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‘Establish Quick Wins, Build Confidence, Always Challenge the Norm… and Keep Going’

It’s common knowledge that the fashion industry has been slow to adapt to digitization along the complex apparel supply chain, with too many corporate mindsets stuck in old ways. But the benefits of end-to-end digitization touch numerous touchpoints, and the urgency is clear.

“There are digitalization options across the value chain from what we call ‘plan to pack’—from when brands plan their sourcing requirements to when manufacturers pack the goods produced,” said Akash Shah, managing director of Coats Digital in a fireside chat with Sourcing Journal branded content manager Lauren Parker. “That means design and development, costing, production planning, fabric optimization, and shop floor execution.”

The more experience a software solutions company has understanding these many touchpoints, the better it can explain the whats, whys and hows behind digitization, especially to the laggards. This is why Coats Group, an industrial thread manufacturer with centuries of experience in the fashion industry, a few years ago, took the leap into technology, creating Coats Digital, the software business set to digitally transform the fashion supply chain. 

“Coats’ goals are underpinned by three strategic pillars—innovation, sustainability and digital,” Shah said. “This last pillar is around thinking and moving ‘beyond the stitch line,’ and it was the heart of that decision to build a new business segment that combined talent and technology to act as a catalyst for positive change in the fashion industry.”

Coats Group acquired three companies a few years ago as the building blocks of Coats Digital—FastReact, GSD and ThreadSol—with the whole now greater than the sum of the parts. “The industry knows FastReactPlan and GSDCost as the go-to solutions for solving planning and costing challenges,” Shah said. “Optimized for delivery efficiency and speed, the customer generally realizes lead time reduction of up to 30 percent plus a 10 percent increase in productivity.”

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Coats Digital recently added a globalized fair wage tool to the GSDCost solution, using data provided by The Fair Wage Network, which is helpful for meeting global compliance legislation, increasing consumer expectations around sustainability and ethical working practices.

To address the fabric optimization space, Coats Digital has recently launched FastReactFabric to maximize fabric utilization and reduce waste. “Adopting technology as an enabler to unlocking both sustainability efforts and reducing costs have real tangible outcomes,” he said.

In addition, industry corporations are increasingly being held to account for what and where they buy, what they produce and the net impact of their actions on the world. But they need data to back it up, and data cannot be properly harvested without the systemization and automation of core processes across the supply chain.

As a result, what we’re seeing is a more rapid digitization,” said Shah, especially after the pandemic accelerated that need. “But even if fashion supply chain players don’t fully understand every nuance of what needs to be done, they certainly grasp the urgency to move quickly.” 

“It’s become clear that the industry needs greater collaboration and data connectivity between design, development and production partners to provide that full visibility and accountability where required, and also to become more resilient in a very difficult environment,” Shah added. “And we are here to help.”

While most industry players are at different stages in their digitization journey—some quite mature, others just beginning—each business must look at its own processes and recognize the most urgent pain points.

“The key is to start right now and not wait for tomorrow,” Shah said. “Establish those quick wins, build the confidence and then keep going, always challenging the norm.”

Click the image above to view the fireside chat.