22/03/2019 – Lectra — auf Deutsch lesen

Digitally networked supply chains – the future of fashion

The digitally networked supply chain can be seen as an important building block for manufacturers who wish to offer fashion companies affordable solutions in times of change, whilst also remaining profitable.


A digitally networked supply chain guarantees the fluid exchange of data. © Lectra


Not only is it an effective way of reducing excess inventories and enhancing the supplier network, but it also cuts the amount of time wasted on repeating the same task twice.

The transformation of the fashion industry presents manufacturers with a whole host of challenges. Consumer behaviour has fundamentally changed and fashion brands are expected to offer their customers greater diversity and customisation. Fashion houses are under pressure to deliver more styles and collections at competitive prices, all against the backdrop of rising sourcing and production costs. These developments are having a direct impact on fashion manufacturers as they have to tackle changes in their customer workflows in a move to remain viable business partners long into the future.

Efficient PLM – Product Lifecycle Management

Suppliers are constantly having to adapt to seasonal trends in designs, fabrics and materials. If companies in the textile sector are to rise to today's challenges, whilst predicting and avoiding bottlenecks, they need to update and digitalise their supply chains. Drawing on many years of expertise, Lectra has developed and continually enhanced Fashion PLM 4.0 – a PLM solution designed specifically for the fashion industry. The objective is to digitally connect the entire supply chain, whilst minimising production times and guaranteeing more control over material costs. “A digitally networked supply chain is the backbone of industry in the 21st century,” says Holger Max-Lang, Managing Director of Lectra Deutschland. “Only a fluid exchange of information between all members paves the way for short product cycles, customised products and prices that can be maintained or even cut without compromising on quality. At the same time, such a supply chain is sufficiently flexible to respond to changing trends. This, however, requires an over-arching concept for all members – from the supplier of raw materials and the processing company all the way through to the brand and the customer.”

How can unexpected costs be checked and excess stock avoided?

The biggest challenge for manufacturers is lowering costs without compromising on quality. Helen Mountney, Managing Director of Kurt Salmon, which is part of Accenture Strategy, states that, “Rising sourcing and production costs for clothing are having a huge impact on margins.” Currency effects, rising wages in the production countries and growing uncertainty in the marketplace are turning cost calculations into a constant balancing act. Rather than adding to the pressure on prices, manufacturers need to improve communication with their existing, trusted suppliers with a view to minimising additional production costs in the long run.

How can staff be deployed efficiently and unnecessary repetitions avoided?

Manufacturers are also under pressure to deliver a wider range of products in a shorter space of time. However, the temptation to speed up production can lead to poorer quality. Without transparency and process controls, manufacturers risk producing too much or repeating tasks more than once, costing both time and money. Modern PLM solutions help companies to compare the tenders of different suppliers and to determine the delivery of affordable products in the correct volumes. The digitally available data prevents the repetition of time-consuming tasks whilst reducing the number of samples and prototypes needed. At the same time, communication between different departments is improved. With the help of integrated CAD solutions such as Lectra Modaris and Diamino, all agents in the supply chain have access to the same data in real time. If, for example, the designer makes alterations to a pattern, it is immediately reported to the manufacturer and automatically taken into account further down the supply chain. Not only that, but the costs are recalculated accordingly.

How can profit margins be preserved on last minute orders?

Customers often place orders at the last minute. This can lead to higher costs for manufacturers as there is not enough time to search for the most competitive suppliers. When order volumes are higher than expected, manufacturers may also be faced with material bottlenecks which again frequently culminate in lost profit. With the help of PLM solutions, data for different products and customer orders is consolidated in relation to material costs, components and work processes. This makes it possible to anticipate fabric and component purchases more accurately, allowing for more effective production line planning, whilst efficiently coping with fluctuations in demand. Similarly, orders for large volumes of materials can be placed in advance to avoid material bottlenecks and high delivery costs.

How can the supplier network be optimised?

Suppliers and subcontractors are key to the smooth, daily running of a factory. That is why it is so important to have a uniform and reliable communication tool for the supplier network. “The biggest challenge – and the greatest opportunity – lies in designing the available technology in such a way that it cuts costs in the supply chain,” states Matthijs Crietee, Secretary General of the International Apparel Federation. He sees fragmentation as a risk factor, contributing to mistakes and rising costs.

The answer: PLM-solutions

PLM solutions, such as Lectra Fashion PLM 4.0, connect information systems and give entire teams access to standardised and complete data sets. The key to success is the frictionless exchange of information, which may include, for example, customer demand, manufacturers’ order volumes, suppliers’ production times, inventories and the lead times of raw materials suppliers. This enables partners along the chain to calculate volumes and timings with greater precision whilst sharing this information and adapting orders and production plans accordingly. Direct digital communication significantly contributes to streamlining the supply chain.