IT systems for the fashion industry were on show at IMB Select 2010

IT systems for the fashion industry were on show at IMB Select 2010

IMB Select, the new two-day textile and apparel IT exhibition in Germany, promised a platform to showcase the latest software developments specifically for the fashion and textile supply chain. In the first of two reports, Niki Tait looks at some of the web-based systems on show.

Industry specific IT shows have an important role to play - even if it's just to keep up to date with today's IT 'speak' such as 'cloud computing' and the inevitable three and four letter acronyms.

This year the new IMB Select in Cologne, Germany did not disappoint on the latter front: GDM (Garment Distribution Management), MDM (Manufacturing Data Management), EBI (Enterprise Business Intelligence), PDSM (Product Design and Sourcing Management) and SaaS (Software as a Service) were just a few examples.

It was a small show, conspicuous by the lack of key players such as Geac and SAP. As expected, many of the suppliers and visitors were wholly German based. That said, thought, there were things to interest the international marketplace too.
Microsoft Gold partner Intex provided one of the most complete solutions for the clothing industry, since its modular ERP system has been developed specifically for apparel businesses. Indeed, 90% of its 200 customers are clothing companies; the others produce shoes, table linen and home textiles.

Due to its in-built controls and traceability, the system is particularly strong in the workwear and sportswear fields.

The software covers all standard manufacturing processes from customer order, through production and delivery to invoicing including PLM, PDM and replenishment. It also covers product design and sourcing management, which starts with the company's revenue plan and historic sales analysis.

Intex has also partnered with retail software firm Höltl, making the system particularly interesting to companies who need this expanded control. For manufacturers the production systems can be extended into a real time production control system using RFID terminals supplied from China.

Information accuracy
However, it is not just the completeness of the information which is important for controlling and managing a business. It is the accuracy of that information and how up to date it is.

The clothing supply chain is global and notoriously complex, with each link in the chain dependent on the others. Fabric may be sourced in Asia, buttons from Africa, and manufacturing may be in Bulgaria for retail shops situated throughout Europe.

A company will be selling hundreds of styles at any one time, making many more and in the pre-production stages on another season. It may use manufacturers in numerous countries on different continents. So keeping track of every style at every stage in the cycle is a real challenge.

Web based systems are becoming invaluable when every supplier, agent and partner throughout the supply chain is involved in both receiving and providing information, all of which feeds into the central system.

Everyone works on the same information and is responsible for its accuracy. A supplier, for example, will only see the information which pertains to him; he is provided with details of what he needs to do, by when and feeds back when it is done.

To help do this, SpeedStep has developed Speed Step Dimension, which is designed to help optimise a company's buying processes. It is a web enabled application which offers a central communication and information platform to both the company and its partners within the supply chain.

As well as enabling all aspects of the chain to work better together, it also offers product information, quality check and shipping data so that there is transparency in all processes. Agencies and suppliers can access the information anytime, anywhere.

A new communication and information function checks for new messages such as changes to delivery dates, quantity, colour and measurement charts. Partners can directly access all current data concerning each order.

Order forms, carton stickers and detailed item specifications can be loaded as PDF files. And for each order there is an order status overview. The workflow overview lets partner survey tasks such as photo sample dispatch, production samples, lap dips and documents. Shipping details are also available.

Information regarding the delivery, current meetings, containers, packing lists and information to documents are administered directly by the partner. A current status regarding delivery and shipping data can be transferred directly to other applications.

Web-based SCM systems
Setlog provides web-based supply chain management (SCM) systems - and its SaaS (Software as a Service) internet-based OSCA tool was specifically developed for the fashion and footwear industries.  

The premise is that a company can plan, manage and optimise its global production, supply and logistics chains through pre-emptive warning and data management tools.

What this means is that a firm will be linked with its sourcing agents, purchasing offices, suppliers, quality control officers, testing laboratories, forwarders and warehouses, so that the entire supply chain becomes transparent and easier to manage. Decision-making processes and transit times are faster, while process and logistics costs are reduced.

The SCM system is independent, so does not link to any specific logistics provider or merchandise management system. Setlog takes responsibility for its worldwide implementation and currently works with more than 32 customers including Tom Tailor, Betty Barclay, Basler, Marc Aurel, and Steilmann.

Better collaboration
The new Lawson M3 Supplier Portal from Lawson Software is a web-based application that helps fashion companies collaborate better with their suppliers when purchasing goods.

Created for sourcing companies as well as manufacturers, it offers online access to key information, including order tracking and delivery data. Both the fashion firm and its suppliers can view and update the same data, which helps to eliminate time lags, duplicate work and the risk of errors.

The system also helps reduce manual activities and streamlines processes by creating automatic confirmation of order quantities, dates and prices. It can create delivery notes, which also helps to reduce manual processes such as faxing, emailing and managing multiple spreadsheets.

The new solution has been designed with Lawson's 'simpler is better' concept in mind, and is managed through an intuitive user interface. Since it is delivered via the web, it does not require on-site installation.

UK based Discover e-Solutions (DeSL) offers a range of web-based tools including the Enterprise Accelerator ERP solutions which are based on the concept 'Design it, Source it, Sell it'.

The software uses the framework and is 100% web-based, so can be used anywhere there is internet access - even via the iPad or iPhone. Customers include VF International, Lyle & Scott, MAS Holdings and Nautica.

The systems are also available on a SaaS option where the customer rents the system on a user per month basis and has no responsibility for its maintenance.

Click here to read the second report about retail applications on show at IMB Select.