Customization is virtually boundless on today’s fashion market and the end-customer more fickle than ever before. To survive in this continually changing and fiercely competitive environment, clothing brands and members of the supply chain network must rethink their relationships and streamline production processes.
Outpace competitors with an agile supply chain
Agile made-to-order production cycles are enabling fashion companies to respond more swiftly to trends and consumer demand. Innovative new market entrants have already harnessed the power of automation and analytics to more accurately forecast consumer demand and achieve significantly shorter turnaround cycles. The good news is the advantages of just-in-time production—faster time to market, reduced levels of overstock and better management of small-batch production cycles—can benefit even major players and established brands.
By adopting a more agile supply chain, mass-market players can become responsive enough to accelerate their speed to market. This enables fashion companies to minimize inventories on a scale broad enough to impact cash flow. A change in mindset is all it takes to base procurement, production and distribution on customer demand. The more challenging part is executing a winning strategy to derive the most benefits from technology and analytics.
To be sure, manufacturing processes will not fundamentally change at the level of the garment factory shop floor. Business core competencies remain intact and are leveraged differently to readily switch from one manufacturing mode to another. This kind of agility enables companies to alternate easily between small-batch customization and large mass-production runs.
The building blocks of an agile transformation plan
Once order processing and production management systems have been automated and migrated to a cloud-based platform, powerful analytics can be applied to centrally plan and execute each production run. The key to successful transformation lies in gradual implementation. By effecting change one order at a time, business can continue uninterrupted, maintaining the stability and revenue of core business activities. This substantially reduces the risks inherent to testing both new technologies and new market offerings. Through careful management, the right balance can be struck between process transformation and business continuity, preventing unnecessary disruption while gaining buy-in from stakeholders across the organization.
An effective transition and implementation plan should leverage advanced analytics to entirely overhaul and streamline the planning-and-production process. Because reduced lead-time is now a key driver of competitive advantage, fashion companies can further capitalize on the shift toward pull sourcing by building the right capabilities to deploy nearshoring and onshoring strategies. This opens the way to same-day production and next-day delivery. Upstream development processes can also be accelerated by adopting virtual sampling and rapid prototyping.
Once these cornerstones of agile production have been laid, fashion companies can benefit from the efficiency and profitability of on-demand offers at will, without necessarily restructuring their business operations or redefining their business model. The first step is embracing the on-demand production model.