In the 5th annual PLM spending in apparel study that Apparel Magazine and Gartner published earlier this year (“Decision support meets value chain orchestration”), the research once again showed that calendar management is still a primary challenge for apparel & footwear brand owners and private label retailers. You may wonder what the big deal is…
Isn’t that just managing schedules and tasks? I have project management and a calendar, isn’t that enough?
In part, yes.
But the challenge arises due to the complex nature of the apparel and retail value chain, and the rapid time to market demands that exist to bring the latest trends to market. In short, there are multiple calendars throughout your worldwide value chain at the style, fabric, color, wash, and vendor level that need to be connected, to determine dependencies, and whether the ultimate goal of the in-store date is on track.
Much of this complexity arises because of the multiple designers, technical designers, merchandisers, and sourcing managers working on different aspects of the production process: designers work on trend development and storyboards, materials management works on fabric and trim development and lab dip tracking, technical design works on specification development and fit sample tracking, and sourcing manages suppliers, conducts reverse auctions, and helps ensure product quality. Simply put, there are many tasks and milestones and approvals that need to take place among a global product development team, across multiple processes. And these tasks, milestones, and approvals need to be embedded throughout the line planning, development, and sourcing process, and available for viewing and action on any device, anywhere – whether a laptop in the office, or smartphone in the airport.
Another driver of this need for dynamic global calendar management (vs. a static high level view of activities, resources, and status at the style level) is that most of the manufacturing of apparel and footwear takes place off-shore, much of it in China and other Asia Pacific countries (increasingly Vietnam which has approximately 7% share of U.S. apparel imports – a 20% increase over the previous year - according to the latest AAFA annual report). These vendors have their own set of tasks and milestones they need to hit, in compliance with the manufacturers specifications and product launch dates. Management must have visibility into how their vendors are performing, so they bring the best product to market, at the right time.