The survival of fashion businesses is largely contingent on the ability to keep up with consumers who only get more demanding day by day. This has led a lot of apparel companies to invest in technology, hoping to ease the burden, save money, or create new growth opportunities. Technology done right is transformative, but the process does not start after the agreement is made. It starts well before the first meeting. Here are five things to consider before adopting a new fashion technology.
1. Identify specific pain points
Before you purchase anything, you need to evaluate your workflow. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest buzzwords (AI, API, 3-D virtual fit, and design virtualization to name a few), but you should not adopt technology for the sake of technology or because it sounds cool. Know your business process in and out and truly understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Determine if your bottlenecks are due to a lack of technology, or if they are because of personnel issues. When you have identified your pain points, you can better research the technology that will help you solve your specific needs.
2. Consider current systems in place
Once you identify what kind of technology will address your pain points, it’s crucial to assess how it is going to fit into other technology systems that are already in place. Buying a new suite of applications then trying to slap them into your process is not a good approach. Consider possible IT issues, hardware integrations and data transfer. If a new application’s functionality overlaps with an existing system, make sure there are mechanisms that help reduce redundancies. Application B should be able to pick up output from Application A.
3. Think “value,” not cost
Frankly speaking, if the first thing you want to talk about when meeting with a technology provider is price, then stop. Do not invest! An apparel business that is serious about its growth will invest because it sees the value being added to its process and understands how a new system can create efficiencies, reduce costs and increase productivity.
4. Establish proactive support systems
That being said, when you finally do have the “what does it cost” conversation, think beyond the sticker price. It is nice during negotiations fashion technology company gives you a great deal, but ask about additional costs, especially at the time of onboarding. This can include training, installation, customization, consulting services, and software updates.
Understanding the accessibility and kind of continued support available to you is vital as well. This is often forgotten about until you are in a crisis, and by that point you are willing to pay anything to get back up and running.
5. Ease employee apprehension
In the apparel industry, people are generally slow to appreciate what technology can do to make their work easier. They become comfortable in processes which they have been doing for years. A level of uncertainty is to be expected of employees when they are told they need to “get with the program.” A little grace is necessary in the beginning phases. Help your employees to see how a new technology actually builds up their skill set and helps them work smarter, not harder.
Some technology may require bringing on new personnel with different skill sets, but you should reasonably be able to implement a new technology with the workforce that is already in place. Do not adopt technology that requires you to fire everyone on your staff to get good results.
Chris Walia is vice president of operations at Tukatech, a company that empowers the apparel industry with innovative technology solutions, maximizing productivity from the pattern room to the cutting floor. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, call 323-726-3836, or visit www.tukatech.com.