Technology assisted communication between Manufacturers and Retailers

By Kunal Mehta, General Manager, IT-Lifestyle Business, Raymond Limited

Today, Information technology (IT) plays a vital role in the field of textile industry. Any manufacturing unit employs four Ms that is, Men, Material, Machine and of course Money. With the increased competition and downward pressure on prices as the global garment industry consolidates around a relatively small number of winners, companies are leveraging the technological power to adding value to their business.

Many big textile units have already adopted IT in their companies in various forms. Machineries with latest technology are being integrated with IT to improve business practices, increase efficiency and competitiveness, and to meet the ever-shorter lead-times.  Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) in areas such as production planning, quality monitoring and control, order processing, sales, materials sourcing, manufacturing, financial accounting, and logistics etc. are being implemented for overall competiveness. They seek to increase the transaction speed by exchanging data in real-time, reduce inventory and production costs, and increase sales volume by fulfilling customer requirements more efficiently and effectively.

Major Challenges with the Textile Industry

Insufficient information on demand and supply, excess inventory is one of the most common problems faced by managers which further results in long cycle-time, outdated stock, poor sale, low rates, and reduction in order visibility and finally leads to customer dissatisfaction. There are major inefficiencies in various processes right from designing, developing samples, getting approval, manufacturing, dispatching to payment procedures. The production time merely accounts for just 10-20 percent of the
total time.

Also, retailers need to forecast demand and identify consumption trends at a much earlier stage. Lack of clarity about future can either result in early stock out, delay or overstock. Supply chain in-competency with the urge for getting global, apparel and textiles are facing hurdles. The global trade has opened up a lot of opportunities as well as threats in terms of competition, changing trends, and other environmental changes. It necessitates managing every kind of information efficiently and at much faster speed.

Use of Technology

The trajectory of development of Information Technology has intersected every application in textile industry. From enhancing performance of textile manufacturing and tighter process control

There are three key areas of communication between retailers and manufacturers for which use of Technology is important:

1. Exchange of information: Including any data that influences the action and performance of other parts of the supply chain. This includes sales data, inventory management, production schedules and shipment details.

2. Synchronized planning: IT also has an important and growing role in the early design stages of a product’s evolution. Sophisticated computer aided design (CAD) software packages cover all stages of the process from initial drawings and 3D simulations of garments, following on to pattern generation and production of data outputs suitable for a computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) process. By simulating designs and fabrics, evaluate comfort, and provide animations to demonstrate the garment, the applications can assess the behaviour of the garment’s fabric and speed up product development and cut costs.

IT has inserted intelligence at every node of textile supply chain. Information among supply chain members relating to demand inventory status, production and promotion plan, shipment schedules, payment details, etc. can reduce the overall lead times and costs.

Barcoding and Electronic data interchange (EDI) are the two information technology tools which can facilitate information integration. Barcoding facilitates recording of detailed data by converting it to electronic form and can be easily shared among members through EDI systems in expediting order cycle that reduces investment in inventory, maintain quick response and closer relations with suppliers and customers, who are
geographically dispersed.

Further newer technologies like drones and driverless trucks which are currently under trial runs by some of the major online retailers and manufacturers in the US and Europe at their warehouses and logistic facilities will enhance the overall efficiency, reduce manual dependency, manage tasks centrally and reduce costs.

3.Workflow coordination:which exploits synergies between the different supply chain participants. This is where Vendor portals, e-commerce (B2B) platforms etc. come into play. E-auctions, wireless in warehouses, Dock Door Scheduling, Transport management systems (TMS), Voice picking in warehouse and carrier bid optimization are some of the other systems the industry will have to start exploiting fast

In conclusion, product and process innovation are now the key to survival in the textiles and garments industry. IT is an important piece in the very complex puzzle which makes a manufacturer globally competitive. The actual technologies that are appropriate and most desirable will be determined on what services and products the supplier is supplying. Information Technology will continue to mean different things to different companies in the value chain.

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