New links that will enable major retailers and manufacturers managing global supply chains to reduce the time it takes to generate, select, design, match, approve and re-order colours from six weeks to less than one week, allowing products to reach the shelves while colours are still 'hot', have been announced by the fashion industry's integrated technology group, the Product Development Partnership (PDP). The move comes as Datacolor International Limited, the developer and supplier of the ImageMaster computer based color design, management and communication system, joins as a new associate partner. As a PDP associate partner, the company will work alongside the founders and core partners of the PDP ― Gerber Technology, Donisthorpe and Co Ltd and General Sewing Data ― to make its cutting edge technology available within the PDP's integrated technology environment.

ImageMaster can be used to replace the physical sampling process by creating digital samples that can be communicated electronically. Via PDP links these accurate digital texturized color samples, together with the reflectance data linked to the relevant dye recipe, will be imported into Gerber's product data management solution Web PDM. Designers can then use local ImageMaster facilities to produce on-screen designs in 'virtual' color based on the actual fabric selection. This critical color data, together with the style file, can then be shared electronically between retailers and their strategic manufacturing, dyeing, textile, thread, lining and trim suppliers to ensure the rapid and consistent sharing of data throughout the supply chain, irrespective of location.

Roz Davies, chairman of the PDP, emphasizes the benefits of the new links: "Many key suppliers to the major retailing groups have at least some of their operations offshore, which means that the color sampling and selection process using traditional dyeing and dipping methods can take weeks even months." She goes on to explain: "ImageMaster linked to Web PDM and strategic PDP accessory supplier systems will streamline and standardize the whole color process. Costly and time-consuming dyeing and dipping will be virtually eliminated and there will be no need for mailing swatches back and forth between sites. It will also enable users to set and enforce color standards across their international operations and optimize international stock management."

Using advanced color physics equations and instrumentation, ImageMaster enables designers to generate synchronous photo-realistic 'what you see is what you get' (WYSIWYG) true color images based on actual fabric textures. A desired texture or image is scanned into ImageMaster, which generates a digital sample that can be manipulated on screen to produce the exact color required on the substrata to be used.

The PDP links between ImageMaster and Web PDM are said to have been established and tested, and Donisthorpe is already using the system to color match threads, linings and zips to fabrics and shades.

Datacolor International, a subsidiary of the Swiss company Eichhof Holding AG, is a leading supplier of instruments, software and systems to communicate and
manage color in industry. Datacolor is a specialist in the supply of advanced color-control selection and matching technology for the textile industry. ImageMaster is part of Datacolor's suite of Colorite systems that also includes ImageMatch and ImageSync. The company employs over 350 people worldwide, of which 30 are located in its UK Altrincham office, and supplies its applications to some 5,000 customers in over 60 countries.

The Product Development Partnership is a non-profit making group founded by its three core partners Gerber Technology, General Sewing Data and Donisthorpe and Company Limited. The PDP provides a forum within which suppliers, manufacturers and retailers within the sewn products industry can link their strategic computer systems, providing seamless access to critical product information across the entire supply chain. The core partners are actively encouraging suppliers throughout the supply chain to link their specialist software systems into the PDP environment. Associate partners are entitled to use the PDP logo to demonstrate the integrity of their links and commitment to 'open' communication standards within the industry. Associate Partners currently include JBA and Datel Protex Systems, Kopperman Computer Systeme GmbH, Fast React Limited, Coats Limited, PCI Limited, Tex-Data Limited and Guided Image Limited.