How to Optimize the Apparel Production Line
Fast fashion and seasonality are heavy pressures on the apparel market. The apparel market is having to shift dramatically due to global changes, ranging from tariffs to an unpredictable world economy. Consumers are demanding more individualized, customized products, and trends are changing faster than ever before. To adjust to this evolution, apparel companies need to optimize their production planning, and start to engage in lean manufacturing processes.
The Importance of the Apparel Production Line
Production and logistics is what formulates the basis of profit in apparel. Apart from the raw cost of materials and designs, apparel requires that consumer products be delivered quickly and effectively. Delays in production mean missed trends and unsold product. Errors in production mean costly reworks, and the potential for significant lost revenue. Altogether, production is the most important aspect of any apparel company. Fine-tuning and optimizing supply and logistics leads to superior profit margins.
Bringing Factories Closer for Better Agility
Companies are increasingly near-shoring rather than off-shoring, for increased agility and reliability. Of course, there are still some challenges to contend with when it comes to near-shoring. Near-shoring issues include reduced labor productivity and erratic levels of quality.
Many apparel companies have extensive relationships with off-shore companies, and are assured of both their quality and productivity. As more factories are developed near-shore, it becomes more difficult to determine which factories are going to be reliable. But forging these relationships with near-shore factories can serve a company better long-term, as off-shore companies are becoming prohibitively difficult to deal with.
Leveraging the Prospect of Automation
With so many changes occurring within the apparel industry, it becomes more important to leverage technology. Through automation, apparel companies are able to strengthen their relationships with their production plants, track their shipping and logistics more effectively, and identify potential issues before they become realities. Automated solutions are more consistent, cutting down on the potential for errors and reworks, and ultimately standardizing the process of apparel production.
ERP solutions play a pivotal role in production planning. Through Enterprise Resource Planning platforms, organizations are able to track their vendors and their production management, identify potential bottlenecks, and anticipate their customer’s needs. Advanced ERP solutions are able to deliver real-time information about a company’s current production, thereby empowering the company to make faster decisions.
Building Up New Ecosystems and Infrastructures
Any organization seeking to make a radical adjustment in its infrastructure is going to need to build itself up. In the case of apparel companies, they need to foster new relationships with their manufacturing and production plants, thereby creating new ecosystems that will stabilize and support them over time. Above all, this requires continuous communication.
Organizations are going to need to work closely with new production plants, identifying the right production plants for them, and often sourcing their materials, goods, and services from scratch. Some apparel companies may be replacing product pipelines that have existed since first opening, and may find themselves having to reconstruct an ecosystem that they had developed over decades. Nevertheless, the company will be stronger; building up a new ecosystem naturally means the organization will be able to improve upon their existing ecosystem.
It’s a new world for apparel companies, but it’s also a world in which there’s a significant amount of opportunity. For apparel companies that are able to pivot towards the new environment and industry, there will be greater levels of success—apparel companies that are not able to change with the times are going to ultimately end up failing. Lean manufacturing demands additional reliance on best-in-class technologies.
There are many things apparel companies can do to start managing themselves towards success, but the greatest of these things is going to be adopting the right technology and automating core processes. The greater the levels of automation, the more the apparel company will be able to focus on other critical aspects, such as fostering new relationships.