Software for financial planning and operations

2 December 2016 | Features & Interviews | Source: Kitty So

Clothing brands and manufacturers wanting to maximise their financial performance are being offered an increasingly varied and sophisticated array of software systems to guide their planning and operations.

US-based Centric Software provided an update to its flagship PLM (product lifecycle management) solution in this summer, adding features to gain additional financial insight, perform deeper financial analyses and render information available offline, to further streamline planning, costing and quote management. 

Following requests from its clients, the company has developed a way for users to download supplier quotes into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (a popular tool of choice in the industry), change the information offline, and then upload the new data to the PLM.

"Users can therefore have access to this data wherever they are to make sourcing decisions more efficiently," says Stefan Opitz, Centric's product manager. 

As part of the same update, Centric improved efficiency by allowing suppliers to input directly additional details about quotes and bills of material to allow more in-depth quote comparisons in real-time. 

"We are enabling direct development to a certain extent which means that, depending on the company's needs, a supplier could potentially add a lot of data upfront and provide their insight on what is on trend – particularly for fast fashion companies," Opitz explains.  

Latest improvements

Likewise, US-based Logility provides annual major releases of improvements to its Logility Voyager Solutions software, with smaller updates in between. One of its latest improvements is expanding the scope of the Integrated Business Planning module from three years to ten years. This enables companies to model plans, such as future investments and changes to manufacturing partners, to understand the effects on lead times and costs, for instance. 

"Once you've already procured your inventory, you want to use it as cost effectively as possible. If you are an omnichannel provider, which most apparel companies are these days, they need the ability to look at those initial allocations to market and then the replenishment," says Karin Bursa, executive vice president.  

"There are financial measures around all of that. If we get that right, that's going to improve [the company's] sell-through, which will reduce markdowns and give us better margins overall." She notes this is increasingly important as apparel companies face shorter seasons. 

Going forward, Logility plans to improve the visual representations of data, making it easier for users to view this information quickly and make more efficient financial decisions. This includes charts and graphs, as well as visuals on product silhouettes and new fabrics. 

Analytics for fashion

Meanwhile, the US-based World Fashion Exchange (WFX) launched a new module last year to complement its WFX Cloud PLM. WFX is a global software provider, with an India-based R&D centre.

The WFX Analytics for Fashion module displays the extent to which different operations, noted in the solution, are working to meet the company's targets.

"As people are creating budgets, buying on the system, sourcing [and] getting things manufactured, our analytics tool sits on top of each area of cloud PLM and gives visual representations of data…and what the business looks like for a financial point of view," CEO Jatin Paul told just-style. 

He notes this helps manage cash flow because companies can accurately track how much they need to buy over a certain period, when they need to pay for these, and when the products will hit stores to be sold. 

WFX's overall PLM system (including the analytics module) also helps brands and retailers devise a financial plan by mapping out entire collections and drilling down into categories such as casual or business wear, and tops or bottoms.

"Our software helps break all of that down to what should be the actual price point from the overall revenue target, drilling down to unit level per item type, and based on that, they have basic plan. Their teams can then start designing products to hit that plan," Paul adds.

He notes companies are under continued pressure to further reduce lead times. "Customers' demands have increased – they expect even more choice for better value. The challenges are increased need for lower costs, which means squeezing efficiencies across the supply chain, and increasing demand for designing closer to the season that they are trying to sell into."

Vertically integrated tools

Meanwhile, according to the Porini Group, a global independent software developer and vendor headquartered in Como, Italy, the best ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution for textile and apparel company financial departments (and other company wings) is vertically integrated.

Giuseppe Ghisoni, chief operating officer at the Porini Group, told just-style his company has developed its Porini Apparel&Textile for Microsoft Dynamics AX system by basing the system on multipurpose software, adapting it for the industry.

"Companies have two needs: one is to have specific functionalities, like managing variants or traceability of raw materials and any other workflow that is required in day-to-day business activities; the second need is to have an easy-to-use software platform that is easily integrated with Microsoft Office (MS Office), MS Outlook and so forth.

"Considering that MS Office is the most utilised software programme in the world, the added value of our ERP solution is its ability to integrate with MS Office, and thus manage all data and information in a more efficient way," he says.

Predictive analytics

Michele Murante, an Italy-based independent solution architect for programmes from German software specialist SAP, who has worked on SAP ERP solutions for a range of manufacturers, says SAP's newest software platforms can help manufacturers reduce costs.

"In the fourth industrial revolution, we can expect manufacturers to renew production line machines with new ones that will become increasingly intelligent. In view of this massive shift, SAP offers a platform – the SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence – that can manage the data exchange between its ERP and software managing intelligent machines on the production line.

"Here, predictive analysis will anticipate abnormal behaviours of machines and prevent potential malfunctions, including planned line maintenance, like for instance at night-time, as a way of reducing costs." 

With additional reporting by Brenda Dionisi.

Click on the following links to read other articles on supply chain finance:

Debtor finance products a growing niche in fashion

Why traditional financing is a misfit for fast fashion

How planning is key to an effective inventory strategy