Respondents were asked to rank theimportance of various issues in achieving profitable business within four areas of theircompanies: pre-production visibility and management, planning disciplines, manufacturingdisciplines and customer service and logistics.

Across the four areas, the most important factors forsuppliers relate to accuracy and speed of response. The ability to track progressaccurately and understand the impact of changes in pre-production are critical inachieving on-time delivery, given that approximately 70% of total product lead time istaken up with product development. Similarly, forecast accuracy, particularly forcompanies balancing domestic and offshore product supply, is essential in meeting demand.This also relates to the issue of flexibility in production processes, where the abilityto match product types to the appropriate location – in terms of service needs, productcomplexity and skills – is seen as being key.

Pre-production visibility and management
Evident from Figure 7, the top operational issues in pre-production visibility and management overall are “management of the product development critical path” and “rapid production of accurate costings and understand effects of design change”.

“Management of the product development critical path”, is an important issue in the UK, France, Germany, US and Italy. However, fewer of the Spanish suppliers (less than half the average) rank this issue at the top. Manufacturers and larger companies are more concerned with this issue – manufacturers because of their need to control the achievement of on-time delivery, and larger companies because of the complexity of their processes, and their reduced ability to manage “hands on”.

“Rapid production of accurate costings and understand effects of design changes” is of greater importance in the UK and Spain. The other European and American suppliers are closer to the overall average (29%). Variation by supplier category and turnover band is negligible.

“Communicate design information electronically with the customer”, there is little variation between countries on the number of suppliers ranking this issue top (22% on average), although the UK, Germany and US – all with relatively concentrated retail markets – rank this highest. Fewer Italian respondents ranked this top than the rest (15%). Within the supplier categories, a marginally greater proportion (30%) of footwear distributors felt that this issue was of greater importance than the rest. However, in general, clothing companies placed slightly more importance on this than footwear companies (23% and 19% respectively).

8 “Ability to transfer development data to production systems”, there is a clear division in the perception of this issue between country groups. Almost one-third of respondents in Spain and France give this issue top ranking. 16% of US respondents and 20% of German respondents rank the strategy first, and only 4% of UK and 6% of Italian respondents think that this issue is the most important. Clothing distributors stand out from the other supplier categories with 30% ranking the strategy first compared to average results (approximately 16-18%) in the other three categories. The smaller companies also feel that this ability is much more important than is the case in the medium to large revenue suppliers (19% compared with 11% and 10%).

Figure 7.  Pre-production visibility and management


Planning disciplines
Tthe most important operational issues in the planningdisciplines are “improved forecasting” and “compare actual to forecastdemand”. The means by which businesses forecast and relate that forecast to actualsales is key in determining inventory levels, speed of response and customer servicelevels.

“Improved forecasting” was ranked very highly byboth Germany and the US. Surprisingly little variation occurred between suppliercategories, although a marginally greater proportion of footwear distributors (59%)considered forecasting to be the most important issue. Over 60% of all large companiesalso ranked “improved forecasting” as their most important issue in terms ofplanning.

“Compare actual to forecast demand” was rankedvery highly by Italian suppliers. The proportion of Italian respondents ranking thisfactor first is twice that of the average. It is also more of an issue of concern to smalland medium sized companies (21% and 27%) than to large companies (15%). German respondentsfelt this issue was marginally less important compared to average. Variation by suppliercategory is negligible.

However, given that these two factors are very closelylinked in terms of managing the production process, it is significant that the majority ofrespondents from all countries rank these two factors combined as the most important.

“Visualize future capacity requirements” isconsidered most important by one-third of Spanish respondents. It is also interesting andnot unexpected that a greater proportion of distributors than manufacturers place thisissue as the most important (27% and 17% respectively).

“Include third party capacity in calculations”ranked very low across the board, particularly in UK, Spain, Germany and US. However,completely contrary to the overall results, almost 40% of Italian suppliers ranked thisissue as the most important. The respondents ranking this factor top are almost entirelycomprised of manufacturers and also companies within the medium and low turnover bands.


The 1998 Apparel and Footwear Industries survey was carried out by mulitple research agencies co-ordinated by Benchmark Research on behalf of JBA.  This survey has been written in conjunction with Simon Shepheard-Walwyn of Kurt Salmon Associates (KSA), and Rob Jennings and Michael Pearl of JBA’s apparel, footwear business unit.