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The Future is Virtual: Modernizing Color Data Communications

Effective communications between design and color teams have long proved challenging, since the process of measuring color is inherently prone to variation. When unchecked, variation can result in costly misunderstandings and significant delays in the development cycle.

Social distancing and travel restrictions resulting from Covid-19 have highlighted the growing need for digital solutions to streamline communications across the textile supply chain, ensuring confidence in color accuracy and accelerating speed to market.

The growing importance of digitization combined with a heightened need for digital technology to support remote color work spurred an industry-wide investment in portable equipment and cloud-based solutions allowing color professionals involved in each step of the development cycle to access and share reliable color data from anywhere at any time. 

Communicating color data

The key to successfully executing color in today’s agile market is the ability to seamlessly share reliable digital color data with all the players involved during each step of the development cycle. But effective color communications can be difficult for textile professionals, since getting color right has traditionally involved numerous color corrections, overseas shipments and heavy back and forth between brands and manufacturers. This process often decreases the speed and efficiency necessary to keep pace with pandemic-caused changes to the industry.

Increasing efficiency

However, in today’s market color communications are also being challenged externally by social distancing and travel restrictions. These obstacles have shifted digitization from a future consideration to a necessity for textile companies.

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Adapting to remote work

Worldwide social distancing restrictions implemented in 2020 left many textile professionals without key tools needed for color work, leading to an increased workload for on-site employees. With decision makers working in remote locations, there became an immediate need for smaller, portable equipment with excellent inter-instrument agreement (IIA) to support decision making away from the office or mill. 

Beyond the power of high-tech portable equipment, IIA, which refers to how close multiple color measurement instruments of a similar model read the same color, is critical to the color measurement process, particularly when decision-makers are working from remote locations. When multiple spectrophotometers are tasked with reading the same color across different locations, inaccuracies can arise from a lack of agreement between them.

The rise of remote work also increased the need for cloud-based solutions making it possible to access color data remotely. Evaluating color digitally allows textile professionals across the globe to communicate in real time, ensuring color harmony without sacrificing quality or color consistency.

To streamline communications amid pandemic-fueled changes, brands have widely implemented modern color management processes. A digital workflow helps to speed up product development, enabling color workers to make efficient decisions at the point of manufacture without heavy brand oversight, which ultimately increases speed-to-market.

Implementing a digital workflow

An integrated digital color workflow encompasses initial color selection by designers to the delivery of the final products and every step in between. Digital tools and software eliminate the development of off-shade products by adding objectivity to color measurement, enabling the virtual communication of digital color standards between brands and manufacturers.

By removing the need for manual color corrections, a digital formulation and approval process significantly reduces the number of necessary physical samples, reducing shipping costs and lessening the likelihood of delays, while transforming the entire color correction process by increasing speed and accuracy.

Looking ahead

Digital communications technology allows key decision makers to track progress across all operators and flag issues the moment they occur. Of equal importance, cloud-based quality control solutions now allow remote color workers to accurately evaluate and manage color from anywhere in the world.

The textile industry’s utilization of virtual communications software and its reliance on big data will likely continue to grow as color workers adjust to today’s hybrid work environment. It is also likely that savings from the recent halt on travel will influence apparel brands’ budgeting decisions post-pandemic, increasing the industry’s reliance on digitalization to lower travel costs.

There is no question that digital color communications can streamline the color development process. As the post-pandemic outlook evolves, digital technology will continue advancing to improve virtual communications for remote designers and color workers—supporting collaboration, accuracy and efficiency, from initial color selection to delivery of the final product.

Lisa Beck is a product manager at Datacolor, a global leader in color management solutions and provides software, instruments and services to assure accurate color of materials, products and images. She has more than 25 years of experience working with color in the textile and apparel industry. Her experience includes positions in quality assurance, color management and technical services for leading apparel retailers.