual operations, the industry hasn’t kept up with the technologies on the market. A lack of internal resources to be able to understand and implement these software means that processes remain the same or tools aren’t utilized to their fullest potential. In this blog, we will debunk the myths surrounding supply chain technology that cater to the fashion industry.
Fashion is always going to be a hands-on industry that will require people at every stage of the process. The look and feel of finished goods determine whether or not pieces will sell which requires people to be able to touch fabrics, test the fit, and perform wear tests to provide feedback. Throughout these early stages of development, technology can empower technical designers, raw material sourcing agents, and decision-makers to decrease turnaround times and make data-backed forecasts.
Pre-production can completely derail projected launch dates by going through multiple sample rounds, waiting on fabric and trim swatches, delays in bulk yardage delivery, and styles that don’t do well in market testing. To avoid delays like this, brands & retailers can leverage technology to streamline these processes. For example, the Suuchi GRID tracks and manages the entire supply chain to collect data over time that can then be implemented when brands are in the planning stage. They can use this data to make smarter decisions on what silhouettes, prints, fabrics, and styles sold best to be repeated in future collections. In addition to this, 3D software, such as Gerber Technologies, can eliminate the need for multiple pre-production samples that way designers can see the fit of the garment without creating a physical garment.
Outside of sampling, companies can leverage production and sales data that is tracked through an end-to-end software or tech stack to compare what silhouettes, fabrics, colorways, and trends have had the highest sell-through compared to the time-to-make data. With this information, merchandising and sourcing teams can leverage this information to make smarter decisions to help improve sell-through for upcoming collections.
Many of the top fashion players have remained digitally-hesitant because they fear that implementing technology will disrupt processes that work. What these companies need to bear in mind is that a proper implementation will not happen overnight. A technology partner that is truly dedicated to improving your business processes will take a step-wise approach to the implementation.
In the past, most technologies hadn’t been built nimbly enough for all participants to easily adapt whether you’re a sewer on the factory floor or a CEO traveling from meeting to meeting. Softwares that are now being built with a mobile-first approach allow companies to be fully on-boarded and up-and-running in as little as a half-hour. If brands and retailers select the most intuitive and relevant software to their daily operations, there should be no interruption to standard processes, but a streamlined efficiency to the way they are run.
For supply chain participants who have been in the industry for many years, they are accustomed to business being conducted over Excel sheets, emails, and in-person meetings. As we have seen through recent issues, such as the Coronavirus and the tariffs, these methods are outdated and cause more issues when the status quo is disrupted.
The ROI of implementing software that can track and manage the entire supply chain is almost immediately evident within the first day of use. Communication can instantly be streamlined to save time and costly mistakes, updates can be tracked in real-time, and launches can be planned through real-time and action calendars. Data that is collected over time can also prevent excess inventory consistently going into markdowns—an issue that brands can’t seem to shake—and for margins to improve over time for scalable growth. Brands and retailers who have implemented the GRID have found that their net margins have doubled and their speed to market has increased by 20x in as little as two years.
As technology continues to improve to be educated by the industry and provide the nimbleness necessary to keep up with changing trends, brands and retailers need to start taking the steps to implement the right software for their company. On the heels of shocking bankruptcies and struggles from former industry leaders like Forever21 and H&M, the fashion industry needs to learn from these mistakes to ensure their relevance against their younger, digital D2C competitors.