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Improving Retail Specified Manufacturing[1]

Improving Retail Specified Manufacturing[1] - ally D resi n...

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Unformatted text preview: ally D. resi- n left) 3/. late W 2002 IMPROVING RETAIL SPECIFIED MANUFACTURING §y Keith Hoover, Chair AATCC Committee C572, Concept-to-Consumer he textile industry has changed markedly over the last few de- cades. especially its basiness model. which has moved from vertical manufacturing to retail speci- fied manufacturing. The best way to understand this fundamental change is to first examine how vertical manufac- turing worked when it worked and then contrast it with how retail specifi— cation works. This will provide some key insights and hints at the direction the industry is likely to take. VERTICAL MANUFACTURING —HOW IT WORKED, WHEN IT WORKED The players in the traditional vertical manufacturing model included market- ing, design, technical design support, production planning, manufacturing, quality control, and the dye, chemical, and machinery suppliers. The manu— facturer owned the brand and the label. Marketing and design drove the trends. They decided What would be “new.” Garments were designed internally by manufacturers. The focus was on Inanufacturability, taking into account l'abric design, yarn consumption, opti- mum fabric yield in patterns, and col— ors that could be easily achieved within a gamut of given dyes. In a good manufacturing group, they would never design a garment they couldn’t make. Engineering the process con— trolled costs. The process provided for accountability. Each player was aware ot’ the requirements of the others and there was always opportunity for l'eedback. Color "l‘raditionally, colors would be limited to those that could be achieved in pro- duction. The colors desired by design- ..IANIJAFIY 2002 ers were ultimately defined by the capabilities or limitations of produc- tion. Thus, disputes between a desired color and a run color were resolved up front. A color standard was not actually created until production began. Color services were only used as design tools. Sometimes, the color lab would furnish color tabs to designers to help in color selection. Fastness was tai- lored to the end use, and flare “just happened” as a behavior of the dyes that ran best in production. Smart Specs “Smart specs” reflected a balance between consumer preferences, end use, and what was achievable in the manufacturing processes. Failure to meet specifications in production usu- ally pointed to manufacturing process problems. The specifications helped determine the manufacturing method and guidelines. Design Support/Tech In a vertical manufacturing environ— ment, the technical group converted trend sketches into technical designs. Technical designs were converted into samples created by pattern makers. These samples addressed manufactur- ing concerns such as yarn consumption and yield as well as construction characteristics. Manufacturing/Production Planning In the vertical manufacturing and pro— duction planning process, resources could be tailored, including what equipment types to use, the workforce size and schedule, and raw material inventory. This enabled manufacturers to meet deadlines and production windows. Innovation The relationship between vertical manufacturers and the supplier sales representatives helped drive innova- tion. New dyes, chemicals, fibers, and fabric attributes made their way up the chain to the design group, who incor— porated these new innovations into the product line. Improvements to manu- facturing such as speed, repeatability, and “right first time,” however, were of primary importance. Therefore, much innovation was limited to things that made manufacturing more effi- cient. In contrast to current trends in “outsourcing,” some formerly sup— plier-based expertise (such as machin— ery modifications, machine shops, and chemical manufacturing divisions) was brought in-house. These innovations differentiated manufacturers from their competitors. Positives and Negatives The advantages of this system in— cluded strong process control, comm u- nication, predictability, accountabi I ity, with cost control engineered in. The drawbacks included a “muscle bound" process controlled by existing manu— facturing capability, little incentive to innovate by thinking outside the box. and inertia in responding to new con- sumer trends—changes that might unbalance “the system." These issues contributed to making vertieal Imam» facturing an obsolete process. RETAIL SPECIFIED MANUFACTURING The retail speeil'icd manufacturing paradigm brings more players to the process. (Z‘urrenl players include retail buyers. designers, the sourcing groupfiboth internal and vendor sup- plied—vendors, technical development WWWAATCCDHG 1 1 for fit and color, manufacturers (fabric, yarn, mills), cut and sew factories, suppliers (dye, chemical, and machin- ery), and outside testing labs. What once was a compact organization has spread out all over the place and made everything very complicated. The retailer now owns the brand and label. Their marketing and design group responds to trends that they see happening in other parts of the country or the world. Garments may be de- signed internally or purchased from vendors or converters. The retail buy- ers decide which products to sell. The retailers have no manufacturing capability. Their sourcing group is re- sponsible for identifying the vendor base. The retailer has decreased aware- ness of manufacturing requirements and little or no contact with the actual mills or factories that produce the cloth or garments. While willingness to innovate in response to consumer trends increased with the retail specified paradigm, ac- countability often decreased, resulting in fodder for “charge backs” and an adversarial relationship between the retailer and vendor. Color Instead of color being a manufactured- in attribute, colors are now chosen from sources such as Pantone/Scotdic tabs, paint chips, and cut—up garments. What was originally intended to be a color resource is an unfortunate substi- tute for a production standard. Many of the swatches set up as standards may be non-reproducible, out of gamut, expensive to reproduce, incon- stant, or give poor fastness. Often there are also serious problems with inconsistency from swatch to swatch. Colors must match under multiple (often non-standard) light sources. The color approval process may actually be “color fishing” if done by designers still interested in “improving” the color. Good matches to the original standard might be rejected and non- matches approved because “it looks better than the standard!” (A phrase once uttered only by dyers to rational- i'/.e a had match.) AAltuzulvnvv 12 Garment Design The retailer may provide an “inspira- tional” garment (such as one from a competitor) and technical fit specs to the manufacturer, but each may contra- dict the other. Garment or body mea— surements may be provided, but pat- tern designs or piece measurements often are not included. When this hap- pens, manufacturing must interpret the items that were provided by playing the “guess what I’m thinking” game. The body forms and fit models may not be consistent. In the worst case, the best fit can result in worst fabric yield. Specs Happen Rather than “smart specs,” today’s specifications are more like “specs happen.” Specifications used by retail- ers are usually generic, “off someone’s shelf.” They were written for one product at one point, but then were adopted into everyone’s specification book. They may be unrealistic (20 hour lightfastness for underwear), and not derived from the manufacturing process. They can often be unneces- sary, add cost, add time, and restrict the way a producer can actually manu- facture a garment. Vendor Involvement Vendors are third parties between the retailer and manufacturer. For a com— mission, they assume the “heavy lift— ing” burden of the manufacturer and are responsible for quality. Vendors are largely cost driven, often chasing quotas or tariff duties around the world in order to place production orders in the least costly locations. This may sometimes run counter to their respon— sibility to maintain quality. An addi- tional disadvantage for the retailer is that the identity of the actual manufac- turer is often hidden. Accountability Issues between retail, design, and manufacturer are more often than not settled in favor of the retailer. There is no give and take, and no rational dis— cussion of issues. Retailer multi-sourc- ing prevents making exceptions for manufacturing capabilities. A retailer that is multi-sourcing can’t cede an issue with one supplier since they have to consider all the suppliers that are working on that program. Delays due to non-approval of color and fit are common, and planning becomes a wild card. Manufacturing production schedules are often impos- sible to predict. The cut and sew end is squeezed and quality is jeopardized. ‘5 The retailers’ quest for “speed to mar- ket” can become “speed kills.” Innovation Retailers have a high demand for quick development of new looks and innovation. A retailer wants to take advantage of every hot trend, whether it is from New York, Paris, or Hawaii. If they see something new and excit- ing, they want to put it in their stores as soon as they can get it there in or- der to satisfy the consumers’ desire for something different. There is a high risk in quick devel- opment like this however, because research and development departments require time to develop a product properly. In addition, there is little toleration for failure, because there is often a significant amount of money at stake. Change is driven hard and fast with manufacturers told “I don’t care how you do it, just do it!” Positives and Negatives The retail specified manufacturing process does have many advantages. The process is very flexible. It can quickly respond to trends and cus— tomer preferences and can take advan— tage of global manufacturing capabili- ties. It provides value to customers, and is profitable to the retailer. Profit— ability is good. The negatives include a compli- cated, complex process. The knowl— edge basc is at the wrong end of the process. The people that know the most about manufacturing are the last to he consulted. so instead of utilizing the engineering capability that they brought to the old verlical process, JANUARY 2002 er lg DOS- 1d is 1 ar— lents e is ey at ’ast :are they are basically relegated to trouble- shooting or putting out fires. Mills are reduced to commission dyers, and dye/ chemical companies are reduced to jobbers. Research and development on the part of chemical and machinery manufacturers are restricted to projects that cut costs or reduce manufacturing time. There is very little demand for innovation from the manufacturing side because the dyehouses don’t want to add to their current costs. New ideas never make it up the chain to the re— tailers. As a consequence, any innova- tions from the manufacturing side are often poorly developed. COMPARING THE TWO MODELS Retailers aren’t manufacturers. They don’t want the liability or the responsi— bility for the high fixed overhead. The global economy makes for higher margins. Retailer-owned brands are replacing national brands in sales vol— ume and margin. National brands don’t have the prominence they once did. The retailers make money either way. Advantages from the old vertical process included control, communica— tion, predictability, accountability, and having cost control engineered in. Manufacturing focus and competency was involved up front. The retail speci— fied process also has advantages— flexibility, quick response to trends, global capabilities, and value to cus— tomers. The new process is profitable to retailers. However, the manufactur— ing focus and competency are not typi— cally involved until it is too late. In order for current practices to improve, the advantages of both pro— cesses must somehow be captured in a new way. The skill set that once re- sided in vertical manufacturing has moved to its suppliers—the dye, chemical, and machinery companies. A process needs to be developed that would involve them as integral players at the beginning of the process. They could then direct their own research and product development to better serve real manufacturing needs and innovation. Analogies An appropriate analogy for this pro- cess would be the car manufacturers’ sponsorship of NASCAR. The spon- sorships drive innovation and, as a consequence, the demand for new cars. In the computer world, Microsoft, by supplying free tools to software devel- opers, locks in a future marketplace for its products and services. CONCLUSIONS If dye and chemical companies were involved up front, then colors and finishes could be engineered based on manufacturing capabilities. If cutting machinery manufacturers were in- volved up front, then construction issues could be better defined and more easily achieved. The drawbacks of the traditional vertical manufacturing organization could be overcome since the collective manufacturing capability and flexibil- ity would be available to the retailer through dye, chemical, and machinery companies. Their involvement would drive innovation. Having a stake in the game would drive their research and development, creating new products and processes for an existing market- place. The ultimate advantage, how- ever, would be in returning profitabil- ity to these groups. Authors Address Keith Hoover, 7022 Dakota Circle, Chanhassen, MN 55317. AATCC Shrinkage Scale The AATCC Shrinkage Scale provides for the precise measure- ment of dimensional changes in fabrics and garments.The Shrinkage Scale is a plastic template used to mark fabric with either a 10 inch and/or 18 inch benchmarks. After the fabrics/ garments have been laundered or dry cleaned. the dimensional i change can be read in percent change directly from a graduated “I'I' scale on the template.The Shrinkage Scale can be used with i AATCC Test Methods 96. 99, 135, 150. 160 and 179. Order No. 8375 Marking Pens A set of two marking pens that are colorfast to home and cornrmaircial Iaumjeririg are available to be used with the AATCC Shrinkage Scale. Available in colors oi" red. orange, black, and yellow. Order No. 8376 AATCC P.0. Box 12215. Research Triangle Park. NC 27709 Tel: 919/549-3526 Fax: 919/549-8933 e-mall: orders®aatcc.org mltll l/\l'lY 2002 Visa, Mastercard or American Express Accepted .ww. . wantnnne ‘13 ...
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