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Building Efficient and Responsible Supply Chains for the Digital Age

The Internet has spawned a new breed of fashion brand that operates and behaves differently to those before them.

They are typically an online-first business, run by digitally savvy teams that have the ability to appear from obscurity and become a household name overnight. They are demand-driven, direct-to-consumer and know exactly what their customers want. Many have moved away from traditional season launches, instead offering weekly drops, and increasingly these types of companies are putting honesty, transparency and sustainability at the core of their business values. And while small, taken together this new cohort of fashion companies is pioneering the direction the entire industry is following.

The problem is that current sourcing solutions are increasingly failing to solve the demands of these brands. Often offline or unintuitive, these solutions may only cater to one part of the product lifecycle such as design or logistics. Brands need and expect a seamless, integrated experience and end-to-end solution, like those they have become accustomed to that have cropped up and disrupted not just the consumer landscape but also many other B2B industries such as sales [HubSpot], accounting [Xero] and banking [Revolut].

Supply chain needs are evolving and digitization is key

Brands today need to find new, trusted suppliers and manufacturers easily and quickly. They need to be able to design and source new product ranges throughout the year, and they need manufacturers and mills to be more flexible on MOQS (minimum order quantities) to avoid tying up too much cash in unsold stock. In essence, brands need shorter lead times, more reactive, agile supply chains, and tools to help them manage them more easily. Traditional supply chain processes are unable to facilitate faster, leaner and more responsible supply chains. To meet the needs of today’s brands, digitization is the answer. Technology is needed to provide the foundations for good communication, effective collaboration and efficient practices. It facilitates better and faster interconnectivity and exchange between supply chain partners.

Last year saw growing awareness of the environmental impact of fashion, placing more emphasis on re-evaluating how brands design, make and dispose of clothes. Overuse of virgin materials, rather than recycled ones, is putting huge pressure on the planet, with less than 1 percent of material used to produce clothing actually recycled into new goods. A shift in consumer behavior and growth in brands selling more sustainable alternatives means 2019 is key in many supply chain, product and marketing strategies.

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Sourcing platforms are the future

Sourcing platforms are the new way for brands to find innovative international manufacturers and suppliers as well as manage production from design through to delivery. Supplycompass is a sourcing platform that is part marketplace and part SaaS platform, that enables brands to get matched immediately with new suppliers and manufacturers, receive quotes, create tech packs, request samples, manage production, make payments and manage logistics all from one cloud-based platform. This digital core at the heart of a supply chain means there exists a single source of truth for all partners to work from, allowing for faster design development, increased decision-making speed, leaner teams, a reduction of errors and ultimately better partner collaboration. Crucially, brands are able to bring high quality products to market faster, at lower cost.

Curated online marketplaces are vital

Online marketplaces have been around for years and some are great options for many brands. However, very few curated, vetted sourcing marketplaces exist for fashion brands. Brands need new manufacturers faster than they used to; they expect to start working with them and receive quality samples immediately. Beyond this, brands need to be reassured that the manufacturers are reliable, great at communication, can be flexible with minimums, and are socially and environmentally compliant.

At Supplycompass, we personally visit hundreds of manufacturers and suppliers, handpicking only the very best to be part of our network. We match brands with the perfect manufacturer not just for their product but also order requirements and business values, in one day. This means brands don’t have to spend months, at great cost, finding and trialling out new manufacturing partners. Brands can view the manufacturer profile to understand more about the factory, see photos and videos, and learn which social and environmental certifications they have. We have spent years identifying manufacturers and suppliers who understand the changing needs of today’s brands and are open to being more flexible with order quantities and terms. We don’t just partner with manufacturers, we also have a selection of mills and suppliers in our network offering sustainable material, trim and packaging alternatives, from recycled polyester, wool and cashmere to compostable polybags, pre-consumer waste cotton swing tags and woven labels.

Standardization is key

Better connection with manufacturers and suppliers is just the first step towards a leaner, faster and more responsible supply chain. Standardization of practices and improving methods of communicating and collaborating is fundamental for brands to get their product to market faster. Mistakes and delays are still commonplace in production, often due to discrepancies in how each brand and manufacturer works. Brands develop their own unique style of tech pack and their own order processes, making it hard for manufacturers to adapt to these different ways of working. To get brands and manufacturers—and all supply chain partners—working better together, there needs to be a standard way of working established. This would reduce mistakes and delays and enable all parties to save time and money.

All of the brands and supply chain partners who work with Supplycompass work according to the Supplycompass way. We started with the foundations: the tech pack. We spent years inside factories researching what manufacturers actually needed from tech packs and have developed our own tech packs that draw out all the necessary information. Brands work from our intuitive online tech packs (say good-bye to Excel), request and track samples through the platform and make any modifications to their order directly into the online tech packs to avoid and confusion or miscommunication.

Supplycompass is a design-to-delivery sourcing platform that works as part vetted manufacturer network, part production management tool, providing a transparent, responsible solution that works for factories as well as brands. To learn more about Supplycompass, visit