Reducing waste is becoming an increasingly pressing goal for the fashion sector, as rampant overproduction has had catastrophic impacts on the environment as well as companies’ bottom lines. Industry insiders believe technology—specifically, tools that enable visibility into the fashion supply chain—could be the key to progress.
At the Sourcing Journal Summit on Tuesday, experts weighed in on the role that traceability technology plays in creating a more efficient and less wasteful value chain. Partners United Legwear, a North American design and apparel manufacturing firm that services brands like Puma, Hurley, Champion and Skechers, and retail technology company Exenta, which supplies the enterprise’s digital supply chain solutions, spoke to how their work enables the businesses to thrive.
According to United Legwear vice president of information technology IJ Ash, the company had been looking to enhance its visibility into both sales and supply chain for some time, and was also seeking to automate processes like allocation, sales order entry, production, order management and more. “The goal was really to take emotions out of our processes and really streamline across all the different environments,” Ash said.
While having “boots on the ground” is best when it comes to monitoring and assessing supply chain efficiency, Exenta senior vice president John Robinson believes that’s just not feasible any longer for many brands impacted by the pandemic. However, “digital boots on the ground” are “the next best thing to having a body there” in the room, he said.
Exenta offers brands up-to-the-minute insights into their products current whereabouts, and when goods will reach the next link in the supply chain. “You want to know what’s going on in real time, so you’re not scanning through emails, endless reports, Excel spreadsheets line after line looking for that nugget of information that may or may not exist,” he said.
Having current data is imperative to effective decision-making, allowing suppliers to react quickly when problems arise, Robinson said. In turn, key accounts can also access more information about where their orders are, making communication seamless and eliminating the need for time-consuming—and sometimes tense—back and forth.
As supply chain issues and logistics delays continue, transparency is essential in managing relationships with customers scrambling for goods to stock their shelves, Robinson said. Suppliers can automate report distribution giving clients access to insights that aid with planning and assortment.
“We are able to prioritize orders, and we have visibility with our carriers and other partners so we never have to cancel or miss an order,” United Legwear’s Ash said. Vendor integrations allow the supplier to check in on the whereabouts of materials and inputs, and then the company can track carrier shipments to the customer.
Traceability tech is also helping to bring the company “closer to net zero inventory,” he added, noting that United Legwear’s goal is minimize unsold product. With tools like Exenta, Ash said that hosiery and sock maker is able to “get to a higher pre-sold position, and know what our margins are before the orders go out the door.”