While automation is upending much of the apparel industry, there are parts of the supply chain that remain stubbornly outdated—chief among them is the quality inspection process. Here, pencils and paper are the most common tools, and email and Excel are often as contemporary as the technology gets.
Inspectorio has launched to change that.
The company, which was founded by sourcing veterans, got its start through the Target + Techstars Retail Accelerator program. That opportunity eventually lead the retail giant to roll out the quality control and supplier compliance verification platform to 100 factories in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, touching nearly a quarter of its apparel and accessories business.
Here, co-founder and managing director David Klein explains how the company is using the same technologies that are transforming other parts of the supply chain to enable actual speed to market, unlock greater transparency and foster better collaboration.
Sourcing Journal: While the rest of the industry is automating—from robots that sew to drones that drop packages at your door—the inspection process has been largely stagnant. How is Inspectorio working to put these tasks on par with all of these other innovations?
David Klein: Inspectorio is a quality and compliance platform for the industry 4.0. We automate the whole process from the PO to building a process of executing inspection, reporting, analytics, corrective action plans and leveraging machine learning and AI to have deeper predictions, task automizations and make smarter business decisions.
SJ: Why is the industry finally starting to turn its attention to quality inspections now?
DK: We’re entering a new stage of global sourcing. It’s not a race to find the next country to source. It’s a race to get more transparency. It’s a race for more efficiency and predictability. And the factory and vendor relations have already matured. That means that processes and approaches need to change. With that change that we’re seeing today, the new standard is self-inspections. Inspectorio facilitates that and accelerates that process. And with self-inspections comes the questions of accuracy, comes the questions of when do we need to have our next inspection. We don’t believe it should be people with Excel and calculators giving you that answer—it’s algorithms. We leverage AI to predict these high risk areas.
SJ: How do the Inspectorio innovations translate into tangible benefits?
DK: Today for clients that are using Inspectorio, we see efficiencies of up to 40 percent reduction in time of pre-shipment inspections. That means you can catch a preshipping window up to three to four days earlier. You can have your goods in stores even a week earlier.
And efficiencies aren’t just related to time. We see a lot of efficiencies in your budget, in that you’re using third party inspections a lot less because you’re using less inspections. We’re seeing efficiencies in the management of your quality team because you’re not focused on non-value added activities like booking, scheduling, etc. And in supply chain data management. Instead of having to depend on your own data silos, waiting sometimes three or four days for information, you have the information at your fingertips.
SJ: You mentioned data and AI, which are two big buzzwords right now. How do they apply to this part of the supply chain?
DK: When you have a platform, you have a lot of different actors—factories, vendors, brands and retailers and inspection companies—that are all generating data in the same space. Thanks to this silent collaboration, the factory’s historical data you know the defects [that] occur but we can recommend other defects you’re likely to find based on the defects at other factories that have the same profile and product categories. We’re leveraging that information in the same way as when you use Netflix and they recommend what to watch based on what other people watch.
The other application is on the corrective action. So when you have defects that are common within factories, they have to come up with the root causes. When you have a lot of data and you’re looking at those corrective actions that fix those root causes, through best practices you can start becoming quicker. We can tell the factories these are the corrective actions that will solve your root causes quicker. How? Based on data.
SJ: What’s next for Inspectorio?
DK: With regards to transparency and sustainability, we’re building a very powerful responsibility and sustainability platform involving key players in the industry that is going to go live by the end of the year. And what we see the industry pushing for is greater transparency, and today we’re gathering that information through these assessments done over a period of time. We have a prototype of beacons so you can have real-time data [about things like] electricity consumption, temperature, humidity, etc.