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 second of two reports, Niki Tait looks at some of the retail applications on show - including a new tool that helps buyers visually calculate the cost of a garment.

For retailers, for whom RFID (radio frequency identification) has to be of great importance, two other types of system on show at IMB Select were of particular interest.

A visual merchandising tool called Mockshop from iShop Shape lets a company plan, design and build interactive 3D stores of any size and space on a PC, as the first step towards enhancing brand experience and sales.

It provides creative freedom to design shop floor layouts by simply dragging and dropping virtual fixtures in a full 3D environment. Planograms can be created to give a complete visual guide to every fixture in the virtual store. A recent extension is a web-based interactive tool to directly manage and monitor compliance in each and every individual store.

Sampleroom is an interactive range visualisation system that makes it easier to build balanced product lines. It includes a collection of tools that automatically processes photos and keeps data up to date.

While the web-based PLM option ChainReaction Source includes product data management, line planning, workflow tools and collaborative solutions. The software integrates with existing retail planning and visual merchandising solutions, providing an end-to-end system tailored to the fashion industry.

Counting the cost
Controlling and managing the development of products and collections includes knowing the final cost of that product very early in the design cycle. Not only does this help establish the right price, but it also eliminates waste and unnecessary features that don't add value to the finished article.

Apart from knowing the fabric and trim costs associated with a item, designers and product development teams require accurate data relating to manufacturing time (and therefore cost) to aid them in their decision making processes and to develop products that customers want to buy at a price they are willing to pay.

However these people are not industrial engineers. GSD has brought out an interesting new product, GSD Quest, which enables non-technical staff, with little or no manufacturing expertise, to develop a "pre-cost analysis" for a chosen apparel product early in the development cycle. It is a type of 'Costing by Pictures' system.

Comparative analyses can be made between designs and design details to help find the perfect price/performance balance for the product.

The solution comes in two parts. Firstly the GSD Quest software environment in which the user can quickly and easily build a garment with a known 'standard time'; and secondly, QED data libraries, based on the pedigree and integrity of the GSD standard now used throughout the industry.

Using a simple 'drag and drop' user interface, or the inbuilt 'Wizard,' users are guided through the process of creating a Bill of Labour for any given product. This is achieved through a series of graphics representing different style features, and building these together to develop the final garment.

Because the costing is based on international standards, a buyer can now base his negotiations with a supplier on facts, not best estimates.

All factories operate with different methods and machinery. With GSD Quest, values are based on a standard manufacturing environment, of the type a buyer can reasonably expect his garments to be made in.

Efficiencies and labour rates for each factory can be allocated providing 'what ifs' before a company is asked to quote, thus enabling the buyer only to request quotes from relevant suppliers.

This means that before a quote is even submitted the buyer can predict whether it will be better to make a style in company A in Bangladesh, for example, or company B in India.

Users do not need to understand individual GSD codes. Instead the system is very visual, and where a dispute between the manufacturer and the buyer arises over price, the problem can resolved on fact not fantasy.

Click here to read the first report about web-based systems on show at IMB Select.