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Traceability and Transparency: Giving Consumers the Data They Want

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It’s no secret that consumers have become increasingly aware of the environmental and ethical impact of their clothing. According to Fashion Revolution’s 2021 Transparency Index, 69 percent say they would like to know how their clothes are manufactured and 74 percent believe fashion brands should publish the factories they use for manufacturing.

When it comes to transparency and traceability, many fashion companies are still struggling. Only 47 percent of brands are disclosing their first-tier manufacturers and just 11 percent publish selected raw materials suppliers. The truth is: brands still have difficulty collecting and validating data and have limited visibility with sub-suppliers.

Addressing today’s visibility problem

Over the past year, many fashion brands have invested in front-end technologies such as e-commerce site upgrades and other virtual experiences in order to stay connected with their customers throughout the pandemic. But even amid global supply chain constraints, brands still lack back-end investments, which are crucial in improving visibility into a product’s materials, origins and current whereabouts.

This real-time visibility is vital in fashion, particularly as more shoppers demand answers on where their garments come from. Unfortunately, many brands are still using spreadsheets, documents and other manual processes to track data, which is not efficient or effective in generating the insights consumers often seek.

The good news is more brands are realizing the benefits of digital integration, so we will likely see back-end technology adoption increase, thus unlocking access to more data.

With technologies addressing product lifecycle management (PLM), product information management (PIM), data asset management (DAM), 2D/3D computer-aided design (CAD) and automated nesting, fashion brands can fully connect their supply chain, allowing them to seamlessly pass along vital data from design to final product. This integration not only empowers brands to deliver their products to market faster, but also allows them to maintain data throughout, ensuring accuracy at every step.

For example, using the right PLM software impacts various areas of the supply chain, as it can serve as one reliable source for product information that simultaneously integrates with multiple design programs. This ensures that users working in different areas at a time can access the same product data and gather real-time status updates of a product’s development.

True transparency and traceability also require more detailed information on suppliers and their materials and factories. According to the 2021 Transparency Index, only 4 percent of brands disclose a summary of findings at the raw material level, which is a problem when 73 percent of consumers believe fashion brands should publish the suppliers they use to source fabric and raw materials.

Obviously, technology is necessary to improve real-time communication between brands and suppliers, but improving communication isn’t just about integrating new systems into the supply chain. It also means working with suppliers who are already using technology, making it easier to get the data you need.

With technologies addressing product lifecycle management (PLM), product information management (PIM), data asset management (DAM), 2D/3D computer-aided design (CAD) and automated nesting, fashion brands can fully connect their supply chain, allowing them to seamlessly pass along vital data from design to final product.

Houdini Sportswear sets a lofty goal

Gerber Technology, a Lectra company, offers a complete end-to-end solution for fashion, which includes all the latest technology from PLM to CAD to automated, digital cutting. By partnering with Gerber, many brands have already been able to improve transparency and traceability. For example, by leveraging Gerber’s PLM solution, YuniquePLM®, Houdini Sportswear was able to improve its efficiency and become more transparent.

With YuniquePLM, Houdini now manages a full scope of activities across the product lifecycle, bringing them closer toward their goal of having 100 percent of their products made from recycled or biodegradable fibers, and be recyclable or biodegradable at end-of-life. Additionally, the platform has helped the outdoor brand accelerate product development time to market and reduce waste.

“We chose YuniquePLM as it can facilitate all of Houdini’s specific demands, from financials to finished product,” said Eva Karlsson, CEO of Houdini Sportswear. “As we design every product with the intention of it making a difference for the end user and for the world, transparency and traceability are essential to our way of doing business. Up until we leveraged YuniquePLM, we had worked in many different ways, using manual documents and lists.”

Photo courtesy of Houdini Sportswear.

Photo courtesy of Houdini Sportswear.

Prioritize the back end

When it comes to transparency and traceability, fashion brands must take responsibility. To gain consumer trust and provide shoppers with accurate information, brands need to invest in back-end technologies. The investments will not only allow them to maintain data throughout the design and production processes, but will also help improve communication with suppliers, which remains a top challenge throughout the industry.

The bottom line? Supply-chain investments are no longer an accessory but a requirement to meet consumer demands.

Learn more about Gerber Technology, a Lectra company.

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