7 Must Follow Trends in the Fashion Supply Chain 2017


T he apparel supply chain is a living, breathing entity, continuously evolving in the face of challenges from consumers, business leaders and even —Wall Street. Ever a work in progress, as apparel companies shift their operations around the globe in search of lower prices, the fashion supply chain aims to be smarter and faster, and often looks to innovative systems and technology to gain a competitive advantage. We’ve identified seven supply chain trends — though certainly there are more — to watch in the coming year. There is no one-size-fits-all approach here, but each company should carefully consider its business objectives and goals and how these trends could help them gain a leg up. Many apparel companies are still working with manual processes, which is why Apparel’s annual Top Innovators awards always seems to include the stories of a few firms moving from spreadsheets to ERP systems. It’s impossible to overstate the value of leveraging these “bread and butter” systems and the advantages they enable. For one, relying on Web-enabled technologies and systems enables apparel companies to improve by making smarter, data-driven business decisions. Analytics software generates near real-time insights, helping business leaders understand the trends and issues affecting day-to-day operations. Adrianna Papell, the apparel company that specializes in occasion dresses, launched ecommerce in April 2015 after operating as a wholesale company for its first 36 years and selling primarily to major department stores including Dillard’s, Macy’s and Nordstrom. The privately-held company operates licensed stores with partners in Mexico and the Middle East but is considering opening its own U.S. stores in the near future as it eyes omnichannel opportunities. COO Ashesh Amin says he sees the whole supply chain as “ripe for disruption” as customer expectations have evolved. Whereas 10 years ago department stores might give a brand several days to rework requested changes to an order, today they expect brands to be able to do the same thing in 24 hours or the order is cancelled, he says. “Now the expectation is that you can just press a button because you have the systems and technology in place and it’s just a matter of execution,” he explains. THE DIGITAL SUPPLY CHAIN

The reality for many apparel brands is far different, of course, and can create a ripple effect throughout the organization. “If you are a business that hasn’t invested in technology, you’re behind the eight ball and you can’t meet the customer demands,” says Amin. “Frustrations sets in, and then your people don’t feel they’re equipped to fight the battle like their competition is.” In a nutshell, digital technology within the supply chain can be the great enabler. Among the main supply chain execution challenges retailers are facing, 55 percent cite the consumer expectation of a seamless omnichannel experience, 43 percent cite pressure from competitors to fulfill same-day orders direct to consumer, and another 55 percent point to the changing pattern of consumer demand and the changes in where retailers fulfill it, according to RSR’s Supply Chain Execution 2016 report. Adrianna Papell today uses products from CGS’s BlueCherry Enterprise Suite and Microstrategy to extract more detailed information and to deliver actionable intelligence. Says Amin: “Business process reengineering further allowed us to look at data at the product category and merchandise group level, and pulling reports such as short vs. long dresses allowed us to manage the metrics that we needed to see in our business. We use analytics every day to keep a pulse on what’s going on.” Next-generation technology such as wearables is already beginning to make inroads in warehouses and distribution center operations, leaving behind their reputation as a consumer-only product. These kinds of innovations, including Google Glass, FitBit and other on-body Internet-connected devices, hold the promise of improving efficiencies in the warehouse environment by enhancing communications and accelerating data-sharing in real time via instant photo capture and voice command systems. A warehouse manager can transmit detailed instructions to line workers, empowering staff to be more mobile and spend less time at fixed computer terminals. Smartwatches offer similar communication efficiencies, improving speed of access to information by encouraging distribution center employees to check emails, texts and more with just a quick glance at their wrists. This technology has the benefit of already being familiar to many staff due to its emergent popularity in the consumer world; the more familiar the device, the greater the probability that workers will take advantage of its capabilities. WEARABLES AND AUGMENTED REALITY: IMPROVING EFFICIENCY




DECEMBER 2016 • www.apparelmag.com

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