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Why Supply Chain Collaborative Practice is Paramount for Success

It’s time for apparel companies to rethink how they do business, said Stan Przybylinkski, vice president of research at consulting firm CIMdata, who spoke Tuesday at a Product Innovation Apparel seminar in New York titled “Enhancing Supply Chain Collaborative Practices.”

“Yes, there are some practices that you do because they’re longstanding and are valuable but there are others that seem to be standard operating procedures and can potentially be replaced, and if you do that you can improve both your top and bottom line,” he said.

And having product lifecycle management (PLM) technologies and strategies in place is one way to address supply chain and product development complexities. Apparel companies that harness technology to collaborate effectively across the supply chain—design, product, merchandising, sourcing and patterns, for example—have cut costs and sampling, improved time to market and boosted flexibility.

But before diving into a new software system, Przybylinkski advises companies to first determine what set of tools they will need to support. “The other thing that’s important about adopting new strategies,” he said, “is having a somewhat longer view. Yes, you want to be tactical, but you need to think strategically at the beginning so you’re not locking yourself into something that won’t support the evolution that you’re hoping for.”

That’s why it’s paramount to pick something that’s flexible enough to support other business models, whether it’s PLM or digital asset management or enterprise resource planning (ERP).

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Przybylinkski pointed out, “Unless you’re solving a very small problem it’s almost never going to be one supplier. They need to be able to play nicely with others. You need to be able to share data. You need to have the ability to share data across your tools so it doesn’t break the flow. You need to share that information so you can meet your targets.”

He explained that while many solution providers will tell apparel companies they have the technological answer to their problems, people, processes and data are core elements that also need to be addressed from the get-go to ensure new issues don’t crop up down the line. He added, “Having that communication is critical to make sure you get the right product to the right place and collaborative product development is one way of doing that. Sharing that decision making, improving communication across all the people in the value chain is one requirement to get there.”

And apparel companies that ignore the potential benefits that supply chain collaboration can provide are doomed, he said, warning, “For some who have not hit this trend it’s already too late. End-to-end lifecycle management approach is essential; it’s a competitive necessity. None of us can really afford to do nothing.”